Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Phantom Flush

I’m gonna start with a few quick anecdotes from other sessions before I get into a Sunday of poker in Vegas in August.

The first nite, the only thing memorable—or should I say “blog-worthy”—was an action a guy took in a hand against Abe.  He didn’t appeared to be a very skilled or knowledgably player.  There was some betting and then on the river, the top pair paired.  I’m not sure if this was in response to a check or bet on Abe’s part, or if the other guy had first action, but before he acted, he reached into his pocket and clearly intended to buy more chips so he could bet more than the chips he had in front of him.

Clearly this player didn’t grasp the concept of table stakes (see here).  The dealer very quickly explained to him that he couldn’t do that, he could only bet the chips in front of him.  The player then went all-in.  Abe folded.

But it did put a thought in my head.  His move could have been an awesome bluff, right?  I’m sure it wasn’t in this case, but how’s that for an angle?  It would be pretty hard to call his bet unless you had the nuts or near to it, right?  Especially if they guy had already convinced you he didn’t know what he was doing.  Of course, if that was Ed Miller trying it, I wouldn’t fall for it.

Another night, there was female floor person who came by our table to do the “rack count.” I always found that odd, because I’ve never seen a poker table with more than one rack.  But I digress. The floor person in question was attractive, and quite thin.  Her professional manner of dress didn’t give much clue as to her figure, except, as I said, she was quite thin.  Get it?

 The floor had the dealer sign the sheet certifying that the rack was ok.  Sitting next to the dealer was an older gent, a regular, who obviously knew the floor person.  He said to her, “The rack is good?”  She assured him it was.  He replied, “It’s nice to have a good rack.”

The floor person had no trouble deciphering his single-entendre.  “Yes, yes it is.  Not that I would know much about that.”

So on the particular Sunday in question, I played the Aria 1PM tournament.  It’s been a long time since I played that, which is a shame, because I really like that tournament.  I made a semi-decent run, but didn’t cash.  There were a couple of things from it worth talking about.

My table was fairly aggressive, almost never a limped pot.  The guy to my right was an aggro, I soon found out.  Early in the first level he limped into a pot, I made a normal raise with the dreaded pocket Kings and he was the only caller.  The flop was 8-8-4, two hearts.  My Kings were both black.  He led out for $250 and I raised to $600.  He raised again, to $2200. 

Ok, I give up.  I’m not risking more money at that stage of the tournament with just an overpair, when an 8 beats me.  As I folded, I said, “I guess you’re trying to tell me you‘ve got an 8.”  He didn’t say anything.  Remember this guy, he’ll be back.

I almost single-handedly took out a nice European couple.  First, I won a nice pot from the guy with pocket Aces.  I had three-bet him and he called.  I bet the flop but checked the turn.  That got him to bet out on the river with nothing (he had Ace-King).  I just called and my Aces were good.

Then I raised preflop with Ace-10 off on the button.  The only limper, the wife of the guy I just mentioned, called.  The big blind was $200 and I had made it $700.  The flop was Queen-Jack-2, two diamonds.  She checked, I bet $1K and she called.  The turn was the King of spades, putting a second spade on the board and also giving me Broadway.  She checked, I bet $2K, and she check-shoved.  She had around $15K, just a bit less than I had.  Of course I called with the nuts.

She had a straight too, but it was 10-9.  However, they were both spades so she had the flush draw.  She missed.  She was gone and I had almost doubled up.

Soon after, I had pocket Aces again and was heads up against her husband.  I won another nice little pot from him, and when I showed my Aces, he said, “Again?”  Sorry sir, I’m not really picking on you and your lovely wife.  Honest.

Then there was a guy who tried to muck the winning hand. He had shoved on the turn. A player with a straight called him and flipped over his hand.  The first guy just sent his cards face down to the dealer and stood up to leave, he couldn’t beat a straight.  But the dealer said no, in a tournament, when everyone’s all-in, both hands must be played face up. 

So he turned over Queen-Jack, for a pair of Jacks (top pair).  The player next to him said, “Hey, you could win if a 10 comes.  Indeed, a 10 would have given him a straight to the Queen, while his opponent had the straight to the Jack.  So of course, the river card was indeed a 10.

Oh wow…..it wasn’t until I just now listened to my voice notes that it hit me.  This was exactly the situation that I described in the post here, where I suggested a new TDA rule to deal with the situation of a non-involved player calling for a card and then seeing it hit.  This story at the Aria took place a week before the story I described from the MGM Invitational.  And honestly, by the time I was the victim, I had forgotten all about this earlier story.  It had totally slipped my mind until I played back my voice notes, as I said.  So, I guess according to my rule, that guy who said the other guy could win with a 10 should have been penalized.  And the guy who got sucked out on had sort of a double-whammy.  Not only did the jerk call for the card that beat him, but the winner had been perfectly willing to give up the pot and go home.  Only because of the specific tournament rules did he lose that pot.

Then there was the lady who went on a brief heater.  She came from a broken table and immediately raised the first three or four hands she was dealt, and won all of them.  I think she had to show one hand.  It was Ace-King and she caught something.   She insisted that she had a good hand every time and was just running well. Then she raised again and was called down.  She showed pocket Aces to take the pot.  The next hand she raised yet again.  This time she didn’t get a call and she showed her hand anyway—pocket Kings. Yeah, a pretty nice run, especially not getting those Kings cracked.

Speaking of Kings, I had them one more time.  I had to three-bet them, and the original raiser called.  The flop was Ace-high, I bet at it and didn’t get a call.  Phew.

My last hand, after about four hours of poker (about 40 of us left, from 120 or so), I had Ace-Queen.  That aggro to my right was still there and he raised, a normal raise.  I had only been folding or shoving for awhile, so I shoved.  He called and showed King-Queen of hearts.  He hadn’t said a word for four hours, but now he got chatty.  “I need a King or some hearts.”  He got both!  A King and two hearts.  A blank hit the turn and I had a two-outer (since the Ace of hearts would have given him the flush.  Although he didn’t need it, he got his third friggin’ heart and I was done.

The night at MGM, I made one of the stupidest mistakes I’ve ever made at a poker table.  Having played poker in casinos for many years now, you would think I’d be way beyond making a mistake like this but no, I guess I’m not.

The cash giveaway drawing was not far off so I called a raise to $7 with Coach’s favorite “evil hand,” Queen-10.  Because it was soooooted….clubs.  The flop was 9-8-6, two hearts, one club.  The lone woman at the table, who was not the preflop raiser, bet $12 and I called and we were heads up.  I was hoping for a Jack to complete my gutshot, but what I was really hoping for was the Jack of clubs to give me the flush draw as well (I wanted that drawing ticket).

Instead the 2 of clubs came out and my brain locked up.  I somehow thought I had made my flush, instead of just getting the draw to it. I confidently bet $20.  The lady was confused, but called.

The river was the King of spades, and I was fine with that.  I didn’t want another club anyway.  I bet $25, which put her all in, and she snap called and she turned over her pocket 9’s for a set and I confidently flipped over my Queen-10 of clubs for the flush to take down the pot.

Except the dealer pushed the pot to the lady after turning over my hand.  WTF?  I even heard the murmurs of “what the heck is he doing?” from the other players.  I spoke up.  “What’s going on?”  This dealer has dealt me as many cards as anyone in Vegas, going back to when I first started playing.  I can count the number of mistakes he’s made on one finger.

“She had a set of 9’s.”

I responded, “I know.  I had a flush.”

The dealer, and the player next to me, said almost in unison, “There was no flush.” The dealer was able to turn over the board that he had just turned faced down and showed me that there were only two clubs on it.  There was no flush possible with any suit on this board.

I felt like the world’s biggest idiot, and people were actually making fun of me—not for misreading the board as much as for betting into her set.  Or so it seemed.  And I just slunked into my chair and tried to figure out what the hell had just happened.  I was so embarrassed, I wanted to get up and change tables.  Or poker rooms.  Or identities.

I swear I heard people at the table making fun at my expense for about 10 minutes as I tried to recreate the hand in my head.  I finally figured out what happened.  I was so focused on wanting the turn to be the Jack of clubs, that when a different club fell, I thought I had made the flush.  I never double checked the board. It went in my mind from wanting the Jack of clubs to any club. It was weird, and incredibly careless on my part. 

Somehow, I ended up staying at the table.  A bunch of the players who had witnessed this goof left the game soon after, so there were few witnesses to my shame.  Meanwhile, the inimitable Pete P. Peters showed up to say hi.  He didn’t play this night, but we talked for a bit and he brought me some luck.  I think the only hands I won for a long time were when he was talking to me.          

In fact, in the brief time he was there, I had both pocket Jacks and the dreaded hand.  I won with both, raising preflop and getting no call to my flop bets.  I don’t think Pete saw what I had either time, which is a shame, because I like to have witnesses whenever I actually win with those damn Kings.

Then I won a “monster” pot with a full house.  Four us limped in, and at least I had the excuse that I was the big blind. I had Jack-5 off or something, just a crap hand that had a 5 in it.  The flop was King-King-x and no one bet.  The turn was a King and again, no one bet.  The river was 5, giving me a full house. Based on the lack of betting, it was hard to believe anyone was going to call a bet there.  But I looked at the pot.  Only $8.  You need to have $10 in the pot to earn one of those drawing tickets.  I had to bet and hope for a call.  I bet $2, the absolute minimum I could bet, but no one called.  The last guy said, “I can’t call you with my straight.”  What, you couldn’t keep me honest for two bucks when you had a straight?  I showed my hand and of course, the dealer knew exactly why I had bet the two bucks.  But I didn’t get a ticket. Maybe that would have been the time to do some table-talking, and said, “Come on, you’re all just gonna let me steal it?”

The last hand I’ll talk about is a hand against the World’s Tightest Player of Asian Background. I raised to $10 with Ace-King off.  WTPoAB was the only caller, he was the big blind.  The flop was King-high, two hearts, and I had the Ace of hearts.  I bet $15 and he called.  A third heart on the turn hit, and I bet $25 and he called.  The river was a blank and I checked behind him, figuring my Kings were likely good but he’d only call if he could beat them. I showed my pair of Kings and he flipped over….pocket Aces!  He didn’t three-bet with them before the flop?  Or bet (or check-raise) the flop?  I guess he might have been worried about the flush on the turn, but his play before that was incredibly timid. Wow, totally against the stereotype.

And that’s it for now.


  1. I once had a "Phantom Straight." I turned it. Villain led out, and I raised. Villain called, led the river, and I shoved. She called. It was my lucky day. Until I flipped my cards over and realized I was one card short of the five card straight (which, it turns out, is significantly better than the 4 card straight). So, yeah, I know the feeling of looking like a jackass at the table.

    1. Ouch. However....did you notice that you didn't have the straight before declaring it? Were you able to make it look like it was just a failed bluff attempt?

      In my case I actually had the dealer flip over the cards and PROVE to me that I didn't have the flush. Now that was TRULY embarrassing.

    2. No, I did not declare. So, I suppose my hand could have looked like a really, really, really bad bluff. I guess you win!

    3. It wouldn't have cool if you had the presence of mind to "confess" to your bluff there...but I doubt anyone--even a seasoned trial lawyer--could think on their feet fast enough to do it in the face of realizing your costly goof.

  2. Had a guy double me up recently when I had the nut straight on a rainbow, unpaired board. While I'm trying to figure out what to bet, he makes a big bet (115-ish), I shoved for another 125-150, he looked at the board, double-checked his hole cards again, said "I think I have the nuts. I call," only to turn over... Q high. He called it a night very shortly after that hand.

    As for getting a pot up to qualifying size when no one has anything, it can be hard to talk about without saying something potentially disqualifying. It's fun to watch the look of realization spread when someone figures out what you are trying to accomplish and plays along. Also, "I bet $2 that you will not call this $2 bet" has had good results.

    1. Thanks for the tip on how to get folks to call that two buck bet when you need it to qualify for the ticket. I'll have to remember that next time.

      I guess the guy with Queen high thought he had a straight and was missing a card? Great for you, sucks for him.

    2. In a tourney at Winstar's River Seies a few years back I thought I turned the nut flush and bet out big....everyone folded...I looked back at my cards before mucking and I had Ad 4h ( 3 diamonds on board)

      So if you *believe* the bluff it's not really a bluff..lol since then I always double check my flushes

    3. Thanks, bill. Actually....I've done that a few times myself. Made a big bet thinking I had a big hand and then....when everyone folded, realized I had air! That's always fun. But this is the first time I can recall that I found out I didn't have what I thought I had until after the dealer figured it out.

  3. Rob,
    One time I was playing 2/5 NL and I was in the big blind sitting on 700. UTG opens to 25 and there are 4 callers (132 in the pot counting blinds). I start thinking that this would be a good time for the rockets. I look at the first card and it is the Ace of diamonds. I squeeze the 2nd and it is a black Ace. I raise and make it 175. Everyone folds and UTG announces that it has to be Aces. I go ahead and show. Only it was Ad4c. I had quite a few shocked looks doing that move from the big blind. Aggression and being a dumb-ass can be profitable on some days.


    1. That's an awesome story, cowboy! Just great. I think we've all at least come pretty damn close to thinking A4 was AA. When you see the real Ace first, that 4 that's fooled you is so disappointing.

      So...when you said you had a few shocked looks, did that include yours? Or were you cool and able to make it look you had intentionally bluffed?

  4. Hi Rob, thanks for sharing the tournament summary. Very few bloggers, that I read, write about tournament poker. I think you and PPP do a good job on TP posts. By the way, what is a "King of spaces" ? Sounds cool! haha I'm just giving you a hard time. One more thing, do you have any posts that are more about you, your background, and friends/family? I enjoy the poker content but I've gotten used to blogger sidetracking and writing about more personal topics? (yes, I know it says Robs Vegas and Poker Blog)

    1. Thanks, Xdex....I corrected the King of spaces. I'll do more, in depth tournament poker posts when I start cashing in them!

      As for the personal posts, well, generally that's not my thing, although I think there are plenty of personal details sprinkled throughout a lot of my posts. But I'm not here to tell you my personal life story, sorry.

      Perhaps the post that might contain the most insight into me, personally, would be this one from a couple of years back, if you haven't read it:


    2. Thanks, will read it. Keep up the good work!