Sunday, May 15, 2011

For Shame Of Doing Wrong

Last night in the biggest turnout in my house game's history (20 guys, all regulars, 3 tables -- man, I can't tell you how happy I am about how that's going), my night in poker is going about as well as it's been for the last two months... which is to say, deadly. I chipped up nicely when my low pairs turned to trips, then quads on the river as my opponent kept betting into it, but the momentum doesn't stay, and I lose a pairs versus overs race for 2/3rds of my stack, then watch my final all-in two pair on the flop get taken down by a runner-runner hit. Bad decisions, bad timing, bad luck, bad poker: the total package of not good. My wife and kids come home late and upset after a trying day, so I'm able to at least put the early tournament exit to good use by giving them their usual bedtime story. That's got to be worth some karma, right?

Well, yes... as the cash game does much better, with tight play and winning flops and bluffs coming my way in a $0.25 / $0.50 game where successful limps are very uncommon, so the swings are more like a tight but interesting $1/$2 game. By the time the night is nearing an end, I've cleared out the guy on my right, and gotten back my losing tournament buy-in, the cash game buy-in, and a decent chunk besides. The table talk has been good, no one's had overly hard feelings, it's all good. And then the final hand happens.

I've got suited spades, low connectors, in a multi-hand flop in late position -- the kind of hand you want to see with a good, but spread, pot, under the hopes that your flush hits along with someone else's straight. Two spades hit the flop, with paint, and the game is well and truly invested, and the turn completes my flush, and puts a straight possibility on the board. I put a bet in for half of the pot, and the player to my right, CMJDad who also reads this blog, snaps calls for all-in.

Well, crap. Be careful what you wish for, and all that; I've got a 7-high flush here, and how hard is it, really, for him to have two spades in his hand, one of them better than a seven? Not at all, really. And even if I'm ahead of the hand, the river has been so unfailingly awful for me -- no, seriously, 3+ years of routine competitive poker, never had a run of closing death like this -- it's really making me think it's better to bail. No need to see his two pair turn into a house, or his high spade win when the fourth spade hits on the river.

Better to take my positive night and cash out, trusting that 3:30am reads have never been my strong suit, and the money in front of me is not just what I can afford to lose, but what I should be OK with winning.

Still. I'm holding a flush. Not exactly a weak hand.

And I think. And think. It's damned near impossible to put CMJDad on a specific hand; he's quite creative, slow plays high pairs, bets with air, hangs with ace-rag and paint and all kinds of stuff. He shows bluffs and calls down with thunder; he's the leading tournament points guy this year and the runner-up last year, and the only consistent point about him is that when he's tired or on tilt, he makes bad decisions... but he's also *really* good at appearing to be tired or on tilt when it suits his purposes. I'm not going to get anything from him by looking him down, other than to bust out laughing eventually when he does something funny, which he'll do whether he's got a hand or not.

At this point, I'm starting to be self-conscious about being in the tank this long, and as the host of the game on the final hand, no one is going to call clock on me. But still, it seems rude to not give them some drama, or at least viewing pleasure. So I do something I never do; I flip my cards, but don't fold or call. I think I announced this before hand, but I can't remember, and I don't do the really dick move of looking at his reaction, because well, I'm not trusting my read of his reaction either way. But at least now everyone's got a show.

Finally, I do the thing that I should have done minutes ago, when he went all-in. I ask for a count. And it turns out that he's got less than me, about the level of my cash game buy in. So if I lose the hand, all I've lost for the night is my tournament buy in. If I win the hand, I'm up enough to buy some groceries, or add to the mortgage payment, or treat the kids the next day to something unexpected.

And well, you play this hand because flushes beat straights, and because if you are ahead going into the river, you don't necessarily have to lose. As a matter of fact, you generally don't.

"I call." "You win." And so I do.

Hey, sometimes the poker blog can end on the bright side for me, right?

And in the postscript of all postscripts, when I was telling the eldest this story the next morning?

"*Please* don't tell me you folded a flush."

The young, they have no fear. (And no, she's not allowed to play at my game. Potentially ever. It's a tough enough room as is...)

1 comment:

CMJDad said...

Thanks for making me relive that moment. It's all good. I'll take it back next game.

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