My Head is Going to Explode

It’s Tuesday night poker and a new player has arrived and taken seat 10. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Chris.” Just a few hands later, Chris is in the small blind and no one raises in front of him. Ever the attention seeker, he raises to 15 big blinds, far greater than the norm for this game.

I guess that’s one way to attack the limpers… even if rather high risk / low reward.

The player in the big blind calls. Maybe he has a strong hand. An early position limper also calls. I’ll never understand what compels someone to limp into a pot, essentially praying to see a flop cheaply, then call a large raise, unless he’s trapping with some sort of monster hand. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call this player “Tim.”

The flop is interesting… 654. Chris asks to see both callers’ stack sizes and both have approx. 100 BBs remaining, which Chris covers (having just bought in for 150 BBs).

“ALL-IN!” Chris announces, with a certain amount of false bravado. The big blind folds, but Tim goes into the tank. While he’s thinking, Chris – true to his angle-shooting nature – offers to show one of his cards.

Tim says “yeah, sure…” and Chris rolls over the 7, giving him (at a minimum) an open-ended straight flush draw. And Tim decides to show one of his own cards, the 9, while continuing to think out loud about calling the all-in bet or folding.

In doing so, Tim tells the entire table that he actually flopped a flush, with the T9, but fears that Chris has flopped a higher flush.


WTFAnd Tim finally folds, saying he can’t risk that much with ‘only’ a ten-high flush.


My head is going to explode. It’s hard to know where to begin in unpacking this insanity…

First, Tim…

Tim’s limp with T9 is pretty typical of many low stakes live players, even in early position (he was UTG+1). And it should be noted that there is a straight flush “piggy” (i.e., jackpot) at this game worth several buy-ins for any straight flush using both hole cards and half of the jackpot for a straight flush using just one hole card.

Straight flushes are extremely rare. The FOMO factor is hardly worth calling 14 additional BBs to see a flop. Calling Chris’ squeeze attempt with a purely speculative hand is a fine strategy for spewing large chunks of chips and not good for much else.

Yet, miracle of miracles, he flops a flush.

Dude, what were you hoping for…??? OK, OK, it’s not a straight flush, so I guess there’s that whole disappointment, but any flush is a very strong hand. Seriously, how can you fold? HOW CAN YOU FOLD?

Sorry to be so harsh, sir, but this is one of the worst folds I’ve ever seen.

Now Chris…

Chris’ pre-flop attempt to squeeze out the limpers suggests he has a hand with some sort of value, but one that plays poorly on most flops. Now with a face up on the table, the most obvious other card is another 7.

Pocket 77‘s is likely to be the best hand pre-flop against multiple limpers, but absent flopping a set, loses its value quickly post-flop. On this exact flop, however, he would have an over pair to the board and an open-ended straight flush draw. That’s about as good as it gets (before knowing Tim is holding Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket).

The laws of the 52-card deck of playing cards render it impossible for Chris to have both pocket 77‘s and flop a flush.

Certainly pocket 77‘s isn’t the only combination in Chris’ pre-flop range. He’s been generous enough to show the 7, so his range is a lot narrower than if he hadn’t revealed any information. Combinatorially, there are exactly six hands he can have that are better than Tim’s: 87, 73A7, K7, Q7, and J7. While he could have been trying to steal the limpers’ money with any random hand, it’s far less likely that Chris made such a large pre-flop raise with 73Q7, or J7. Because… why would he?

On the flop, Chris would not open shove more than 2x the pot with any of these hands. He’d try to get more chips into the pot. Unless he has exactly 87 or 73 and flopped a straight flush, he has two outs to improve to a straight flush that would win half of the piggy jackpot (half of the piggy would be approx. 235 BBs, a nice haul).

If there were some crazy, crazy, alternative universe of black swans and white blackbirds and unicorns where it’s possible that one guy squeezes with 87 and the other guy limp/calls with T9 and the flop is 654, the guy with the everlasting nuts doesn’t bet in a way that’s designed to blow the other guy off the hand. Never.

After Tim folds, Chris shows his other card, which unsurprisingly (to me, at least) is anther 7. #TheyAlwaysHaveIt.

A couple minutes later the buzz has died down close to normal again, and Tim pipes up… “the more I think about that hand, the happier I am with my decision to fold, because…”

Sorry dear readers, at this point I totally tuned out and cannot recall Tim’s rationale. Instead, let’s have a little fun with this. In the comments section, please complete the following sentence:

The more I think about that hand, the happier I am with my decision to fold, because _____________________________________.


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  1. … even though I flopped a flush and likely have the best hand and will win the pot, I can keep my chips and look to get them in ONLY when I have the stone cold nuts.

  2. I’m still in awe of the fold. While I don’t play the best you hit the nail on the head. Calling that much preflight what better flop were you hoping for?

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