Kick in the Head

KKing David’s introduction: What follows is a guest blog post by another player I’ve enjoyed seeing in the local poker scene recently. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Michael.” Take it away, Michael!

That’s the kind of sentence, when you hear it, your brain comes to a screeching halt. And the left-hand side of the brain looks at the right-hand side of the brain and goes “It’s dark in here and we may die”. – Lewis Black

It’s way too late at night at a $1/3 cash game at the MGM National Harbor outside of Washington, DC. My last table had just broken up and I probably should have just called it a night, but decided to play a couple hours at this new table. I sit out a few hands to get comfortable and get a read on the table; lots of over bets, loose calls, aggressive raises with junk to isolate and people trying to buy themselves out of bad situations. This could be a very profitable move indeed.

I fold for a few hands and then look down at KK from UTG+1. I raise to $10 and get 5 callers: UTG+2 (pretty short), HJ, CO, BTN and BB. UTG+2 has $90 remaining; otherwise the effective stack is ~$300. HJ, CO and BTN are the crazier players at the table, so I’m not super thrilled being out of position to them, but you don’t usually get to pick when you get pocket kings. I was actually expecting one of them to 3bet me since up until that hand, there hadn’t been a non-3bet pot since I sat down. Oh well, to the flop we go with approximately $60 in the pot.

AAA – yep, 3 aces. That’s about as polarizing a flop as I could imagine. I either have the nuts with no chance of getting cracked, or I’m drawing dead with no chance of catching up. I check and it checks around to the CO who bets $50 into the $60 pot. Folds to me and naturally I call. Then UTG+2 shoves his remaining $90. It folds back to the CO who furrows his brow and then folds. Now it’s back to me.

He could have the last A, but he could also have any other pair and think his Full House is good. I have to call $40 to win $290, getting 7.25:1 so I only need to be good 14% of the time to make money here.

I reach for my chips to call and then he says “I just want my kicker to play.” I pause and look at him, and then look at the board again just to make sure I’m not going crazy and then I look at him again. I have no idea what that sentence means. If he has quads, who cares about the kicker. And if he’s worried about his kicker then he doesn’t have a pair, so what is he doing?

I can’t remember the last time I was this befuddled at the table. The lateness didn’t help: My poker faculties were still operating well, but maybe the language center of my brain had gone for a nap.

I put my chips in and he gets visibly upset. He stands up in a huff and throws down A7o (#TheyAlwaysHaveIt): unbeatable quads. Then he angrily gestures towards a TV monitor in the room and says “I just wanted my kicker to play, asshole!” I look at the monitor in question and it slowly dawns on me that a $250 High Hand bonus is in effect every hour, and the current High Hand is QQQQK. Both hole cards must play. If I had folded, his new High Hand would be AAAA7. But since I called, if either of the turn or river are higher than a 7, his kicker will be counterfeited and I just cost him the $250 bonus.

I kind of felt bad for him initially since I might have cost him money that didn’t come out of my pocket, but I did just pay him off even after his cryptic speech. In the end it didn’t matter as the turn was a 4 and the river a 2. He yelled some more obscenities in my direction and stormed off to get a drink. His hand held up for the next 20 minutes, earning the $250 bonus plus my extra $40.

In the end, he got more of my money and I got a lesson in taking context clues from outside of the game when deciphering a player’s speech. Or maybe it was a lesson in not playing after part of your brain has gone to bed. Or maybe it’s just another one of those spots where you can’t really fold the 2nd nuts.

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