Thursday, February 10

Poker Night

I was disappointed with my last performance in my semi-regular poker game with our usual cast of irregulars, so I was hoping to do better tonight.

Naturally, I busted out on the first hand. But I made the right call. At least, I think I did.

Everyone starts with 2750 chips and the blinds begin at 25/50. Due to the result of the blind draw for the dealer button, I began the game in the big blind. The player in third position raised to 150, the man in sixth position (who had to be called over to the game because he was busy chatting up some women — the hazards of playing poker in a bar) called, and I, holding K§/10¨, chipped in the extra buck to make it three to the flop.

The flop came 7ª/Qª/J§, presenting me with an open-ended straight draw but also the possibility of a flush draw that I didn't have. I checked my draw, third position bet 300, and I put him on a Q or a J. Sixth position immediately called, and I figured him for a draw of some kind. I called, too, figuring if I hit my straight I'd clean them both out and if not I could fold.

The turn is K©. Now I have top pair and the up-and-down straight draw. Hmm.

I checked my draw again and third position bet 600. Because he doubled his bet each round (150 then 300 then 600), I thought the K did him no good but didn't hurt his hand. Perhaps he had a weaker flush draw and was hoping to drive us out, or at least just me since I was showing weakness by checking. Maybe he was sitting on A/J, which meant the K was just another overcard to his pair but at least gave him a one-way straight draw. Maybe he had pocket 7s and flopped a set. Or, I figured likeliest, he had Q/J and wanted to throw a bet out there to see if he could put one of us on kings-up.

Sixth position blinked and then went all-in. Since he was the chatty fellow who had ladies waiting, I figured he had nothing or fairly close to nothing and just wanted to get rid of his chips. Ideally, in that situation, you'd like to raise over the top of him to force the other player out and isolate yourself with him, but since it was the first hand and we all started with the same amount of chips, that would be impossible. I'd have to go all-in with top pair, knowing it beat sixth position, but hoping that third position didn't have a hand that beat me.

He called. Uh-oh.

Sixth position had A§/J§, but third position had K¨/Q§. Two pair. The river was 4© which made my evening very short.

I was roundly criticised for playing stupidly. I argued that I read the situation perfectly — which I did (two pair and a junk hand) — and that mathematically, I made the right call — not too sure about that one, though. Let's find out.

The open-ended straight draw gave me eight outs (any A, any 9). Since I put third position on queens over jacks, I was operating under the assumption that any 10 or any 7 would have given me a higher two pair (six more outs) and any K would have tripped me up (two more outs). Sixteen outs from 46 unseen cards left in the deck is better than 2-1 odds and I was getting 2-1 on my money if third position called all-in. So, mathematically, I was making a good call.

The problem was that my premise was flawed; the other cards they were holding killed me. Since third position didn't have queens and jacks, but kings and queens, that took away the two outs I had for the kings (he was holding one, and the last K in the deck would have filled him into a full house); and it meant that getting a 10 or a 7 was no good since my two pair would still not have been as good as his. To add insult to injury, sixth position had one of my aces. So instead of going all-in with the 16 outs I thought I had, I actually had just 7. I was getting much worse odds than I was hoping for.

Damn. Should have folded.

In retrospect, what really did me in was the K© on the turn. I didn't know it at the time, of course, but that was the worst card I could have seen. If sixth position had A/10 or 10/9 it made the straight I was concerned he might have had, and it hit third position for two pair, and not just any two pair but top two pair, meaning I was drawing dead except to the straight. Had it been any other card, especially another spade, I could have folded with a clean conscience. But with top pair and an open-ended straight draw, I had a hand just good enough to get me in trouble.

So consider yourself lucky: that lesson cost me $15 and I just gave it to you for free.

Edited 2/10 11:55 PM for minor corrections.


Location: Mishawaka, Indiana, United States

I graduated with an English degree from the University Of Notre Dame in 2001, and in 2008 I have a day job that has nothing to do with my degree but gets the bills paid in a semi-regular fashion. (I have running water five days a week!) The idea is that once I get turned around on my bills, I go to grad school. I also have an idea for cold fusion. Anyone's guess which will be feasible first. In non-work mode, I'm usually reading columns by famous and well-read thinkers, blogs by critically praised writers, or sometimes blogs by overzealous cranks who make me laugh. I yearn to be all three at once; until then I'll settle for being the third. I also have an undying love for the Chicago Cubs and Notre Dame football. Praise them and I'll buy you a beer; curse them and I'll dump it over your head. If that's not enough, I'm becoming quite the fan of no-limit Texas Hold'em. My games have one of two results: I either win all the money or whine because I didn't win all the money.

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Damn right.


What's Your Line?


I absolutely love the name of your site.

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Just the name? Not the content? . . . I'll take it.

You have something in common with Dave Barry, Hemingway, and Mark Steyn: I'm not linking to them, either.


That's good stuff there Mark.

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Psst, it's "Mike."

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