Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Ace Whisperer

On Saturday, I headed out to Player’s Casino in Ventura to play my first Southern California session of the New Year.

It started out as a loose game.  Lots of action, and on the wild side.  I only recognized one person at my table, an older gentleman who’d I’d played with a few times before.  He was moderately aggro as always, and whenever he’d raise preflop, it was always to $16, whether there was a limper or two or not (the game was my usual 2/3 NL, with a $100-$300 buy-in).  I remembered finding out one time that his son, who used to play in this room quite a bit, is a touring pro with some big cashes on his resume.

Didn’t recognize anyone else, but at least three or four of them knew each other very well.  They were talking and teasing and razzing each other a lot. I almost felt like I was intruding on a private poker game.  However, they weren’t all like that; there were a few of us at the table who weren’t part of this clique.

I had seen absolutely nothing like the hand I’m about to describe until it happened, and I never saw anything like it again.  It was a one-off.  There was a guy who was definitely part of the clique sitting on about $350.  The other character in this hand was sitting on at least $550, maybe $600.  He had busted out soon after I got there but had hit a big hand or two with his second buy-in.  Although he seemed to know the other guys in the group, he was the least social with them of anyone at the table that I thought might be part of the group.  And if he had any contact or conversation with the other player I described, I hadn’t noticed it.

I don’t think this was a three-bet pot, but it might have been.  The guy with the shorter stack was the raiser or the re-raiser, and the bigger stack called.  It was not a big raise, though I can’t remember the size.  I’m guessing the pot before the flop was between $30 and $50, give or take.

I happened to look over to the smaller stack as the dealer was about to put out the flop.  He was in seat 3, the other guy was in seat 8, so they were across from each other, about as far apart as you can be.  Anyway, I saw the preflop aggressor mouthing something to the other guy.  There was no sound, and I’m not a great lip reader, but I was sure he mouthed the words, “I’m going all in.”  Interesting.  With the size of the pot, his $350 shove would have been some huge overbet.

 Well the flop came out 10-10-x (very low card).  And sure enough, the shorter stack, first to act, said “all-in.”

The other guy didn’t react right away.  It appeared like he was actually thinking about calling.  Again, he had the bettor covered, he’d still have $200+ left if he called and lost.  So, the next thing I see, the guy who went all-in is holding up, in front of his face, his two cards, totally exposed, showing the guy his hand—two Aces.

The other guy paused for a second and then said, “How’d you feel if I showed you a 10 right now?”  And then he flipped over his hand, showed his pocket 7’s, and pushed them to the dealer, without calling, of course.

I didn’t get it and still don’t. I thought the purpose of playing poker was to win money, not to avoid winning money.  Yes, yes, I know I’ve already explained it—the guy was soft playing (in a weird way) his buddy.  But I swear, nothing else I saw during the session was like this at all.  As I said, the guy with the 7’s wasn’t all that chummy with the “clique.”  And the other guys who all knew each other—they seemed to be playing at each other pretty hard.  Every other hand I can think of where one of these guys was involved with another one, they really seemed trying hard to take their buddies’ money.  This was the one exception and it was a hand where, if the guy just played it normal, the other guy didn’t figure to lose much.  And of course, the guy could have a 10 (or a pocket pair same as the low card) and the guy shoving could have lost everything.  I mean, if he was that committed to soft-playing the other guy, just shove preflop and not risk a dangerous flop.

I was on extra-alert after this hand to see if anything else like this happened, and it did not. It was just the one hand.  I suppose maybe the guy with Aces had a thing about them.  Maybe he’d lost a bunch with them lately.  But also….there was really no point in telling the guy he was going to go all-in before the flop hit.  I guess there’s a possibility he said that before the guy decided to call, but I don’t think so.  I mean, if he wanted the guy to not even call his raise, he could have shown his hand before he called or said he had Aces.

Now I’m sure the dealer must have seen the player show his Aces and he said nothing.  But that is a house rule that varies from room-to-room.  Some rooms allow one player to expose his hand in a cash game if it’s heads-up.  Others don’t.  Last time it came up while I was playing at MGM, it was still not allowed there. 

Very strange, and I didn’t like it.

As for my session, it started slowly for me.  I was going to try to force myself to be a little more aggressive, but the session started so wild I realized my best bet was to just wait for a medium or better strength hand and go for value. 

Calling some raises and missing cost me $100 over time. For example, I called a $6 straddle with pocket 3’s, all but one player called and then the straddler put his last $25 in.  All the callers called so I did as well.  I missed and folded on the flop, but there was a side pot.  It turned out the straddler had pocket Kings and they held up even though there was an Ace on the river.  So he got an octuple-up.  How could the dreaded hand hold up in an eight-way pot???

I finally won a pot when I had Ace-King, raised to $12 and had two callers.  The flop was Ace-Ace-4 and I bet $15 and took it.

In the small blind with 8-6 off, I completed but the big blind made it $13.  Since two others called, I took a chance and called as well.  No one bet a Queen-8-4 flop.  On a blank turn, the preflop raiser checked again, another guy bet, and I called, and the big blind called.  No action on the river.  Turns out my pair of 8’s was good.

There was no raise when I had King-Jack of spades in the big blind.  It was four-way. I flopped the flush draw and no one bet.  The turn was a blank and someone bet $20.  There was a call, and I called.  I hit the flush on the river, led out for $25 and didn’t get a call.

Then came the most interesting hand involving me.  I had pocket Queens in late position and there was a straddle ($6, UTG).  A whole bunch of people called the straddle.  So I made it $40.  Fold, fold, fold….until one guy called.  It was the guy who had flashed his Aces to the other guy earlier.  I saw two Aces on the flop….and then I noticed the Queen in the middle.  He checked.

I didn’t know whether to slow play the boat.  I guess usually I do.  But I started counting out chips.  I figured if he had an Ace, he’s never folding.  And what do you call a $40 preflop raise with?  Ace-King, Kings, Jacks….not much else.  Pocket Aces if you want to get cute.  I dismissed that.  I figured he’s calling with Ace-King (or raising) and he might stick around with Kings because two Aces on the board makes it less likely I have an Ace.  So I did bet.  Only $60 into a pot that was around $100.

He thought for awhile and then said, “Do you have a big Ace?  It could be a jackpot hand.”  And then he mucked.  It was clear he thought I had killed our chances for the bad beat jackpot and was pissed.

I didn’t say anything, just took in the pot.  But I wondered if I had blown it—cost us a shot at winning the bad beat jackpot?

You see, I don’t often play in a room with a bad beat jackpot so I never think of playing for it.  Well, technically, that’s not quite true.  The Bike has always had the BBJ, and for that matter, so has this room.  I just don’t think about it, because it’s so unlikely.  When I first started playing here, the BBJ was house funded and pretty small (a few thousand I think).  Now they take a jackpot drop for it and I noticed it was up to $35K.

I felt dumb….but then I tried to remember what qualified for the BBJ, and I didn’t think my hand qualified.  I was pretty sure it had to be Aces full of something for the losing hand.  I didn’t think Queens full of Aces were good enough. I didn’t ask at the table, I didn’t want to reveal my hand.  Also, I was starting to feel silly for betting just for strategic reasons, not even considering the BBJ. 

But when I was done with my session, I went over the shift boss and asked.  I was right, the minimum losing hand is Aces full of Jacks.  And the winning hand has to be quads or better.  So there was never a jackpot on the line in that hand.  And so I wondered what the guy was talking about.  If he thought I had an Ace—let’s say Ace-King—I’d have to pair the King and he’d have to get quads somehow. Not possible.  If I had Ace-Queen, and he had a pocket pair, it’d have to go runner-runner that pair to hit the jackpot.  That is ridiculously unlikely.  If he had Ace-King, there’s no jackpot possible (if I had an Ace as well) and of course, he’s not folding Ace-King there.  So he didn’t have Ace-King.  He must have had Kings, or maybe Jacks.  Even then, he has to put me on Ace-Queen for it to work.  So what the hell is talking about?

OTOH, as it played out, if he checked behind, there are two Kings (if he had Kings) and two Aces that beat me—with no chance of it turning into a jackpot hand; my hand will never be good enough.  That’s not why I bet, but checking there was a small risk.  And even if I remembered the jackpot, I had no chance for it.  But I’m still not getting his logic.  I mean, he asked if I had a big Ace, not Ace-Queen.  If you can figure out what he meant, please let me know.  You can also let me know how bad you think my bet is anyway (if it is).

(Edited to add: see Dave's comment below, it's the first one, he explains how we could have hit the jackpot if I had an Ace in my hand)

NOTE:  As I was about to post this, I thought of way to get to the jackpot.  If I catch the case Queen, giving me quads, and he had an Ace, his Aces full would lose to my quads.  But, his hand wouldn’t qualify, as both cards have to play.  Now, if he had Ace-King and the last two cards were exactly a King and Queen, it would work.  Only that way though.  And he was asking me about my big Ace, not his.  He didn’t have an Ace or he would have called.  He’s not putting me only on Queens or Ace-Queen there, not the way he played.

That was the last hand of note.  I left up $30, after being down over $100.  Considering the cards I was getting, it wasn’t a bad result.


  1. What if he had Jacks and thought you had AK or AQ? Wouldn't the case A give you the quads over his Aces full?

    1. You're right, that would work...as long as a King didn't also come out (if I had AQ, because then my Queen wouldn't play). Thanks, Dave, appreciate the correction.

      I hope you are doing well.

    2. Also, he could have had Kings, would also work. Assuming I had AQ or AK and the case Ace fell.

      I guess I need to remember that in the future.

    3. Doing better, but still not back to work yet, and haven't played a hand of poker in a couple months. I'm hoping to maybe get out next Friday, maybe.

    4. Keep getting stronger and get well, Dave. Hope you can get back to the felt (and work) soon!

  2. The BBJ in my local room (any quads or better beaten) was recently hit and the BBJ is at only $12,000+. At Harrah's Joliet, the BBJ there, whch hasn't been hit for a few years and requires, I believe, quad eights or higher beaten, is now over $700,000. It adds a bit of excitement for all us poker dreamers.

    1. Yeah, if you can dream....

      Can't believe the BBJ at Joliet hasn't been hit in years. In a busy room, even if it's quad 8's to be beat, should happen more often than that.

      Poker is rigged.

  3. if a room wont let u show when heads up one card, how do they get customers to walk in?

    1. Huh? I don't see the connection there at all.

      I've never heard a player ask if it was allowed before he/she decided to play. And of course, it's never allowed in tournaments.