Sunday, August 16, 2015

When Quad Queens is One Too Many

Timing is everything, right?

You know I jump around a lot in writing up my stories, my sessions.  Well, I was just about to start writing up this session from early July when, by an incredible coincidence, something happened to put a whole new spin on it.  If I had written up the story even a day or two earlier, I wouldn’t have known something quite interesting about one of the players involved.

I think it’s best to tell the twist on the story first, before the actual story. 

The other night I reviewed my notes, looking for the next thing I wanted to blog about.  I came upon a session at MGM that took place the last Friday I was in town.  It happened two days before I ran into Orel Hershiser (see here) which, as you recall, was a story about playing with a famous celebrity and not recognizing him (at least immediately).  It’s no coincidence that I reference that story in relating this one.

So I listened to my voice notes that I had made the day after the session and then had some time that evening to starting writing the post.  But as sometimes happens to me, I just got this incredible case of writer’s block.  I mean I had the material, but suddenly I just didn’t feel like I could write up one more poker session.  I mostly stared at the monitor and finally went to bed without writing a single word.

All day today (today being the day I’m actually starting to write this, not the day you read it), I knew I was going to at least get started writing that post this evening, all the time hoping I’d be more inspired. 

Just as I was finished working and about break for dinner, I checked my Twitter feed and noticed that someone I follow—let’s call her Poker Lawyer since that what she calls herself—mentioned running into Victor Ramdin while on vacation.  I’m embarrassed to say that the name didn’t ring a bell but in the context, it sounded like Victor was someone I should have known from the poker world. Well, I don’t really follow the professional poker world as much as you might think, seeing as how I write for a poker mag.  But my column is for recreational players, and covers the poker scene in Vegas for the grinders and the tourists (mostly the tourists).  I don’t cover the pros. 

Anyway, I decided to click on Victor’s Twitter profile just to see who he is.  Honestly, it was mostly to see how jealous I needed to be that Poker Lawyer ran into him.

And when I did, I did a double take.  Now, Victor is a pro affiliated with Poker Stars.  The guy pictured in Victor’s Twitter profile looked pretty much exactly like I remembered a player I’d played with at the MGM six weeks earlier looked.  I mean, a whole lot. Of course, I’d only seem him that one night and it was like 6 weeks ago, so my memory could be off.

But get this—there was a buddy of his at the table and he spent the whole evening calling him, “Victor.”  And in my notes, I referred to him as “Victor” in my notes because, you know, that certainly appeared to be his name. So, I did a little stalking, I mean “Googling.”  Victor Ramdin lives in New York, and I definitely remember the Victor I had played with saying he lived in New York. 

And of course, you know where this is going.  Yes, yes, the voice notes I had just listened to the night before were about the session with this guy apparently named “Victor.”  Who looked like the guy in Victor Ramdin’s Twitter profile.


I didn’t think so. But what to do about it?  Just write the post as I had planned?  Or do I mention that the guy in my story might have been a famous pro, but that I wasn’t sure?

Then I thought….why not ask Victor if that was him?  I’ve got nothing to lose.  He may not answer, and I just do the story.  But if he answers and confirms it, I have a better story.

I tweeted to Victor Ramdin a question with enough info so he’d likely remember the session—was that him at the MGM that night?  In less than an hour, he tweeted back that indeed it was him!  Awesome.  Now I had a way to write this story that would surely cure my writer’s block.  Honestly, the timing was outright freaky, but it couldn’t have been better.

Victor and his pal Dan didn’t show up until the middle of this session.  In fact, they showed up while I was taking a quick dinner break. 

Before they showed up, there were a couple of memorable hands.  The first one was when I raised to $10 with King-9 of diamonds and had two callers.  The flop was King-high, two diamonds.  A guy made a donk bet of $10 and I just called.  He had stolen a pot from me with a bluff earlier—he showed the bluff even though he didn’t have to—and I was hoping to get my money back by letting him build the pot for me.  I figured I could really make a nice score if I caught my flush.  The other guy called too.  The turn was a 3 of spades and I just called the guy’s $15 bet and the other guy folded.  A 3 of clubs hit the river and now he put out a bigger stack of chips--$80.  I tanked.  Did he really have something?  Was my top pair good?  I decided to call and he showed pocket 9’s.  So that was a decent pot.

A little later six of us limped in when I had pocket deuces.  The flop was A-5-2, two clubs.  I bet $7 and a guy raised to $15 after someone called my $7.  We both called.  The turn was a Jack of clubs and I checked, the guy who raised me on the flop put out $50.  I called, fearing I needed to boat up to win.  The other guy called as well.  The river was a red 3, not good for me at all.  I checked, and the guy who had only been calling put out $95.  The other guy shoved for a bit more than the $95.  I tanked, but found the fold button.  Too many ways my set was no good.

Well, the guy who bet $95 had Ace-x, but the Ace was a club so on the turn he had the nut flush draw.  The other guy had King-4 offsuit.  Yeah.  He played that crazy.  But the four gave him the straight and the pot.

When I returned from a quick dinner break, there were some new players.  Over at opposite end of the table was a guy who eventually introduced himself as “Dan.”  He had a big stack and said, “it was all in play.”  I assume he had moved over from a different table or had perhaps won a big pot there before I showed up.  He made it clear that he was not going to be shy about putting those chips at risk.

And across from me was a gentleman that Dan kept calling “Victor.”  He had a more normal looking stack, as I recall.  They were both indulging in adult beverages, which may partially explain their play.

Pretty much the entire night, one of them would raise preflop.  If it wasn’t one, it was the other.  But there wasn’t too much three-betting going on.  A simple raise was mostly enough for them.  Dan liked to raise in odd amounts, like $7, $11, $13.  I guess $13 was the most frequent and we were actually sitting at table 13.  At one point, Dan said, “No one has guessed why I keep betting these odd amounts.”  That was after he opened for $13.  Someone guessed that it was because we were at table 13.  He said, “Well, that’s only partially it.”  Hmm….

About an hour later the light bulb went over my head.  I suddenly remembered Didi. You remember her, right?  Tha well-endowed young woman who liked to extract a kiss from the male dealers before tipping them very generously (see here).  Well, in addition to frequently calling attention to the fact that she had big boobs (something it was hard not to notice), she liked to bet in prime numbers.  She made a point of it and took time to figure out the next closest prime number to the amount she wanted to bet. 

It seemed like Dan was betting in prime numbers too (but, fortunately for him, didn’t have big boobs like Didi).  So finally, between hands, I shouted over to Dan, “Excuse me, but are you only betting in prime numbers?”

Bingo.  Dan exclaimed, “Yes, yes, the gentleman wins the prize!  That’s exactly right.  And here’s your reward.”  And with that, he tossed me a $5 chip.  I hadn’t realized there was a prize.

From the conversation they were having, across the table, it was clear Dan and Victor were in town for the WSOP.  Dan was actually still alive in an event that was going on right then, and Victor was going to play in the Main Event that was a few days away from starting.

As Dan finally starting slowing down with his preflop aggression, Victor started speeding up.  And for about an hour, he raised pretty much every hand preflop, if it wasn’t raised first.  Every single hand was worth either $10, $15, or maybe more to Victor.  At the time, I just assumed he was your average maniac, and perhaps this was intensified as he kept drinking.  But now that I know who he was, I have to assume that a good part of his play could be attributed to the fact that he was playing such a smaller game than he usually plays.  He was certainly playing like the money didn’t mean anything to him.

Did I mention that Dan and Victor liked to straddle?  Every damn chance they got.  Fortunately, the only allow the UTG straddle at MGM.  And for some reason, the straddle in the 1/2 game is $5, not $4 (a recent change). So I looked down at pocket Jacks when Dan had straddled to $5.  I made it $20 and Dan was the only caller.  The flop was King-high.  Dan checked, I bet $30 and Dan check-raised me to $80.  I tanked and then folded. That bothered me because, the way Dan was playing, it was very possible he was betting with air there.  I probably should have called….but I folded and allowed myself to be annoyed by it.

With pocket 9’s I called Victor’s $10 raise.  The flop was Ace-Queen-Queen.  Victor bet $20 and I decided to call.  Based on my observations, I thought there was a decent chance my 9’s were actually good.  The board went blank-blank and there was no more betting.  He showed pocket 3’s.   I told you I thought my 9’s were likely good.

With Ace-2 of spades, I called a $5 straddle.  Victor made it $15 and I called.  So did Dan, the straddler.  The flop was Ace-2-x, two diamonds.  I led out for $30.  Victor made a big raise—I didn’t note the amount, but it was almost as much as I had left (probably started the hand with $120-$130).  That got Dan to fold but I shoved, just a bit more than Victor had bet, not nearly enough to get him to fold.  Of course he had King-Queen of diamonds and caught his flush on the river.  Time to buy another $200 worth of chips.

Victor raised to $20 and I had pocket Queens in the big blind.  I just called, and it was actually 5-ways.  The flop was all low cards, I checked and Victor only bet $20, which was odd.  I called and we were heads up.  The turn card was a beautiful Queen.  I checked, sure Victor would bet, and he put out $80.  I thought for a bit whether to just call or shove.  The $80 was about half my stack, give or take, and he had me covered. But I also was hesitating trying to figure out if I could raise without shoving and the answer was no—didn’t have enough chips.  It was either call or shove. I decided to just call.

The river was another Queen.  If you’re keeping score at home, that means I had all of them.  The only question was whether or not to bett.  My thought there was that the paired Queen might scare him off.  I sensed he had a decent hand but might be willing to check behind me if checked.  Also, my stack wasn’t that much as compared to the pot.  I figured if he had anything at all, he’d call.  It was less than $100 into a $300 pot.  He has to call there, right?

So I shoved and Victor tanked.  He talked for a long time, trying to decide.  I was sure he’d eventually call.  Obviously he had something or he would have insta-folded.  He said that the second Queen might have counterfeited him.  He agonized quite a bit—surprising to me for the money involved and the way he liked to put his chips in play—and damn it, he did indeed find a fold.  Seriously?

I showed my hand (to get two drawing tickets) and said, “How could you not pay me off there, for the size of that pot?”  He said he had two pair on the flop.  Damn.  He is going to pay me off if the board doesn’t pair.  My hand actually became too damn good on the river.

Later I had the dreaded pocket Kings and Victor had raised to $!0.  Another guy called and I made it $40.  They both folded.

Last hand I noted, I made it $15 with pocket Queens.  Note: Victor had limped in on this hand.  I’m impressed I didn’t faint.  It was four ways and the flop was King-Queen-x.  I bet $30 and no one called.

I never made back all of my money but it was small loss.  It was a fun night and I had no idea that Victor was a professional poker player.

But I guess the best part of the story happened right before I started writing this, the amazing coincidence of learning who Victor really was right after listening to my voice notes about for the first time since I recorded them 6 weeks earlier.

Thanks to Victor Ramdin for being a good sport about this (I hope) and to Poker Lawyer for inadvertently contributing to this post in a totally unique way.


  1. Haha good stuff, I think I'd cry if Victor Ramden showed up at my SSNL table

    1. Yeah...thanks, Anony. Someone asked me on my Facebook page if I would have changed my play if I had recognized Victor. I said yeah, I would have asked for a table change (after shaking his hand). Talk about being overmatched!

  2. On the Quad Qs hand, V bets $80 into $120 pot, and you have ~$160 behind. This is an auto-shove. If you call the flop and turn, your hand is pretty transparent as at least on overpair. If V has AA, KK, JJ, TT, AQ, KQ, a smaller set, or two pair, he's almost always going to call. If V has air, he's almost never betting the river unless he hits a pair (say, AK hits an A or K). Calling is just fancy play and generally leaves a ton of value on the table.

    1. Thanks, Grange.....totally logical. Definitely should have just shoved there. The only thing is, it would have been a check-raise, which would make me look awfully strong. If he has two small pair, maybe he can find a fold?

    2. A check-raise could also look like AQ/KQ which floated the flop and hit the turn. I doubt he is going to give you credit for a monster like a set given the dry board and betting to this point, and making two pair with Q-Rag is unlikely, so your hand is not going to look that strong. And if he is going to find a fold of two pair on the turn, he likely folds to your river bet anyway. Think of it this way--two pair is easily counterfeited, and any river card over the flop board is going to look scary. So which is the easier call for V--on the turn when his two pair looks pretty good, or on the river when another card over his two pair hits?

    3. Great feedback, as usual.

      You should definitely consider doing a poker blog, sir.

    4. BTW, the line I advised here is dependent to a degree on stack sizes. If you both had, say $250+ behind, then you might have to think a little differently about how to play the turn.

      As for poker blogging, aren't poker and blogs both dead?

  3. For what it's worth (which ain't much), Victor Ramdin was at my table for a while the one time I played a WSOP HORSE event. He was crazy-aggressive.