Three’s Company

In a tournament last night (NL Hold’em), a talkative fellow with whom I’ve played several times sat on my right. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Will.”

There was a stretch where both of us got 72o or equally trashy hands like 62o or 82o over and over. A couple times after he folded, I flashed my cards at him before surrendering. 

There’s no loss in the war for information when I do this. None whatsoever. But there might be a net gain, if Will shares back information with real value.

Several time Will verbally declared “fold,” then held his cards until I folded so he could show me his trash. At one point, I asked the dealer to scramble the cards a little extra to mix up the 7’s and deuces.

Does extra scrambling or shuffling or cutting actually change anything? On one level, yes, in the sense that the order of the cards is altered for the next hand. On a meta level, no. The odds of getting a playable or winning hand are always the same.

I’m just trying to entertain myself, and entertain Will to keep him loose and talkative.

As the dealer treats the deck like finger paint, I give Will a prediction: “now one of us will get pocket sevens and the other will get deuces.”

He picks right up on this thread… “and there will be a seven and a two on the flop.”

[Queue canned audience laughter, 1980s sitcom style.]

I’m on the button and get 33, which is pretty damn close. After a minimum raise and one caller, I also call. One of the blinds calls.

The flop is 732 with two clubs.

“Holy shit!”

The other players check to me. I give it my best Chrissy Snow imitation, declaring that I have to bet at this flop. And get two callers.

This leaves me with about seven big blinds, and the blinds are going up soon.

The turn is another club.

That’s bad. A flush draw just got there.

On the other hand, you can’t be scared of every board with three-of-a-suit on it. And I have 10 outs to improve.

Will I ever fold if one of the other players puts me all-in?


The blinds were 1,000/2,000 with a 2,000 big blind ante.

Going to the flop the pot was 19,000 (4x 4,000 plus the small blind and ante).

The flop added 15,000 (my bet of 5,000 with two callers). Total now 34,000.

I have 14,000 remaining. If one player bets all-in with a flush and the other folds, I need 22.6% equity to justify calling, in a strictly math sense. (14,000 / (34,000 + 14,000 + 14,000).

My equity would be 22.7% (10 outs / 44 unknown cards), making a call right smack dab at break-even.

But that’s only if the villain is never bluffing, or semi-bluffing, or thinks he is betting for value with a hand that’s actually weaker than mine. Any of those possibilities increase my equity.

===  END POKER MATH  ===

Both players check to me.

Let’s go one street further. Suppose I check back, the river isn’t another club and doesn’t pair the board. In other words, nothing changes. If one of the other players puts me all-in on that river card, will I ever fold my set? Would you fold?

I jam. The worst thing would be for another club to fall on the river and one of the villains has a single, weak-ass club in his hand. That’d be gross to the tenth power.

The first villain check-raises all-in. 

When you let go of a blown-up balloon, you know how it hisses and farts as it flies around the room? So goes my well-disguised joy at flopping a set, on the button, after the playful banter with Will and the dealer about all the sevens and deuces. Nice hand. Good luck everyone. And all that.

Anyway, I’m at the cash game table and my very first hand is 33. [Queue eye roll.]

There’s a straddle and a raise and I’m still getting settled in and surveying stack sizes. Besides, lightning doesn’t strike twice.

Two callers, a three on the flop and more betting action until a top-pair hand wins the pot.

Later in the cash game, I raise with 33 in late position. The flop is 422, which is pretty good for me and my continuation bet gets a single caller. I check back after a turn A and the river 5 gives me a straight. 

After this villain bets, I consider raising. But the board is paired and there are three spades out there. While I’m still confident I have the best hand, this is a classic ‘way ahead / way’ behind spot. He’ll never fold a hand that beats my straight. And he’ll never call with anything weaker. Raising accomplishes nothing.

I call.

He tables pocket deuces. Quads are good.

At least my read was spot on… I knew he didn’t have a flush or full house!

Good night everyone. I had a wonderful time.

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