Consenting Adults

Queen Sheeba late night poker heads-up play

It’s almost 3:00 a.m. and the poker game is breaking up. We had a full table, then 6-handed for awhile. Two more players left, and one of the Final Four announced he would also go as soon as the button passed again.

When he cashed out, so did another player. We’re done, right?

The only person still sitting, besides the dealer, shrugs her shoulders and asks, “Do you want to keep playing?” For purposes of this blog, I’ll call her “Queen Sheba.”

It so happens that after a rough start to her session, Queen Sheba went on a tear and built up a huge wall of poker chips. It was like a sequence in a bad poker-themed film. She felted one player when her 9♣4♣ turned a flush to destroy his flopped set of aces. Then she called a big 4-bet pre-flop against two other players with JT. The flop was TTx and quickly produced a 3-way all-in against an AA and KK. In each case, her villains had fairly deep stacks. Then they had none.

I rarely play heads up poker and don’t especially like it. But it’s 3:00 am, and we’re consenting adults and the dealer is happy to accommodate us and the host is straightening up and taking out the trash and other post-game chores. We play on.

It’s very tentative at first, with limping and min-raising and caution and not much going down the rake hole or into the tip jar. I start raising slightly more, to 2.5 big blinds, then to three, just in case a favorable flop creates a money-making opportunity.

Mostly we trade chips back-and-forth. Once Queen Sheba gets AA when I get AJ, but I avoid disaster. Another time, I get KK, flop a set and turn a full house. There is a high hand jackpot that pays out at 3:30 am. In another scene from our bad poker movie, Queen Sheba had posted the highest hand so far when her A8 met up with three more 8’s on the board. Now the case king would give me a higher hand, so I don’t bet aggressively until the river – which misses – and then she folds anyway.

Then I raise on the button with J9o and she calls. The flop is J98, with two clubs. Queen Sheba checks, I bet and she check-raises. In Texas Holdem, this is the kind of spot that can lead to huge pots. If she has a flush draw or a straight draw with a hand like JT or T9, she will call any re-raise up to about 2/3 of the pot. On the other hand, there are a few combinations that already have me crushed, such as 88, QT or T7. If she has one of those and I re-raise now, I probably won’t see the train coming until it’s too late to jump off the tracks.

I know Queen Sheba likes to play draws aggressively, at least at a full table. Does she adjust her aggression level for heads up play? On the other hand, what does she think I have? If she’s thinking this way, all the same sentiments apply… I could have a flush or straight draw, or a strong made hand already. If she has a made hand, she is more likely to put me on a draw. If she has a draw, she is more likely to put me on a hand that already has showdown value, which is the case with my top two pair.

I just call. She’ll act first after the turn card. Perhaps that card and her actions will give me additional useful information.

The turn is another 9 giving me a full house. Talk about useful information… Cha-ching! She leads out with another bet. I raise to slightly more than double. “All-in!” she declares.

Of all the words a woman has spoken to me in the wee hours of the morning when we were two consenting adults engaged in private, adult-ish activity, these were the most beautiful I’ve ever heard that didn’t involve you-know-what. I was just as surprised as I was the first time, many years ago, a consenting adult woman whispered magical words of wanting to go past the point of no return well past our normal bedtimes. Now, as then, I’ll respect her in the morning!

After I call, Queen Sheba turns over 88, for an 888-99 full house, just weaker than my 999-JJ. There is a predictable awkwardness after the deed is done, and I assure her that as consenting adults we both knew what we were signing up for and that I still love her.

Oh, what a night.

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