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Did Phil Ivey make a mistake

12th June, 2006
I was watching a poker tournament on television last night when the following situation came up. It was down to two handed with Barry Greenstein and Phil Ivey, and Greenstein had a very large chip lead with the blinds quickly eating away at Ivey's stack. Ivey was dealt Q 2 off suit and Greenstein moved all in.

With the chip stacks and blinds where they were, Ivey was going to have to move all in on either this hand or the next one. He decided to fold and moved all in with 5 4 off suit on the next hand and lost to Greenstein's Q J. (If I remember correctly. I am a little fuzzy about Greenstein's hand, but it was two face cards.)

Looking back, of course Ivey would have been better off calling with the Q 2, but hindsight is always better than real life pressure packed situations. Also, understand that I am in no way questioning Ivey's play, as he is somewhere around a million times better than I am at playing poker.

The question is, how good does a hand have to be in the above situation to call? I would have called with the Q 2, but that does not make it the correct play. Another thing to consider is that it is almost always better to be the one who moves all in than the one making the call. When I will be forced to move all in on one of the next two hands, the following are hands that I will push with on the first hand.
1) Any Ace or face card.
2) Any two suited cards.
3) Any two consecutive cards. (On these hands below 98, I will push if possible, but will not call an all in.)
I do not have a scientific reasoning behind these hand selections; they are just the ones I am willing to gamble with when I am forced to gamble. Realize that you have no fold equity, so your opponent will call you with just about any hand. In certain situations, it would even be incorrect for them to fold 7 2 off suit, which is the worst possible starting hand.

If you play poker for long, the odds are that you will find yourself in a similar situation to the one above. Consider what hands you will be willing to play, and that is one less thing you will have to think about at the table. Until next week, good luck at the tables!

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