One Of My Best Memories Playing With Phil Ivey And Gus Hansen

Last night I played till 3:30am at Bellagio in the $1500-$3000 mixed game. We play 8 hands of each game and there is a total of 11 games in the mix:

Omaha 8
Stud 8
2-7 Triple Draw
Pot Limit Omaha
No Limit Hold’em
2-7 No Limit Single Draw
2-7 Razz

The blinds for the limit games are $1000 and $1500. When we play the no limit/pot limit games we play with $500 and $800 blinds, but the big blind throws in a dead $700 and the small blind throws in a dead $500. That’s both good for action and ensures that the amount paid per round in the big bet games is equivalent to the limit games. The big bet games are also played with a $30k cap, meaning the most you can lose in any given hand is $30k.

The cast of characters in the game last night was quite nostalgic for me. A lot of the most popular faces during the golden era that you don’t hear much about anymore were playing. The likes of Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Gus Hansen, Patrik Antonius, Jennifer Harman, with a little bit of new blood sprinkled in.

Just like in the old days, props were being played. I remember when we used to play props on shows like Poker After Dark or High Stakes Poker it ended up being quite confusing for the viewer, and it’s no less confusing today.

After the clock struck midnight it was time to kick it up to $2000-$4000 for the night owls who would play around the clock. From what they’ve told me, the game has been going strong and hasn’t broke for 5+ days. The high stakes poker economy is as healthy as I ever remember it. Usually for a game that size the player pool in town at any given time wouldn’t surpass 15. It seems as though there are currently still 30+ players in town who make appearances in the game. I would have thought that after the WSOP the games would dry up, but nope. They are going strong.

I had one interesting Stud hand I wanted to share that I think I got outplayed on and am quite certain I made a mistake on. It’s also a good segue into the story I wanted to share as one of my best memories playing poker.

With the other players on a short break, it was three handed for just a moment with Phil Ivey bringing it in for $500 with the 3 of spades. Gus raised with the Ace of clubs. I looked down at (77) 4 and decided to 3-bet Gus. Gus is going to raise with any Ace in this situation and my 77 are going to be the best hand a high percentage of the time. Phil Ivey then re-raised and Gus folded. I called.

With Ivey re-raising here, his most likely hand is a pair in the hole. When you know that your opponent likely has a pair in the hole, you have the added benefit of seeing if they ever make two pair until 6th street and can play perfectly despite being pretty sure you are chasing. I didn’t plan on folding my buried pair unless Phil broke out into an open pair.

On 4th street Phil caught a Q and I caught a 6. Not the worst card in the deck for me as I now had a 3 card straight draw. He bet I called.

On 5th street our boards look like this:

Ivey: (xx) 3s Qd Jc
Me: (77) 4h 6d 4c

Great card for me so I bet, expecting Phil to either fold or call. Pairing your door card is quite powerful as the likelihood of you having trips is pretty high. To my surprise, Ivey raised!


I took a second to think about it and ultimately decided to fold. If I put him on a pair on 3rd street and he is raising now despite me pairing my door card, he is representing trip Queens or Jacks. He is never on a stone cold bluff in this situation and he had to start with a really strong hand on 3rd street to continue. The question is, were there enough hands that I beat and exactly what kind of hands do I beat?

Could he have just Aces or Kings? I think it’s a possibility but extremely unlikely that he would choose to raise rather than call. So what can I really beat??? Aha! If he started with any of these suited hands:

The Queen and Jack are powerful cards for him to represent, but even if I do call, he has enough outs to win the pot and it’s only costing him one extra bet. There is also a decent chance he thinks I started with three suited cards and all I have is the pair that I’m showing. If I did have any of those hands he would be correct in assuming I would fold.

The last part of the equation that leads me to believe I made a mistake is that I can still catch a 7 or a 4 to beat his higher trips, and I also have some backdoor outs if I catch a 5-3 or 5-8. It’s not a lot of help, but it’s help nonetheless. An argument can also be made that if he did have the trips he wouldn’t want to lose me on 5th street and elect to wait till 6th street to raise me.

I still don’t know if Ivey had me beat on this hand and I’ll never know for sure. What I can say, is that I think my fold was premature and my hand warranted at least a call to 6th street.


I don’t even remember what year it was, but there was some tournament in San Diego that brought out all the high stakes players including the likes of Chip Reese and Johnny Chan. After the tournament, a $4000-$8000 cash game broke out. The problem was, nobody brought enough money to buy chips to play a game that size, so we all agreed to play with $1 chips and settle up back in Las Vegas. This requires a lot of trust and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it since.

It was a full game for a while, but about 12 hours in it was down to just me, Phil Ivey, and Gus Hansen. We were playing the 8-Game mix with a $100k cap in the big bet games with blinds at $10000-$2000. Needless to say, the swings were big, and they happened rapidly.

At probably 8am Phil looks over at me and says, “You broke your cherry huh?” I had no idea what he was talking about. “What do you mean?” I asked.

He then says, “You hit beantown. First time you ever been stuck a big bean?” I still wasn’t quite sure what the hell he was talking about, then it dawned on me that I was stuck $1.3 million in the game while Ivey was all smiles. I guess a “big bean” is a million. Good to know.

He was right, it was the first time I was down over a million in a poker game, and yet I was thoroughly enjoying the battle. We ended up playing well over 24 hours and I put on a late rush scooping back-to-back three way capped PLO pots and snuck all the way out of the hole.

Everything about that night was surreal and I know it was for Ivey too. He mentions it regularly to me as one of the most fun nights he ever had playing poker. I’m sure him having a pretty big score played a role in his fond memories of it all, but there was something more to it. I still find it difficult to explain why it was so special and will always stick out to me. I guess if I had to describe I would say that it just felt animalistic in some way. Three young bulls bulls going to battle in a dinky little casino in a remote part of San Diego playing for millions… with $1 chips. I can’t say that I remember any other cash game session as vividly as I do that one.

One of my goals this year was to get back to playing high stakes mixed games at Bellagio and I’ve really been enjoying the process. I started out red hot but then cooled off considerably since then. All told, I’ve played 89 hours this year and despite a small win last night I’m currently in the red $276,200. My goal is to play 200 hours by the end of the year and profit $250k. If I have any interesting hands come up, I’ll be sure to share them with you.