Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Straight, A Straight....My Kingdom for a Straight

This is the conclusion of the story I started last time. You can read part 1 here.  We pick up right way we left off.

A few hands after catching quad 9’s on the river, I got Ace-King.  I raised to $10 and it was either three or four way. The flop was all low cards, and a guy led out for $16, which was all he had left.  Everyone else folded.  For that price, I called with just my overcards knowing that would end the action.  I didn’t hit anything but it turned out neither had the guy who shoved.  He flipped over Queen-10 and my Ace-high was good.

Not long later, still with the same dealer, I had Ace-King in the small blind.  There were a bunch of limpers and for reasons I cannot explain, I didn’t raise, I just completed.  I swear, there was no good reason for me not to raise.  I wasn’t trying to balance my range or be deceptive.  I almost always raise in that situation with Ace-King (but less likely with Ace-Queen).  And in my voice notes recorded the next day, all I hear myself saying is, “I dunno why I didn’t raise but I didn’t.”  Anyway, a bunch of us saw a flop that had not one but two Aces on it.  Damn.

Yes, damn.  Now that decision to limp in was biting me in the butt.  Not only because it meant that if I won the hand I’d win less money than if I raised, but also because now I really had to work to get the pot up to $40.  Because if I won the pot without improving, it would count for the three-of-a-kind stamp on my promo card.  But not only did the trips have to hold up (assuming I had the best hand already) but I’d have to get $40 in the pot for it to get me a stamp.

Since it was a limped pot, I bet $5 and got one caller.  The turn was a blank and I bet $15, and he called again.  Bless his heart, that got the pot over $40.  Now all I had to do was win it.  Another blank on the river.  I didn’t have to bet, but I felt pretty confident the way the action played out that I had the best hand.  I was pretty sure he had the case Ace, so unless he had Ace-King too I was good.  I dismissed the remote possibility that he had somehow paired his other card along the way.  I bet $25 and he called. He didn’t show when I opened my hand.

So I won the pot and got my fourth stamp.  I had been playing less than 45 minutes and the football game was still early in the second quarter.  And I had gone from “maybe I can hit this promo” to “I’m definitely gonna be hit this promo—or I’ll be really, really pissed.” All I needed was a straight. Of course, the other nights I had seen players get their fourth stamp with plenty of time to go and somehow miss. 

Just before this dealer’s down was over, the shift boss came by to give her a fill.  So I asked him, “Can she stay at this table the whole night?  Please?”  Even for me, the King of this poker room (see here), they wouldn’t do it.

But I have to say, when the dealer was pushed out, I really wanted to kiss her.  Not only did I have a mass of chips in front of me, I had 4/5’s of a promo card filled out. It was a good night indeed.

My good run meant two things.  First, it meant I wasn’t taking a dinner break until I completed the card—or the football game was over.  Remember, if I got the final stamp before the game ended, it’d be $300 for me.  If I didn’t hit it until after the game was over (but before midnight), it’d be only $200.  I obviously was invested in seeing as many hands as possible before the game ended.

The other thing it meant was that I was resigned to staying at that table, freezing to death.  Yes, of course, I could have asked for a table change.  But I was obviously running incredibly hot at that table and in the seat I was in.  I know most poker players aren’t superstitious, but I happen to be the exception to that (man, I wish Microsoft word had a sarcasm font).  I’m not going to move away from a seat and a table where I’m running well enough to hit a one-outer or where I filled 4/5’s of a promo card in 45-minutes.  Oh, and also, I had run my $200 buy-in up to around $600.

The problem was that, as I already pointed out, straights are hard for me to hit.  I mean I often go multiple sessions without catching one even if I’m running well.  So, I went into full promo-chasing mode.  I played any two cards that could possibly make a straight.  Not just connectors, but gappers. Big gappers. I would limp in or call a $10 - $12 raise with 10-6 offsuit, or 6-2 offsuit.  And on the flop, I’d call a reasonable bet with not just a gut-shot but a back-door straight draw.  I had to catch that damn straight. 

So yeah, I called $15 with Jack-8 of diamonds.  I flopped the diamond draw (not the straight draw) and only had to call $5 on the flop.  An Ace hit the turn and no one bet.  A Jack hit the river, there was no betting, and my Jack was good.  I won a number of hands like that, playing my possible straight cards and catching something else to win the pot.  When you’re running good, you’re running good.

I limped with Ace-4 off, caught a 4 on the flop, and Ace on the turn.  I took the pot from a guy who flopped two pair with 6-4. It was a small pot, I didn’t note the details.

Another time I limped with 10-8 and caught two 8’s on the flop.  But I lucked out there when the board paired 4’s.  My opponent had Ace-8 and I was lucky to chop.

And I limped in with 10-7, caught two 7’s on the flop and rivered a boat. No call to my river bet so it wasn’t a big pot.

I raised to $10 with Ace-Queen off (finally, a hand I would have played even if I wasn’t promo-chasing) and got three callers. The flop was Queen-X-X, two spades.  I bet $25 and took it.

During all this time, I wasn’t just playing cards to make a straight, of course.  I mean, it wasn’t like was I throwing away pocket pairs because I couldn’t make a straight with them (remember, both cards have to play).  But I was actually disappointed every time I looked at my cards and didn’t see two cards that could complete a straight.

As the game was nearing completion, a new dealer pushed in—a very cute Asian girl.  She wasn’t just new to the table, it was pretty clear she was a fairly new dealer.  And thus…she was slow.  This was frustrating because I was dying to see the hands as fast as possible to complete my card before the game ended.  There was a hand where it was a double paired board and three people had Aces and so it was obviously a three-way chop.  But she didn’t figure that out right away.  Fortunately, the shift boss was right there and helped her figure it out.  But he had come by to give her a fill, so that took precious time away from my while the final few seconds of the game ticked away. And because she was new, she was slower than the average dealer counting all the chips. I didn’t say anything, but I sure as hell said to myself, “Do they really have to do this now?”

Another obstacle was a middle-aged Asian woman who joined the game and was very slow, very deliberate about making any decision.  She tanked preflop when all she had to do was limp or fold.  There were no huge decisions for her to make, but she reacted to a $10 bet like it all her chips at the final table of the WSOP were on the line. 

This reminded me that, the other night when they had this promo going, it was close to midnight and there was a guy who was one stamp away from completing the card, just like I was this night.  And on a hand he wasn’t involved in, he actually called clock on a guy who was tanking just a bit making a decision.  It was a very premature clock, and it pissed the guy off who he called it on, but he explained, “Hey, I’m trying to hit the promo.”  I think he needed a flush, and I think he actually made it.  I managed to restrain myself from calling clock on this woman.

But try as I might, I couldn’t make a straight before the damn football game ended (and the game was running long for some reason—and it was a blowout, so it wasn’t because of OT).  By this time I was starving and my blood sugar was running low so I had to take a dinner break. I still had three hours or so before the promo ended at midnight to catch my straight.  Fortunately I’m a fast eater so I raced over to the Deli and gobbled down a sandwich in about 15-minutes, leaving my chips at my lucky seat.

Despite all the hands I’ve told you about that I won, my stack was down over $100 from its peak.  I didn’t bother to note any of the hands I lost.  Sometimes it was with hands I don’t normally play, chasing.  Other times it was with cards I would play under any circumstances.  But I figure the straight-chasing definitely cost me more money than I won with some of my off-beat wins.

Back from dinner, the same folks were at the table and I kept trying to manufacture a straight.  I played 10-8 and caught two pair to win a small pot.

Sometime later, I limped in with 6-5 offsuit.  The 5 was black, the 6 was a diamond.  Later I couldn’t recall how many limpers there were, it was either three, four or five.  But I remember the flop.  It was 4-3-2. Headline: Man in desperate need of a straight flops a straight.  The trouble was, it was all diamonds. Every damn one of them.

That was one problem.  The other was it was a limped pot.  I had to hope 1), my straight was good; 2). It would still be good if I got the pot up to $40; and 3). I could get the pot up to $40.  I actually thought the odds were against me winning that hand, and certainly against me getting a stamp for it.  I mean, another diamond would kill me if I wasn’t already dead.  Even if no one else had a diamond, another diamond would give me a flush and, while I would win the pot, it would nullify my straight.  And a 5 of diamonds would give me a straight flush, which would surely win the pot for me, but it wouldn’t qualify for a stamp because both cards have to play.  No, I absolutely needed to win with the exact hand I flopped.

I bet $7 I think and the only player who called was the deliberate middle-aged Asian lady I mentioned earlier.  The turn was a black King.  I think I bet $15 and she called.  I was pretty sure that put the pot over $40 (it did, but my brain wasn’t working too well).  The river was, thankfully, a blank.  I just bet $5, I think I was making sure the pot was enough, even though it surely was.  And she didn’t have much left.  I think she had $15 or maybe $20. 

To my surprise, she raised—to $10.  That made no sense.  Did she have me beat?  Had she been slow playing a flopped flush?  And why didn’t she put her last chip or two in the pot? 

I dunno. I just called.  If I was good, the $200 I’d get for the promo meant a lot more to me than her last ten bucks.  And if I wasn’t good, why give her ten bucks?

I called so I should have waited for her to show but the suspense was too much and I showed my hand to see if I hit the promo.  Most of the players at the table knew I was just a straight away from hitting the promo.  Oddly, the woman didn’t know that because she came in after they stopped giving out promo cards. You have to be seated by the start of the 4th quarter to get a card. 

She looked at my hand, heard the dealer say, “Straight,” and mucked.  I had completed my promo card!  I got the card stamped and the dealer called the floor.  It was well before midnight.  Getting it during the game would have gotten me an extra $100, but I was still quite happy, especially since I was having such a good night.

I waited for my money and then almost immediately cashed out.  It wasn’t so much that I wanted to book the win before losing any of it.  It was more that I was still freezing and couldn’t wait to find a place that was warm.  Although, truth be told, it was a bit more comfortable after I got back from dinner.

I took a pic of my chips and tweeted it out with the caption, “Chip porn.”  I cashed out up $375 for the poker, plus the $200 for the promo.  A good night indeed.

Now this is certain to sound a bit self-serving, but I spent a lot of time thinking about that football promo after this night.  And you know, when I first heard about it, I didn’t really care for it.  But having seen it action a few times, I am a big fan of that promo and hope they bring it back when football starts up again this year.  I know it sounds like I’m only saying that because I hit it two of the three times I played it.  But I think I’d say that even if I struck out every time I played it.

As I proved, it really is possible to fill up the card during the promo period.  If a nit like me, who plays so few starting hands, can do it, anyone can.  And remember, I hit four of the five hands in about a 45-minute span.

And that “last chance” drawing at midnight is a great bonus too.  Yes, maybe it will keep you there playing longer than you should.  But it works out better than those drawing tickets they used to have—at least for me.  With those drawing tickets, I almost always seemed to get one about 15 minutes into the new period, meaning I’d have to hang around there for nearly four hours for the long-shot chance of getting picked.  And because it was MGM, I almost always stayed for the drawing.  My reasoning was that since everyone there knew me, I couldn’t risk leaving early and being greeted the next day by all my dealer pals telling me my name was called and that I threw away $400 (or whatever).  I think I’d like that promo better if it was in room I rarely played and no one knew me so that was unlikely to happen.

That can’t happen with this promo.  If I got too tired (or was losing too much) to keep playing to midnight, I’d just throw away the card and there’d be no chance that my name would be called.  I wouldn’t miss out on anything. I like that.

I actually started thinking that you could run this promo even when there’s no football.  No need to tie into a game.  Just start handing the cards out at say 4PM (or earlier), and say that if you fill out the card by 8PM, you get the $300.  If you complete it after 8 but by midnight, it’s $200.  And then have the same last chance drawing. 

All they’d have to do was pick two or three of their least busy nights to run it every week, and it would surely get more people in on those nights.

What do you think of that idea? 

Anyway.  It was a great night of poker.  And did I mention I hit a one-outer?


  1. Well done on the win. These promos always remind me of the phrase "Straights and flushes go home on buses" but you sir are the exception to the rule.

    1. Thanks, Ben. Not sure I've heard of that one before.

      As for getting straights and flushes being bad for your bankroll, well, like everything else in poker, "It depends."