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Pushing In All of the Chips on Guts and Feel
Winning Hand
by Phil Hellmuth

On Super Bowl weekend this year, Mike Laing was staring down some of the best poker players in the world. With World Champions Scotty Nguyen and "Amarillo Slim" Preston (who is also a poker legend, a Poker Hall of Fame inductee and the greatest ambassador for poker in history), young stars Daniel Negreanu and Hasan Habib, along with veterans Dewey Weum and Randy Holland all at the final table, Mike Laing had his hands full.

With "Amarillo Slims" remarkable propensity to end up number one when he makes the final table - Slim usually talks his opponents out of the money! - And perennial top three finishers Dewey Weum, Daniel Negreanu, Randy Holland and Scotty Ngyuen all at this final table, something had to give. The game was no limit hold'em, where you can bet any amount at any time, and the tournament was the World Poker Challenge's Championship $5,000 buy-in event at the Reno Hilton. This championship event capped a beautiful 16-day World Poker Challenge tournament, where the players were introduced to Tex Morgan's 'Texas TEARS' poker tournament structure. 'Texas TEARS' adds more skill to poker tournaments by raising the antes and blinds in a very uniform and consistent way, as opposed to years past where the blinds and antes "jumped up" inconsistently.

On a separate issue, I am proud to mention that I was this year's Championship event Host! With 166 entries, first place in this championship event was $331,000, second place was $166,000 and third place was $83,000; not bad for two days work! Besides the money, history was also at stake here. This event figures to be one of the top six "Prestigious Poker Events" of the year 2001. If it were pro golf, we would call this event a "Major." When Daniel Negreanu was eliminated in third place, Mike Laing found himself playing "heads up" against…Bill Eichel? Yep, that's right, all of the stars had been eliminated by this time, and Bill Eichel (an unknown farmer from South Dakota) found himself with $630,000 in chips, to Mike Laing's $200,000 in chips. As "Amarillo Slim" likes to say, "It's not often that the sheep slaughter the butcher!" But with unknown Bill Eichel riding a very unorthodox style to a massive chip lead, that was exactly what was happening!

With the blinds at $7,000-$15,000 and the antes at $3,000 a man, the following key hand came up between Mike Laing and Bill Eichel. Mike called the $8,000 on the button with a 4-9 (a San Francisco bay area hand if I've ever seen one - Forty Niners!) in his hand, and Bill then checked from the big blind. The flop came down 4c-7s-Jd, and Bill Eichel bet out $100,000. Mike then went into a deep study, trying to figure out whether his relatively weak bottom pair was the best hand or not. Mike knew that he only had about $190,000 left at this point; therefore he assumed that he would be called for his last $90,000 if he put all of chips into the pot. So bluffing was not a possibility, since he knew he would be called. What did a $100,000 bet into a $36,000 pot mean? Could Bill Eichel be bluffing with a straight draw (like 5-6 or 8-9)? Why would anyone bluff $100,000 to try to win only $36,000? Bill's $100,000 bet just didn't figure to be a bluff. Mike could only put his chips in this pot if he thought that Bill was bluffing. As Mike pondered the possibilities, he suddenly decided that Bill was bluffing, and that his pair of fours was the best hand. Mike then moved "all-in" for $190,000, a mere $90,000 raise, but incredibly, Bill folded his hand and Mike won the pot! How did Mike know that Bill was bluffing? Sometimes a champion player just "knows" by the way that his opponent is acting, reacting or just because the bet didn't make sense to the pattern of the way his opponent has been playing. Give Mike Laing a lot of credit here. He risked it all on his 'read' of his opponent, and he was right! Reigning World Champion of Poker Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and I were discussing the hand from the rail and saying, "Bill would have almost certainly won the pot from us." Mike Laing pushed all of his chips in the pot on pure guts and feel. He had the 'feel' that Bill was bluffing, and the guts to push all of his chips in to back up his feeling.

The very next hand Mike picked up A-A and Bill picked up A-J, and they put all of their money in before the flop. Mike won this pot easily and the very next hand won the World Poker Challenge Championship Title when his K-4 beat Bill's Q-5. Congratulations to Mike Laing, a poker champion with "guts and feel."

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