Mid-2019 D.C.–area poker anecdotes, part 2

July 26, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 26, 2019

A few days after my experiences at A Place, I played poker at another large establishment, this one a combined diner, dive bar and pool hall. But the nature of this spot, which I’ll call B Place — if I need call it anything at all — is actually irrelevant to my tale, which entirely revolves around poker.

I arrived a bit late for the early game, but soon after I sat down, I started catching cards. I made a full house and extracted a bunch of chips from a non-believer. Pretty soon, I was chip leader at my table.

The good run continued as the first two tables broke up and I moved to each of the others in turn. When we got to a final table of maybe nine players, I was sitting pretty.

But not for long!

A taciturn older man with white hair sat to my left at the final table. He had a pretty big stack, but not quite as large as mine. He got involved in a big hand with a young woman positioned diagonally across the table from both of us.

The older fellow was rather careless about keeping his cards private; since I wasn’t involved in the hand, I didn’t turn away when he picked them up to inspect his hand. The board had a bunch of spades, and I noticed that my pal had made an unbeatable straight flush on the turn.

From my limited observations, the man generally seemed to me to be diffident in affect. When he shoved all in, his opponent evidently believed him to be bluffing. She called, and he…

…didn’t show his hand. I don’t know if he was mentally impaired or hearing impaired or if some other mitigating factor was in play, but he slow-rolled his straight flush. This is generally regarded as obnoxious behavior at a poker table; no one said anything, including myself, but I was incredibly angry on the young woman’s behalf.

I would soon get even angrier.

On the very next hand, I pushed all in with the ace and queen of clubs. The man snap-called me with pocket 10s. Off we went to the races!

The flop came king, jack and another card; it included a pair of clubs, giving me four to the flush. Although I was still behind, this was a great flop for me — it gave me a straight draw and a flush draw. I believe that it left me with a total of 17 outs: Nine clubs, three aces, three queens and two tens. Any club would give me a flush; any 10 would give me a straight; either an ace or a king would give me a superior pair to the enemy’s 10s.

However, no further help arrived. The turn was a complete brick, and the river was a jack, leaving me with a pair of jacks on the board and my foe with two pairs (10s and jacks). I was eliminated from the tournament in sixth place.

Incidentally, at a six-handed table, the initial deal and flop use 16 cards (two cards per player = 12; one burn card and a three-card flop = 4). That left 36 cards in the deck, of which as many as 47.2 percent — again, 17 cards!!! — helped my cause. That’s not bad at all.

I used an online tool to estimate my chances of winning the hand. (These calculations are necessarily imperfect because I don’t remember what suits my opponent had and I don’t know what the other four players at the table folded.) With just two players, accounting only for our preflop hands, and assuming that my foe had the 10 of clubs, I had only a 45.8 percent chance of winning, while my opponent stood at 53.8 percent. In the same circumstances, my likelihood of winning after the flop rose to approximately 55.8 percent.

In those cases, if my foe did have the 10 of clubs, my odds of winning were 45.5 percent preflop and 55.7 percent postflop.

With six players, assuming a distribution of hole cards favorable to me — that is, the four players who folded preflop had no clubs and no high cards — my odds of winning after the flop were 64 percent to 36 percent. When I postulated a less favorable distribution, with an ace, a queen and two clubs among the folded hole cards, my odds of winning fell to 51.65 percent to 38.35 percent.

I spent much of the next 15 minutes or so brooding. As I tweeted, “I had fantastic luck nearly the entire game and then that guy just caught lightning in a bottle.”

But what can you do? Nothing, that’s what you can do.

To be continued

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