Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Straight Flush and Flopped Quads

This happened a few days ago, Thursday night, to be exact.  It was my last night in town, the ninth night of the trip.  Although I’d had a lot of fun on this visit to Vegas, and had gotten many great stories, most of which will eventually appear in this blog, it had been a particularly bad trip in one sense.  My luck at the poker table had been quite bad.  Really this was probably the worst results I’ve had in Vegas since I switched over to playing mostly poker a few years ago.  I lost and lost and lost, with very few winning sessions to contrast with the many losing ones.  The winning sessions were all modest, and I can’t say the same for most of the losing ones.  My luck was just awful.

Just to give one example, two days earlier I walked into BSC and helped open a 2/4 game in the late afternoon.  I played less than an hour and dropped $75.  I play tight—I don’t play a lot of hands.  If I get bad cards I never force the issue, I throw them away without investing a penny into the pot.  So it is really hard to lose money that fast the way I play.  And I don’t recall getting an unusual percentage of good starting cards and then getting beat a lot at the showdown.  It seemed like I never made it to the river or even the turn, and hardly ever even to the flop!  I don’t know how I could have lost money so fast the way I play, but I did.  I guess it was partially due to the fact that I couldn’t win a single pot the whole time. 

My luck didn’t improve much the rest of the night or the next day.  And then it got even worse on Thursday, the last day of my trip.  I started out downtown, playing in a tournament.  I was totally, totally card dead.  I dragged not a single pot.  I got only one hand to play, pocket Kings early.  When no Ace fell on the flop, I bet out (I had raised pre-flop) and got one caller.  When I bet out on the turn as well, I got raised.  The player hadn’t played a hand to that point, I had to assume he had two pair or a set.  I decided not to risk any more chips at that point, probably a mistake.  I never got another hand to play, couldn’t hit anything on my blinds, and eventually went all in with Ace-9 clubs against a lady who had pocket queens.  I turned a flush draw but it didn’t come.  And I was out of the tournament without winning a single pot.

So I headed over to BSC for my last session of this trip.  I figured I was due to finally get some cards.  For a awhile, it looked like I figured wrong.  Once again, I was doing just terribly.  I lost and lost and lost.  I managed to win a few small pots here and there, but I had to rebuy chips once, twice, three times.  In 2/4, I start with a $100.  If I get below $50, I buy in for another $40.  So when I say bought in three times, I now had put $220 cash on the table.  And I was still losing.  After that third re-buy, I started getting close to the $50 mark in remaining chips, and I started thinking about whether or not I was going to rebuy a fourth time, something I’d never done before, or call it a real early night on my last night in town.  It was now only a bit past 9:00 PM….I usually play into well past midnight.  I was actually considering not rebuying but playing short stacked something I don’t believe in doing in a limit game.  I hated to do that and risk finally having a monster hand and not having enough chips in front of me to get full value for it.  But I was actually contemplating that.  My luck was so bad on the trip overall, and on this day in particular, it was hard to justify putting any more money at risk.

I won a small pot or two and managed to keep my chip count barely above 50 so I never got to the point of having to make that decision.  Then George came to the table to deal. I thought to myself, George really owes me for that bad beat he dealt me a few months ago, but I know it doesn’t work that way. For awhile he didn’t give me any cards to play so I kept my head above water.  Midway through his down I was dealt 10-9 spades in early position.  That’s a hand I’ll play in later position, but in early position I often fold it.  Depending on which low limit poker book you read, you could make a case either way. Considering how bad my luck had been for such a long time, I had no business playing that hand here.  I don’t actually remember any conscious decision to play it, but somehow I found myself reaching for two dollar chips and calling.

There were about 4-5 to see the flop, which I liked.  I liked it a whole lot.  It was Jack & 8 of spades, and the 7 of diamonds.  So I had flopped a straight, the nut straight at the moment.  I also flopped a flush draw and an open ended straight flush draw.  Yeah, you could say I liked the flopped.

But there’s no way you should slow-play a straight, too many cards out there can make draws that could beat you.  Another spade could make my flush runner up to someone play Ace-rag of spades.  Two more spades could make my flush almost definitely worthless.  The board pairing could put a full house in play. 

So, first to act, I bet out.  I got a couple of callers.  The turn card was a low red card, a blank.  I bet again and got the same two callers.  Now I was looking at the 7 of diamonds on the board and thinking a 7 of spades would be the perfect card for the river.  Not only would it give me the straight flush I so desperately wanted, it might possibly give someone a full house and they’d be willing to re-raise me back and forth any number of times.    But instead of that card, the Queen of spades came instead.  Yeah, I did indeed make my straight flush.  And since that put three spades on the board, I had to hope that maybe someone had made the nut flush and would still want to bet a lot on the river.

Having bet every street, I couldn’t take a chance on not betting here and going for the check-raise.  The third spade could have scared off betters just as easily as it could have encouraged them.  Since no one had shown enough strength to raise to that point.  I had to bet and hope for callers.  I got two, but no raisers.  Ok, that’s still not bad.

They called my bet so I had to show first, which I was only too glad to do.  George said, “How pretty is it?” as he is wont to do.  I said, “Oh it’s very pretty” and turned over my cards, revealing my Queen high straight flush.  George, who’s dealt to a million times, said, “Yeah….I had a feeling.”  The other guys didn’t show their cards, I’m sure one of them had some kind of flush.  I dragged in a nice pot—not huge, but definitely my biggest of the night.

I told George how bad my luck had been up to that point.  And I said that now I could no longer give him a hard time for the four Queens he’d given that lady when I flopped a set of 8’s a few months ago. He laughed and said, “We’ll see how long that lasts!” Then I mentioned that this was only the third straight flush I’d ever had since I started playing poker six years ago.  The first came just a year ago at around the same time of year.  I said that I figured I had probably pretty much used up my luck for the night with that hand.  George said you never know.  Then I recalled the story of the time at another big strip casino I saw a lady in a 4/8 game get a straight flush and quads in back to back hands.  I didn’t remember which was first but it doesn’t matter….that’s the time that you know it’s your night.

I think George may have pushed me one more pot before he was finished.  I wasn’t anywhere close to being even, but at least I had some working capital and figured I could now likely last to my customary finishing time without having to worry about buying more chips or running short.  Jack was the next dealer, one of my best poker dealing buddies.  I of course had to tell Jack about the straight flush, and of course he asked if I got paid off for it, and I said yes, there were two callers on the river.  Nice, he said.

We chatted about other stuff and suddenly in the big blind I looked down at pocket Jacks.  Now pocket Jacks is a tricky hand… sure looks pretty but it is very vulnerable to getting beat.  Once a Queen .King or Ace hits, you’re probably behind.  So if you are in early position, it’s a good idea to raise with them to get people playing Ace or King-rag to fold, but in late position or in the blinds, there’s really no point in doing that because no one will fold once they’ve put in the initial bet.  And in the big blind like I was, you are in bad position the rest of the hand, I see no point at all in raising there. No one else raised either and again, about 4-5 callers. 

Now, if I liked the flop in the previous hand I detailed, I absolutely loved this flop.  In fact, if I could, I’d marry this flop.  I don’t recall what the card in the middle was, it didn’t matter.  On either side of it were two Jacks.  I had flopped quad Jacks!  Awesome.

And I had just told the story of the lady who had gotten a straight flush and quads in back-to-back hands.  This was quite up to that standard, but having those hands with back-to-back dealers was pretty damn good, to say the least.

This one was trickier to play.  Once I saw the flop, I knew the pot would be mine.  Now the only question is how to maximize my winnings.  With a high pair on the flop, you frequently don’t see a lot of action.  In fact, no one betting a flop like that is very common.   Unless you have a Jack, you’re afraid to bet, and if you do have a Jack, you don’t want to scare anyone off (although that’s dangerous, especially if the pair is higher than Jacks).  I figured if in first position I had bet there, I might not get any callers and I’d waste a monster hand.  So I checked, hoping someone would bet.  If no one did, I’d have to reevaluate on the turn card whether to bet then.

To my good fortune, someone in late position made my bet for me.  To my even better fortune, the guy on the button raised.  I couldn’t hope for a better result.  I acted like I was thinking about whether to fold or call (or at least, I tried to act like that) and gladly just called two bets.  The original better called.  We were down to three players.

The turn card was a club of some kind.  It was then I noticed that the non-Jack on the flop was also a club, as was one of the Jacks out there.  So there were now three clubs on the board, very good for me.  Surely someone with a flush wouldn’t go away on the river, and would pay me off.  Having seen a bet and a raise on the flop, I gladly checked the turn.  The flop-better checked this time, assuming the flop-raiser would bet.  He did.  Too early for a check raise I thought, wait for the river.  And I didn’t want to lose the guy who checked, he might fold if I checked raised there.  So I just called.  The other guy called too.

The last card was another club, which probably hurt me.  In my dream scenario, the guy who raised on the flop had a flush draw then, was raising for a free card, and made his flush on the turn.  The other guy had one club, the Ace, and had the flop-raiser beaten and would want to bet too, or go for a check-raise himself.

Hoping for that result, I checked again.  Surely one of these two guys would give me a chance to raise, if not both.  But alas, no.  The first guy checked and the last guy just showed his 7-5 clubs for a baby flush.  The fourth club on the board scared him off betting, indeed fearing one of us had the Ace or even the King of clubs.

So I was disappointed I didn’t get any more money on the river.  I just said, “Oh, you didn’t bet this time?  Darn.” And then flipped over my pocket Jacks.  Still, I got a fairly big pot and a lot of action for such a monster hand.  I dunno what the other guy had, he may very well have had the Ace of clubs and was going for a check-raise himself, he never showed.  Jack of course remembered that not 10 minutes ago I had told him about my straight flush, so he commented on my luck indeed turning around.

In fact it did.  I got nothing like those two hands the rest of the night, but suddenly I was taking down pots with some frequency again.  And making straights like you wouldn’t believe.  It seemed like every time I got Queen/Jack I made a straight with it.  Suddenly the stack of chips in front or me was growing, and before the night was over I not only caught up but I got slightly ahead for the night.  I left at the usual time and ended up twenty bucks ahead.  Not great, but considering at one point I was down almost $150 it was a heck of a nice comeback.

But I was just due.  My luck had been so bad the whole trip, and especially that night up until the straight flush, I was just due to finally get some cards and make some hands.  Luck is streaky, and this was just a extreme example.  I went from famine to feast in a very short time.

Since my luck had finally changed, maybe I should have extended my trip and tried to play out my rush.


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