Poker pro Michael Binger knows when to fold’em

At the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event, Michael Binger burst onto the poker scene with a third-place finish that earned him more than $4.1 million.

In 2007, Binger proved he was no fluke by cashing eight times, tying the WSOP record for cashes in a single year. (He shared the record with poker pros Humberto Brenes, Chad Brown and Phil Hellmuth Jr., but the mark was broken at the 2008 WSOP by Nikolay Evdakov with 10 cashes.)

This year, Binger continues to impress the poker world. Through July, he has captured two tournament titles, made eight final tables and is currently ranked in the top five in all the major Player of the Year standings.

In the following hand, I learned why he has been able to achieve such tremendous success.

During the 2008 Foxwoods Poker Classic’s $5,000 no-limit hold ’em event, Binger was seated to my immediate right with about 13 players remaining. Just as the 10th level (blinds 1,000 and 2,000, antes 200) began, I looked down to see Qs-Qd. Sitting under the gun, I raised to 5,600. As each player folded one by one, the action came around to Binger, who was sitting in the big blind. After a moment, he decided to call.

The dealer revealed a flop of Ac-9c-4d. After Binger checked, I followed suit, wary of the ace.

After the turn brought the 6h, another round of checking occurred.

Finally, the dealer flipped over a perfect river card for me - Qh.

This time, Binger came out firing with 7,000 chips, leaving him with about 25,000 remaining.

“I’m all in,” I declared.

Now, Binger went into the think tank. After much deliberation and agony, he announced, “You must have hit your set of queens.”

Wow! Nice guess.

Finally, he decided to fold. Then he shocked everyone at the table, including me, when he revealed his hand - 9h-9d.

Unbelievable! He folded a set of nines when 99.9 percent of the world’s players would have made the call. Every player at the table berated him. As everyone pleaded with me to reveal my hand, I promised Binger that I would disclose it first to him after the 2008 WSOP.

Well, Michael. You were right! What an incredible fold.

With impressive play like this, Binger will continue to be a factor on the poker circuit for years to come.