Talkin' Poker : Don’t get stuck in a tough spot

This week I will be sitting on the big stage, playing at the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event in front of millions of people. What a ride this has been!

As I reflect on my play over the days leading up to making the November Nine, I remember one hand in particular that could have ended very differently for me. This is a hand that could have cost me a lot of chips if I’d played it another way. I’m still uncertain whether I made a sensible fold.

Blinds were 100,000-200,000 with an ante of 30,000. Jay Farber, who will also be at the final table with me, raised in second position to 420,000. I was directly to his left and looked down at A-Q. I reraised him to 920,000. I could have just flat-called him and played a smaller pot, but I decided to take control of the hand and possibly take down the pot.

The action folded back to Farber, and he four-bet to 1.72 million. I decided to call his raise in position to see if he would give up on the turn.

The flop fell Ad 5d 10c. Farber led out with 2.35 million.

After Farber’s raise preflop, I thought I was in bad shape. However, I got what I was looking for on the flop, so I flat-called his bet.

The turn was a 3, and Farber moved all in for 8.76 million. I decided to fold.

Judging from his previous play and the way he played this hand, Farber was representing A-A or A-K, and in my mind I couldn’t beat any hand, because he was value-betting the whole way. I discussed the hand later with J.C. Tran (another November Nine qualifier), and he felt I should have reraised Farber after his bet on the flop. I was in position, but I was playing a huge pot and didn’t know what I needed. The only hand I could have beaten was a bluff, and in my opinion he wasn’t bluffing. If I had to put him on a hand, I would have put him on A-K or 10-10.

The lesson to be learned from this hand is that in the late stages of a tournament, you don’t want to be stuck playing a huge pot with a hand that can be easily dominated. Luckily, I was able to walk away from it, but it could have ended badly for me. So many of the choices we make in tournaments need to be carefully weighed, especially when you’re deep in a big tournament and one decision can make all the difference.

These past few months have been some of the best months of my life. I left Las Vegas in July after making the final table and took a vacation with a bit of poker mixed in. I traveled to Florida for the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, then flew to Barcelona for a European Poker Tour event. From Barcelona I went to Ibiza for a weekend, then rented a car and drove to Figueres for a day, then to Nice for a few more days. I also spent time in Monte Carlo, Florence, Regensburg, Kiev, Cyprus and Marbella. I went back to work at the poker tables in Marrakech for the World Poker Tour, spent a night in Casablanca, then played tournaments in London and Paris.

Taking some time off did me a world of good, and I feel like I’m in prime playing condition for the final table. I want to thank everyone for their support the past few months. I’ll see you on the felt!

(Mark Newhouse is a professional poker player living in Los Angeles and playing poker at the Commerce Casino. He is part of the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event “November Nine” and will be playing for $8.5 million at the final table on Nov. 4-5.)