Bad beat stories! Get your not-so-fresh bad beat stories!

November 14, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 14, 2014

Gather round the virtual campfire, kiddies! It’s time for Uncle Matthew to tell a few more bad beat stories from the poker table!

These stories are a little bit different, however. On Thursday, I flew out to Las Vegas to participate in Open 19, one of the twice-yearly national championship events staged by World Tavern Poker. That’s right: Your not-so-humble correspondent ponied up real money to play for, well real money.

So these were very different circumstances than the typical World Tavern Poker tournaments in which I usually participate. This wasn’t me playing some mostly familiar faces in a familiar local bar, with no money at risk and no potential rewards on the line other than the self-esteem and league points that come with a good showing. I paid for a plane flight and a hotel room, and I was paying tournament registration fees. I was sitting in an honest-to-goodness casino with professional dealers, and I was facing dozens of mostly unfamiliar faces from all over the nation.

Open 19’s first event was the “Early Strikers” tournament at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7. I signed up with some reservations. On the one hand, my body was sore from traveling, and my head was a bit stuffy. On the other hand, I was in Las Vegas, and how else was I planning on spending my Friday night?

I won a modest pot or two early and felt comfortable with the proceedings. Then trouble struck.

My hand was pocket nines. On the flop or the turn, a nine came out, giving me a set — three of a kind, a good hand. I bet modestly. A fellow sitting across the table — a Caucasian guy with yellowish skin who looked old enough to have served in the U.S. military in World War II — called.

Then came the river, the final of the five community cards that are dealt in Texas holdem poker. It was a 10. I placed a sizable bet — 3,800 chips, or something along those lines.

“All in,” my opponent said.

I considered the board. It contained an a nine, a 10 and a jack, meaning that the old fellow might have had a straight. (A straight is a run of five consecutive cards; a straight always beats three of a kind.) Using the board and his hole cards, my foe might have had seven-eight-nine-10-jack, or 8-9-10-jack-queen, or maybe 9-10-jack-queen-king.

But I didn’t think that was going on. There had been a pre-flop bet — as I recall now, I think I’d made a small raise that only a few people had called. The older guy wasn’t in the blinds, and I just thought it was unlikely that he’d kept up with the betting all the way to the river in hopes of catching a straight.

So what did he have? The fact that he’d bet so heavily on the river made me think this guy had pocket 10s. If that were the case, the river would have given him a set, and three 10s beats three nines.

I asked for a count of the guy’s chips. He’d lost a hand earlier — more about that in a minute — so I had my opponent covered. I’d lose about two-thirds of my chips if I called and lost.

If he had triple 10s and I called, I would lose. If he had a straight and I called, I would lose. But what if he had three eights?

I decided I had to call the all-in bet. When the guy showed his hand, it was indeed pocket 10s. The dealer swept the sizable winnings over to my foe.

The irony here was that the guy had lost on trips (three-of-a-kind, that is) a few minutes previously. Back then, he’d had trip eights, and he’d called a big bet from a man who was holding trip nines. “I couldn’t let it go,” he explained to the table at the time. This was exactly what had happened to me, I ruefully announced as the older guy stacked his chips.

As it turns out, I would not last long in the competition. And I would lose in a very similar way: By having the second-best hand, one that was just a notch below what my opponent had.

This time around, four spades turned up on the board. I was holding the king of spades, which gave me a flush — five cards of the same suit.

Another guy on the opposite side of the table went all in. I considered the odds, and then I called.

There was only one card that could beat me — the ace of spades, which would give the other player the highest flush possible (the nut flush, in poker parlance). And that’s exactly what I had.

It was a disappointing outcome, but that’s what happens sometimes. I walked away from the table, trying to smile, and reminded myself that Saturday would be a new day…

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