Doug Polk Phil Hellmuth Fold 1200x800-no-read

Doug Polk Flops a Straight vs Phil Hellmuth — And Lays It Down?!

Last week, Doug Polk was the talk of the poker world for making a massive fold in his debut on High Stakes Poker on PokerGo.

Squaring off against the legendary Phil Hellmuth, Polk mucked the second nut straight on the flop — a play that many players wouldn’t even consider.

The Hand

Blinds: $200/$400
Big Blind Ante: $400
Effective Stacks: $98,000

Watch the hand here or keep scrolling for a readable version:

Hellmuth raises to $1,100 with Q♠ T from the Hijack. Bord calls on the Button with 2 2♣. Polk calls in the Big Blind with T 7♣.

Flop ($3,900): J♠ 9♠ 8
Polk checks. Hellmuth checks. Bord bets $2,000. Polk raises to $7,000. Hellmuth raises all-in $97,200 with the nuts. Bord folds. Polk folds the second nuts.

Hellmuth wins $12,900.

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Doug’s Analysis

Doug gave his thoughts on the hand for the first 18 minutes of this video. But we took the liberty of transcribing his thoughts so you can save time, if you prefer.

He talks about the following:

  • His Check-Raise Range on the Flop
  • Why Hellmuth’s All-In is Terrible
  • How Minimum Defense Frequency Justifies His Fold
  • His General Thoughts on Phil Hellmuth
  • What He Would Do If Bord Called Hellmuth’s All-In
  • Some General Strategy
  • What He Thinks of the Mid-Hand Table Talk

Click play to hear all about these topics from the man himself or keep scrolling for a readable version:

What Is Doug’s Check-Raising Range on the Flop?

“When I have T7 here on the flop, it’s a spot I’m going to mainly want to check-raise. You can mix in some check-calls. I think I lean more towards check-calling with a spade, but I think I’d mainly check-raise all of them. Something around ⅔ of the time or so. We’re also going to mainly be raising QT 75-80% of the time. We’d mix in some calls.

The main takeaway here is that we’re going to have a lot of QT. We’re going to have a lot of T7 as well. But Button is also going to have QT.”

Why Hellmuth’s All-In is Terrible

“It’s just a terrible play. It’s extremely bad. On a board such as this one, you’re going to have every QT in the Big Blind other than QT-suited. I have tons of QT, and they’re mainly raising the flop.

The Button is also going to have tons of QT in an ante game vs a 2.75x raise. He’s definitely going to be playing QT-suited. He’s probably even supposed to play some QT-offsuit. Phil is just ripping $100,000 into two guys that have almost all of their Queen-Tens. It’s just a horrific play.

It’s a standard play in poker to overbet when your opponent doesn’t have lots of strong hands. This is the opposite of that. This is overbetting into two guys that have the nuts a ton. If he has QT, he gets everything else to fold. If he has a bluff, then they have way more QT. It’s just not a good spot basically.”

How Minimum Defense Frequency Justifies His Fold

“I have to think about it like this. He’s risking $100,000 to win $11,000 or $12,000. In this spot, I’m going to have QT a little more than T7. After that, I have to think about how often I have to call. I think between me and the Button, we’re both going to have QT a lot and those are obviously calls. We only need to defend around 12-14% based on minimum defense frequency.

That means, I only have to call 7% or 8% and the Button only has to call 7% or 8%. I want to say that 15% or 20% of my range is QT here. So, I don’t even think this is an exploit. I think it’s just a straight up fold. I was on the fence a little bit. But if Phil Hellmuth tells you he has the blockers, I think I can lay it down.

I just don’t think that in theory, you call outside of QT here. It’s a spot where both players have so many straights, your hand just isn’t that good relative to the amount of money being wagered here, and how strong mine and the Button’s range can be. Phil’s play is just so bad that I think you only call with the nuts or better.

The bottom line here is that Phil Hellmuth’s play is so bad here that everything other than the nuts has to fold. He has the nuts, so he’s just getting me off of every other piece of equity. It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s just nonsense.”

Doug’s General Thoughts on Phil Hellmuth

“Phil is used to playing in really soft games, where you just jam and people call you with whatever and you get to stack somebody. But versus good players, it’s just not going to work.

This is a spot where both players have a lot of combos of the nuts. I’m not sure how in-tune with combos Phil is. But both players have tons of the nuts. You just can’t jam here. If you’re bluffing, you get owned. And if you’re value-betting, you get everything to fold. It’s just a truly terrible play.

I think that my hand is pretty standard. The notable hand here is Phil Hellmuth’s. He figured out a way to never make money. In my head, T♠ 7♠ would have to call if I check-raise that. There’s no redeeming qualities.

If you think someone is a massive idiot, that will call with two-pair here, maybe it’s fine as an exploit. But if you’re playing someone that you even somewhat respect as being capable of a thinking person or capable of playing cards at a table, it’s just a terrible play. I’m insulted he did it against me.

This is just classic Phil. “I’m setting you up to get trapped. Boom trapped. All-in.” Then hoping someone calls you. My opinion of Phil Hellmuth isn’t going to change with one hand.”

On Hellmuth’s play if James Bord calls:

“If James Bord calls, I could be priced in to call with some draws. If I had a hand like K♠ T♠, A♠ T♠, or K♠ Q♠, I probably have to call because I’m getting 3.3 to 1.”

On his general strategy:

“I’m not that interested in how my opponents are playing. I’m here to play well and win money. It’s easy to not care about what your opponents are doing. Play well and play optimal.

It’s funny seeing people say this was a sick exploit. It wasn’t. The way I use reads is that if I have a close decision, I lean towards one. I just think this has to be a fold. If Phil is just jamming with a set of eights, then he blocks my two-pairs that check-raise then fold. Then, yes, he will own me with T7, but he’ll get stacked when the Button or I have QT.

If this was online, I could have folded and moved on. The bigger element here is you’re playing on High Stakes Poker which is a very popular show. I didn’t play very long. It was the only big hand I really played. It is going to be a hugely talked about hand. A big part of it is, if you fold here and it isn’t QT, you’re going to look so bad. It’s more of the spot on TV than the spot itself because I think the spot itself is just a fold.”

On the table talk during the hand:

“These guys are fucking donks. Do you think I really care about what they’re saying? No offense to those guys. I just don’t care what some fish thinks about Phil’s hand or my hand. There’s no chance that what they say has any impact on my decision. His opinion about what he thinks Phil has…who cares?

If I felt that it was impacting my decision or not letting me think, I would have said “hey guys, shut the fuck up”. What they did was out-of-line, but not so much so that it hindered my ability to think about that hand. If it had, I would have said something.”

What did you think of Doug’s fold? What about his comments?

Let us know in the comments.

If you want to learn how to play a flopped straight much better than Phil Hellmuth did, read How to Play a Flopped Straight in Cash Games (4+ Unique Spots).

Take care!

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About the Author
Patrick Harvey

Patrick Harvey

Graduate student trying to make money in poker so that I don't end up having to drive Knish's truck.

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