May 2018 pokerpalooza: Day 4, cash table stint 3

June 21, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 21, 2018

As previously mentioned, I came down from my tournament championship with a few hours of walking, tea-drinking, writing and relaxation in downtown Wilkes-Barre. A little before 10 p.m., after discovering that most of the places where I might have wanted to grab a quick dinner in the city center had closed at 9 or 9:30, I drove back to the casino to play holdem on a $1-$2 no-limit cash table.

I sat down at 10:10 p.m. with $122 in chips. I’ll recount a single hand, my last.

My opponent was a heavyset older man, maybe in his mid-50s, sitting on the far side of the dealer from me. He spent a lot of the (brief) time I was at the table cradling his head in his hands, as if he were extremely fatigued or grievously upset or maybe suffering from a headache. I actually found myself worrying on his behalf whether he was liable to make some kind of desperate wager that would cost him a lot of money.

At one point, he started squabbling with a player seated to my right over something that struck me as an innocuous remark. Rather to my astonishment, the antagonist — the man on my left — then threatened to start a fight.

“Don’t push me,” the antagonist said angrily. “I’ve had three warnings already.” I took this to mean that the casino management had given the player notice about unseemly conduct, a subtle way of implying that he was willing and able to beat someone up.

I wasn’t certain how to interpret this posturing. Any fight in the casino would surely be broken up in a matter of moments by security. Was he suggesting that he’d follow someone to the parking lot and attack out there? This seemed slightly more likely, but still a bit outlandish. I assumed that any sufficiently belligerent talk would be enough to get the antagonist escorted to his car by security.

Antagonist muttered angrily under his breath for a few minutes. This was enough of a provocation that the dealer intervened, saying, “We’re just here to play poker, gentlemen.”

And play poker we did.

Which brings us to my last hand at the table. One of my hole cards this go-round was the king of spades; I’m not sure what the other was, but it was definitely a second spade. (Similarly, I don’t remember the exact betting line, or how many chips were in front of me when we started the hand — but no matter.)

The flop was a thing of beauty: A queen, a three and another card, all spades. I’d flopped a fairly strong hand, a king-high flush. I placed a significant bet; antagonist called. Anyone else who remained in the hand bowed out.

The turn gave me pause. It was a second queen (the queen of clubs, I’m fairly certain). This meant that a player with a pocket queen had just hit three of a kind at the least, while a pair of pocket queens would present an almost unbeatable four of a kind.

(Quick refresher: Poker hands are made up of the five best cards from the player’s two hole or pocket cards, which can only be used by the individual to whom they’re dealt, and the five community cards, which are available to everyone who remains in the hand. A flush consists of five cards of the same suit — diamonds, clubs, hearts or, as in this case, spades. A flush loses to a full house, four of a kind and the very rare straight flush.)

I thought it was unlikely that the antagonist had two queens in the hole, given that the preflop wagers hadn’t been particularly heavy. If he did, however, there was no way that I was going to win the hand. The best that could be hoped for was that he made a large-enough bet that I became suspicious and folded.

However, there were two other potential hands that could beat me. The first of these was a full house — three queens and a pair, or three of some other rank plus the pair of queens on the board. The second of these was an ace-high flush, the only flush that would beat my king-high quintet of spades.

If my foe had a queen and a three, say, or the ace of spades and another spade, then I was in the same boat (so to speak) as if he had quads: My only hope was that he made such a ludicrously large bet that I realized I was beat and folded instead of committing all my money to the pot.

My suspicion was that the antagonist was holding the ace of spades but didn’t have a second pocket spade, leaving him with just four of the suited cards that a flush requires. If this scenario was true, then there was something I could do to improve my odds of victory.

I bet heavily on the turn, attempting to dissuade the antagonist from seeing a river card that would put him ahead of me. However, he called my bet, so — if my assumptions were correct — I had to hope that the river was a brick.

Indeed, a red card came out, one that (if memory serves) didn’t add another pair to the board. I don’t recall exactly how the betting proceeded, but I ended up all in. For argument’s sake, let’s say this: I wagered something like a third of my stack; the antagonist went over the top; I called because there was so much in the pot and my hand was relatively strong.

Regardless of exactly how it went down, the dealer said, “Showdown.” He then asked to see our pocket cards.

The antagonist was slow to reveal his hand, so I turned over my flush.

“King-high flush,” the dealer said.

The antagonist waffled for a few seconds more before flipping over his pocket threes. He’d flopped a set and turned a boat. More to the point, he’d cleaned me out — I was totally bereft of chips.

“Good hand, sir,” I said, standing up and leaving the table. In the course of roughly 40 minutes, I’d lost all $122 of the chips I’d brought to the table.

As I thought things over, first driving away from the casino and later trying to get some rest, I found myself stewing angrily. My antagonist had played well, but he’d acted boorishly in slow-rolling his winning hand. He had also, it seemed, played me like a fish by acting like someone who wasn’t fully sound of mind.

I second-guessed myself, wishing I hadn’t wasted the opportunity to say, “Nice slow-roll, sir,” in a withering tone.

Should I have tried to goad him into a fight? After all, I visit this particular casino no more than once a year, whereas if he was a local, being banned for fighting would put a major crimp in his lifestyle, or perhaps even his earnings.

Well, the moment passed without my trying any of those maneuvers, which is probably for the best. But I couldn’t help endlessly reviewing the hand, particularly that egregious slow-roll, as I attempted to fall asleep before the final day of the pokerpalooza.

To be continued concluded


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