Anatomy of a hand gone wrong

June 23, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 23, 2016

This happened earlier this week, but already a few of the details are vague.

In the big blind, I find myself holding the queen and jack of hearts. I raise to 1,800 chips. A few people come along, including Aziz, the dealer.

The flop includes two hearts, one of which is either the 10 or nine of hearts. (The non-heart is something lowish — a three or a six, say.) I make a modest bet.

The turn is a heart — either the nine or the 10, whichever one wasn’t part of the flop. Now I have a flush. Moreover, this card gives me the nine through the queen of hearts, leaving me open-ended for the rarest and best hand in poker: The straight flush, five cards in consecutive order that all belong to the same suit.

I can’t remember if I checked or bet small or bet big. Regardless, Aziz goes all in.

“You have me covered, right?” I say. I glance over at his stack. He’s got a lot more high-denomination white chips than I do.

“I have you covered,” he confirms.

There’s one other player in the hand. I think that her cards are irrelevant, but if I hesitate, maybe she’ll come along, enhancing the size of an already sizable pot. I shrug and announce that I call the bet.

The third player folds.

One of the players sitting across from me was a fellow named Kevin, who’s won a regional championship. “He’s got a flush,” he said, indicating Aziz. “He’s got a flush.”

Because there would be no further betting in the hand, Aziz should have flipped over his cards at that point and then dealt the river. He made no move to show.

“I’ve got nothing,” he said.

He revealed the river card.

“Now I’ve got something,” he said. “I’ve got a flush.”

I looked over. The river was the six of hearts, leaving four hearts on the board. And Aziz was holding…the ace of hearts and an unrelated card. (I think his kicker was either a nine or a six; it was one of the black-colored suits, spades and clubs.)

“Son of a bitch,” I muttered. I revealed my cards and threw them toward the muck.

As mentioned, the turn had given me a flush. But the river, the fourth community heart, gave Aziz an ace-high flush, superior to mine.

This was most unfortunate. Using this holdem odds calculator, I determined that I had nearly an 89 percent chance of winning on the turn.

Each suit has 13 cards — ace, two, three, four and so on through 10, jack, queen, king. I held two hearts; as of the turn, the board had three hearts; Aziz had one pocket heart. That accounted for six hearts, meaning that up to seven remained in the deck.

But not all seven of those hearts would have given Aziz a better hand than mine. Either the king or the eight of hearts would have afforded me an unbeatable straight flush.

So five and only five cards in the deck could have helped Aziz — and he got one of them.

As I said, that was most unfortunate.

“You have me covered,” I said mournfully. That was it — my short tournament run was over.

“Good hand,” I muttered bitterly as I stood up.

I walked away from the table cursing my bad luck. I circled back, in part because the table had been discussing the hand.

“You played it right,” Kevin told me.

I nodded at him. “Thank you,” I said, grateful for the reassurance.

I wrote my name down on the signout sheet, bid the tournament director farewell and drove home, bemoaning my bad luck practically all the way.

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