THE WORLD Poker Tour recently visited to Tunica, Miss., and so did Phil Ivey and I. We were there to play in a $10,000 buy-in tournament being held at the Gold Strike Hotel and Casino.

Day 1 started a bit rough for me, as I was tired and sloppy with my chips. The blinds were $100 to $200, and I was sitting at around $18,000 - we started with $20,000 - when the following hand came up:

Player A limped in with 9-9, Player B - immediately to my right - made it $800 to go with Ad-As, and I looked down at 10-10. I called, and took a flop with three other players. The flop was Kd-10d-9c, and Player A bet out $2,000. Player B made it $7,000 to go, and I moved all-in for $17,400 or so. I told Ivey and Daniel Negreanu, who were sitting at the table next to me, "This could be the end of me." I wasn't kidding. I could not beat a straight (Q-J), or three kings, or I could have been at risk of losing to a flush draw. Player A called me quickly; Player B studied a moment, and then folded while showing the table his Ad-As. I now told Negreanu and Ivey, "Never mind, my opponent has only one win in the deck."

When the next two cards were 6d-4s, I became one of the early chip leaders with almost $45,000 in chips.

The play

Let's take a closer look at the hand. I don't mind Player A calling $200 with 9-9. However, a raise of some sort would have worked here just as well. Player B made a decent-sized raise with his A-A, and his play here was solid. As to my call with 10-10, my play was ideal. If I read Player B as being weak, then I could have reraised. If I read Player B as being strong, then a call works much better. I read him for strength, and I was right to merely call. Player B had a natural and easy call with his 9-9.

Let's take a closer look at the hand. I don't mind Player A calling $200 with 9-9. However, a raise of some sort would have worked here just as well. Player B made a decent-sized raise with his A-A, and his play here was solid. As to my call with 10-10, my play was ideal. If I read Player B as being weak, then I could have reraised. If I read Player B as being strong, then a call works much better. I read him for strength, and I was right to merely call. Player B had a natural and easy call with his 9-9.

However, if Player B thought Player A was weak, and that I was weak, then he could have put in a big reraise trying to win the pot right then and there by forcing both of us to fold our hands. On the flop, I love the $2,000 lead-out bet by Player A. Too often, players check the flop when they make a strong hand, when oftentimes the best way to win a big pot is to lead out with your strong hand.

Player B then made it $7,000 to go, and I hate his raise here. Why not simply call? In this case, I would have reraised, and Player A would have moved all-in, saving Player B $5,000 in chips.

My argument for moving all-in was simple: With $19,000 already in the pot, I wanted to protect my hand from losing. I have no problem with Player A moving all-in here. There is no way that he could fold his three nines. After all, I could have had K-10 (top two pair), or the Ad-Jd (a big drawing hand), and even if I did have Q-J, then Player A was less than a 3-1 underdog. Player B actually had an easy fold with his pocket aces, even though he had the ace of diamonds. In fact, because he had the ace of diamonds in his hand, he could rule out either of us having the ace high flush draw, which was the most likely drawing hand. Thus, it was easy to imagine that Player A and I had super strong hands. I finished the day with $64,500 in chips.

You can fold pocket aces on the flop:

a) Never! (not a bad rule for rank beginners); b) when there is a tough board, and mega action; c) Always (yeah, right!); d) not very often.

Answers: b and d. *

Phil Hellmuth is a 10-time World Series of Poker champion and the author of "Play Poker like the Pros" and "Bad Beats and Lucky Draws" (both published by HarperCollins).