The night my nut flush was trumped by a runner-runner full house

May 2, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 2, 2014

Free poker. The tournament is small: There are two tables with five players apiece, but the other table has already lost one participant.

My stack is relatively small, in large part because I paid 2,000 chips to see the flop in a hand for which I had matched nines in the hole. Three hearts came out, my opponent went all in, and I folded. He showed his hand: A pair of queens.

Now I’m dealt ace-eight face down, both hearts. I think someone bets either eight or maybe twelve before the flop, on a hand where the big blind is 400. At least three players see the flop.

And oh, what a flop it is: two-nine-five, all hearts. I now have an ace-high flush, which is the best possible hand given the number of cards on the board.

The first player to act bets 800. There’s one caller, and then I think someone folds, and then it’s my turn to act.

I could make a big bet here. But I want to rebuild my stack, and a big bet might scare off other players from continuing in the hand.

So I slow play. I slowly — slowly! — pull out eight red chips, worth 100 notional units of value apiece, and stare at them. After some faux hesitation, I call.

The next card is the nine of clubs. Joe, the first player to act, goes all in. Marty folds. And now the action is with me.

I’m the last potential caller. I stare at the board.

Now there are two nines showing. If Joe has two nines, which I doubt, he’s got me beat with four of a kind.

But there’s a more realistic possibly: That Joe has a nine and either a five or a two. If so, he’d be holding a full house — three nines plus a pair of other cards — and Joe would have the winning hand.

Here’s the thing: “I don’t believe that you have a full house,” I declare out loud.

I count out my chips. I have 6,300. As I put them in the pot, I accidentally say that I have 5,300. I’m quickly corrected, and I quickly apologize.

Joe takes back his excess chips, and then he and I show our hands.

I’m right that he doesn’t have a full house. Unfortunately, it’s more accurate to say that he doesn’t have a full house — yet.

Joe has an ace and a nine, which combined with the board give him set — three nines. There’s no complementary pair…

But then the dealer brings out the river. It’s a five. It pairs with the five of hearts to give Joe a full house. The game, for me, is now over. I’ve busted out, given away all my chips.

There was a fair amount of discussion of this dramatic hand afterward. In retrospect, I would have been better off betting big right after the flop, when I had the best hand, and scaring off potential rivals. By slow-playing, I let Joe get the set, which inexorably (in this case) led him to hit the boat on the river.

But some of the players said they would have proceeded just as I had. After all, what are the odds that Joe gets runner-runner on the turn and river to obtain the best hand?

I subsequently went online to calculate those odds. According to this website, my chances of winning after the flop were nearly 97.6 percent.

The situation changed substantially with the turn, when Joe got his set and we went all in. Joe’s odds of victory jumped from 2.48 percent to 20.45 percent. That’s a big shift in Joe’s favor, but the odds remained with me. There was a 79.55 percent chance that I’d have the winning hand after the river.

So: Another bad beat. It happens. That’s poker. There you go.


One Response to “The night my nut flush was trumped by a runner-runner full house”

  1. lukeorchard Says:

    I think you played this right and it was simply a bad beat. You should take from it that this guy was willing to bet into an all heart board and shoves all in with trips.

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