KKing David

Ruminations on poker

A Small Unexpected Gift

Who doesn’t like receiving gifts?  Raise your hands right now.  (No one…)

My favorite gifts tend to be small but unexpected.  On my birthday or Father’s Day, I expect to get something.  Other times, a gift is delivered when there is no expectation – perhaps a friend returned from an overseas trip and brought a snow globe from one of their stops, or Mrs. makes a peach cobbler just ’cause she knew I’d like it.  There is great delight in the unexpected.

In one poker hand last night, another delightfully unexpected gift arrived.

This is a private game, that features a special jackpot that is paid every time a player makes a straight flush, affectionately referred to as a “piggy.”  Last night, the jackpot was equal to 500 big blinds (BBs), which makes you want to play every suited connector and 1- or 2- gapper, no matter how remote the odds, just in case…  I won a similarly sized straight flush jackpot at this game earlier this summer.

In early position, I limp in with 6h4h.  For many reasons this is a money-losing play.  Many pots have not been raised pre-flop, so I convince myself there is a reasonable chance I’ll get to see a cheap flop.  Alas, one player raises to 3 BBs and there are two callers.  I’m getting a decent price to call despite the poor position (another poker logic fallacy), so I call.  This is exactly what the house hopes for; the presence of the piggy promotes more action.

Flop (12 BBs):  K55.  I check, and so does everybody else.  I would not call any bet here.

Turn (12 BBs): 7.  Now my 64 has developed into an open ended straight draw.  (Sorry readers, I didn’t make note of the suits, and don’t recall if there was also a flush draw… probably yes, but I didn’t make a note of it.)  With 8 outs to make a straight, which still wouldn’t be the nuts on this paired board, and all three of the other players showing weakness on the flop, I decided to make a stab at it, and bet 10 BBs.

The original raiser folds, the next guy folds, but the player on the button calls.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call her “Barbara.”  Barbara is one of the nicest – and most unaggressive – poker players you’ll ever meet.  She comes to play, not watch, thus she calls frequently pre flop to see what develops.  Barbara never complains when she loses and never showboats when she wins.  She treats the game like a social occasion, and the other players like a group of friends.

The fact that she checked the flop and called but didn’t raise on the turn doesn’t always indicate a weak hand.  Earlier she just called bets on the turn and river after she turned a set of 888’s on a board with no obvious straights or flushes, saying after the showdown, “I thought about raising, but just didn’t.”

River (32 BBs): Another 5.  Now the board is K55-7-5.  I’m playing the board.  Should I bluff again?  How much would I need to bet to get Barbara to fold?  What hands could she have that called the turn bet and now would go away against enough pressure?  As I’m pondering these questions for a few seconds, I see Barbara peek at her hole cards.  This makes me think she might have a 5 and just made quads, and has to look again to be sure it really happened.

Betting is too risky, so I decide to concede.  After I check, Barbara peeks at her hole cards again, then hesitates.  She looks like she is deciding how much to bet with her quads, but instead she tosses her hand into the muck and shakes her head.  “I missed, badly” she says.  “Go ahead and take it.”

The dealer slides the entire pot over to me.  It is a gift from Barbara, somewhat small and totally unexpected.  Thank you Barbara.  You are a much nicer person than I am.  Somehow – most likely in a non-poker way – I hope to be able to surprise you back!

Interestingly enough, about an hour later a different player made a straight flush and won the piggy.  He had 53s, didn’t fold before the flop, and banked a nice payoff when the perfect river card arrived.

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