Ace High Has to be Good Here

Ace high poker blog

Last night… private house game…

I have A♠ 7♠ on the button.  The flop was K♠ Q 4♠, giving me a nut flush draw with one over card to the board.  Like it!  

The main villain, in seat 10, appears to be a few years older than me, which makes him a Middle-Aged White Guy (MAWG).  This is the first time I’ve played with him, and for purposes of this blog I’ll call him “Dan.”  Dan bets and the next player calls.  I put out a solid raise to 20 BBs (as I recall this was a limped pot and Dan had opened for 6x) and a couple other players fold.  Dan thinks a bit, then calls.

My history with Dan started on the first hand after I sat down at the table, which had started play maybe 15-20 minutes earlier.  I raised with KQo and Dan and one (or two?) other players called.  The flop was Q T 6♣ and Dan led into me followed by one caller.  His bet was curiously small, like a blocker bet with a flush draw or a weak lead with top pair.  Normally I don’t like to go crazy with one pair – even top pair with 2nd kicker – but there are lots of draws possible on this flop.  I raised and only Dan called.

Since I’ve never played with Dan, it stands to reason that he’s never played with me.  This being my first hand, my aggression might look to him like I’m trying to assert some sort of alpha male status over the table.  He calls.

The turn is an off-suit 2, changing nothing.  He checks.  This is a weird spot where my image might get me paid off, and I’m feeling frisky, so I jam the rest of my starting 100 BBs stack.  Rather quickly, Dan calls.  He turns over Q 9 and my hand holds up.

I was thinking about this when I raised Dan on the current hand with my nut flush draw.  Will he remember?  Will he give me credit for more value this time?  Is he trapping me, baiting me into shoving on another turn?

The turn didn’t help, an unmemorable card.  Dan checks.  I decide to take the free card.  He might simply be one of those classic calling stations who spawned the phrase “ever bluff a calling station.”  Or he might also be chasing a flush draw and if it hits I can get his entire stack.

The river is another brick, the 2♣.  Dan audibly sighs and says check.  It was the kind of audible sigh that you might find in a movie poker scene like Rounders or Casino Royale where a bad villain tries to give off a reverse tell to induce a bluff.  Mike McDermott playing conventioneers in Atlantic City, or James Bond playing terrorist financiers in Madagascar would be about to fire in a final bluff, then pause and replay the sigh in slo-mo for dramatic effect, give a short speech and say “your set of sevens is good, sir.”  And McDermott and Bond would always be right, a luxury of being in a movie scene rather than real life.  Is Dan that poor as an actor?

Mike McDermott RoundersJames Bond Casino RoyaleBut wait, what about Occam’s Razor?  This principle teaches that when there are competing hypotheses, the one that requires the fewest assumptions is most often correct.  If we start there, Dan’s giving out a straightforward tell, that he was chasing a draw and missed.  He might have a weaker flush draw; alternatively he might have JT for a missed straight draw.  Or both, with J♠ T♠.  In either case, my ace high is good, right?  All I have to do is check behind to win the pot.  Forget the fancy thinking and the movies, we’re just playing low stakes poker in somebody’s garage.  There is no need to turn my hand into a bluff.  If I’m wrong and Dan is giving off an exaggerated please-try-to-bluff-me tell, I won’t get burned.  Either way, I’ll have more information for the next time I play with him.

I check.  Dan says “All I have is a queen” and tables Q♠ 5♠.  His weak second pair takes the pot as I silently muck and I try not to pay attention to one player who folded to my flop raise and is now muttering about how his hand would have held up.

That was the one thing I failed to account for, that Dan could have a weaker flush draw AND a pair that was good enough to win at showdown but probably would fold to enough pressure.  Another spade and he would have cheerfully shipped his entire stack to me again.

Next time, Dan… next time!

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