Trail of Tears
This happened Sunday while at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, in Cherokee, NC during the World Series of Poker Circuit stop.
For the uninitiated, this casino is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the only federally recognized Indian tribe in North Carolina. Prior to the opening of this casino in 1997, this tribe was best known for its forced removal from its traditional home to a designated area west of the Mississippi River in 1838, under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. An estimated 4,000 Cherokee died as a result of starvation, cold or disease.
But this story is about my own trail of tears…
I was playing a 2/5 cash game in the main poker room, having played in a very large tournament the previous day. For a long time I felt I was being too passive and my image was not good, but the cards and action weren’t giving me many opportunities to change that, at least without too much risk of spewing away a lot of chips. I topped off my stack a couple of times, for a total buy-in of $800, when I looked down at 5d5h, and raised to $20 after an opening limper. My stack was approx. $620 and I am 8 hours into the session.
5’s had been hot at this table all day. I made quad 5555’s once and I’ve seen at least 4 other sets of 5’s. Two players call, then a very good but loose/aggressive girl in the BB calls and the opening limper calls. On a flop of Ad Td 2s, it checks all the way around. Now comes 5s on the turn and it checks to me. I bet $75 and one old man calls. He has a grumpy scowl that say “you can’t push me off a flush draw with that bet.” After another fold, the girl in the BB check-raises all-in, and she has me covered. WTF?
She has been hopping out of her seat a lot to go chat with a boyfriend at the next table, massaging his shoulders, discussing hands, making out, whatever. Since she joined the table, she made several very aggressive moves, like 3-betting with QTo (which pushed a AQss out of the hand but got re-raised by a very short stack so short that she had to call and show. AQ would have made top 2 pair, but here QT held up to win with just one pair). On another hand she called a raise on the button with something like 53o and made a wheel straight and won a nice pot. More recently she has twice bet $200+ on scary boards and got caught bluffing. Once another woman at the table had QQ and was betting on the flop and turn, then checked the river when a 3rd diamond appeared on a T-high board. Another time a different old man had pocket JJ’s and flop was JJx. She tried to push him off with a big all-in bet on the turn.
I got the impression that she and her boyfriend are traveling WSOP Circuit grinders. While some of her plays may be questionable or her ranges may be too wide, she clearly knows what she is doing and her strategy is to put lots of pressure on weaker players. Clearly she knows that most ordinary / routine players make their decisions based on the bet-sizing and not due to the logic of the play. She bought in deep and keeps putting other players to difficult decisions with large bets. I had actually moved to an empty seat two seats to my right to get closer to her left. This is the first time we’ve tangled with each other with any sizable pot.
It’s hard to put her on a range here, as the board now has both diamond and spade flush draws on it (Ad Td 2s 5s), and she over-called pre-flop from the BB knowing it would be a multi-way flop. But let’s try:
She could have the Nuts (or could she?): 43, suited or unsuited, 16 combinations. But really, did she call a pre-flop raise out of position on everybody, with 43? It’s very hard to give her credit for that, but if somehow that is what she has here, I suppose it is consistent with the Check/Raise All-In on such a drawy board.
Other hands that beat me: TT, 3 combos. I’m not going to include AA here, as she certainly would have re-raised pre-flop after my raise and two callers. After my raise to $20 and 2 callers, I think she might have made a large 3-bet with TT from the BB, but I cannot be 100% sure. So it has to be in her range now, and checking the flop with her set would be OK with an Ace out there and so many players.
Strong hands that I beat: 22, AT, 12 combos. Again, I think these are more likely to lead out on the turn after no one bet on the flop, for all the reasons mentioned.
Draws: The biggest imaginable draw would be ATss, for top 2 pair plus a nut flush draw. But there are other combination draws with KQ, KJ, QJ of either diamonds or spades having flush draws + gutshots, Txss having middle pair plus a spade flush draw, Axss having top pair plus a spade flush draw. If I include any Ax spades, T9ss+, any KQ, KJ or QJ spades or diamonds I get 19 semi-bluff combinations (not including ATss, which I have already accounted for in the prior paragraph).
I would expect her to lead out with a healthy bet on the turn with all of her strong hands – straights, sets, top 2 pair, due to the presence of both spade and diamond flush draw possibilities. With 5 players, it would easy to have at least one player chasing diamonds and another player chasing spades. This is the time to punish the drawing hands, and once one of them calls, the others will too. Why risk letting it check around again and giving them a free card (plus any gutshots to a Broadway straight) when a strong bet is likely to get called at least once? If she checked, and everybody else also checked, and the river is any diamond, any spade, or any K, Q or J, her poor position leaves her in quite a pickle trying to figure out where she stands. So the Check/Raise All In play, which typically represents great strength, appears more consistent with having a big draw than having a big made hand.
Against this entire range, my equity is 59.3%. On the other hand, if I were in her position and had one of the hands that beats my 555’s, I would lead out with a strong bet here, so it is questionable whether 43 or TT even belong in her range. For that matter, it is questionable whether 43 belongs in the range from the pre-flop action, but I want to include it as a way of thinking about all the hands that could either have the strength for such a large bet or could have enough equity via a big draw plus whatever fold equity they might have to make this a +EV play.
It seems like most of the time she is going to have a big spade draw with the ace of spades. That gives her top pair plus a nut flush draw picked up on the turn, giving her plenty of equity (or so she might think). A narrow range looks like mostly 22 or AsTs, although it would be a mistake on my part to try to narrow her range that much.
So… (drum roll please) I call for my entire remaining stack, over $500, and she turns over 43 off suit. The river is 6c and I go searching for a beer into which I can pour my trail of tears.
Two days later, I’m still trying to figure out if I am supposed to be good enough, or to become good enough, to be able to fold in that situation.
I’m also fascinated (whilst participating in) the emotional and financial variance that comes from one card. When I called, I still had 10 outs to make a better hand and win. If one of those had come, I’d be singing a happy tune and buying dinner for friends.
Am I supposed to become detached enough not to feel the pain (or pleasure)? As a human being, it just seems wrong to want to strip away all the emotions from losing / winning in a competitive activity, however much pain I’m still in today.