Sam Farha – Dominating the Table

Chris posted some over-lunch conversations about the first day of the WSOP events televised on ESPN.

I made the comment that I don’t blame Hudson for going broke, and Bill quickly disagreed. I do agree with Bill that the turn bet by Hudson was extremely disgusting, but I think that if you’re inexperienced in tournament poker and you flop a full house, there’s a very good chance your chips will be in the middle at some point.

Here’s why I think it was played poorly. First, I don’t think they said what the blinds were but when Sammy took that other guy down later in the tournament the blinds in that hand were only $25/$50. Hudson raised to $450 with TT. Nine times the big blind? Sammy calls with AT and the flop comes AAT. Now, experienced or not, a guy just called a 9x BB raise, uh, you might want to give him credit for at least an ace. You’re tens full and you’ve got to think your opponent has a set or better. If he has the “better” part of that range of hands, he’s got you beat. Check, check on the flop. Ok (I’m not sure that a probe bet will tell me anything because if Sammy has an ace he probably thinks he has the best hand). Turn is a Q, Hudson bets $300 into a $900+ pot? I’ve got to imagine that he’s either hoping to sneak another $300 out of Farha afraid he might fold to a bigger bet or he’s hoping to show weakness here inducing Sammy to come over the top. Sammy does just that with a bet to $1300. But, here’s why I don’t like Hudson’s play. It accomplishes neither objective. If you’re ahead, you’re way ahead and you probably want to call here and suck some more chips out of Sammy on the river. If you’re behind, you just busted out of the tournament.

Chris continues . . .

Also, I have to believe Farha’s call with 33 was top notch. A guy raises to 1000 with the blinds at 25-50. He probably hasn’t played in awhile. I immediately put him on AA or KK, *maybe* AK.

I’m having a hard time deciding whether Sammy’s call of $1000 (again, blinds at 25-50) with 33 was brilliant or insane. It’s a tough call. Here’s why. All the arguments for Sammy being brilliant are based on a lot of assumptions that I don’t think ring true.

Assumption 1: His $1000 raise screams AA. Well, if he’s poor enough to raise 20x BB then he’s just as bad as some of the guys I’ve seen at Commerce who bet 10x BB with hands like JJ or QQ because they’re afraid to see a flop with those hands. What if the flop came Q3x? Is Sammy getting away from that hand? Even if he can, how many chips is he putting into the pot before he realizes the $1000 bet was screaming QQ and not AA?

Assumption 2: Sammy can get away from a hand if he misses the flop. Really? Did anyone see some of his other calls in that episode? Nine-deuce after a raise and re-raise with the original raiser still to act? I watched Sammy draw pretty thin a few times and if the flop came all rags, I’m not sure if Sammy wouldn’t have tried to push the guy off the hand or called a flop bet.

Assumption 3: Implied odds made it a correct call. Well, only if you know you’re going to bust the guy. It’s a common mistake people lull themselves into making when they don’t have anywhere near the pot odds. They make a fishy call chasing a straight or a flush saying that if they make their hand they’ll win mountains of chips from their opponent. Well, your opponent might just fold when the third flush card hits or the obvious straight makes it. It’s one thing to think that you’ll win the hand if you make your set; it’s another thing to think he’s putting another $9000 into the pot every time you do.

Assumption 4: Sammy’s opponent has $10,000 or less in chips. Well, his opponent posted someplace that he had $14,000 at the beginning of the hand. Of course, Sammy might have had more than the $20,000 he had just recently won in hand one but if it was a $20,000 vs. $14,000 match-up, then the “Well, the worse he could do is end up where he started” arguments I’ve heard are out the window. Sammy would have been seriously wounded if he misread his opponent’s hand.

Of course, what I saw was ESPN’s version of the hand. There could be a lot of information they edited out. But, based on what I did see, I don’t think it’s the stone-cold brilliant move others see it as. I’m not saying that it was wrong, I’m just not sure it was as brilliant as many other people think it was.

Sammy’s opponent in the hand does acknowledge that he played it horribly. With $2000 in the pot, he could have just bet $2000. That would have put enough pressure on Sammy that if he had a weak hand or a draw he would have to lay it down. Going all-in, just as with his previous opponent, only leaves two options; your opponent folds and doesn’t pay you off or he calls and you’re out of the tournament. Sammy’s not some two-bit online poker hustler there on a $25 satellite (No offense to online poker players – since I am one myself – or anybody who satellited in. It’s just that Sammy is a respected pro player and isn’t going to call an all-in raise with a weak hand).