Posts Tagged ‘poker’

The ultimate hand: Part 3 of a very limited series

February 16, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 16, 2018

The very first royal flush that I was ever dealt was by far the most dramatic and rewarding.

I was playing in a friendly game sometime at the tail end of 2010 (I think). It was a small tournament, maybe seven to nine players in all. My hole cards this particular hand were either the ace and queen of diamonds or the ace and jack of diamonds. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say I had AQ.

The flop was almost as good as it gets given my hole cards: king of hearts, jack of diamonds, 10 of diamonds. When I took stock of the situation, I realized that I had Broadway, a straight to the ace, and that I was just one card away from a royal flush.

A bunch of people were involved in the pot. I don’t remember the exact sequence, but someone (possibly me?) bet on the flop. I think it’s also likely that someone else raised. Obviously, I hung in there.

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The ultimate hand — interrupted! Part 2.5 of a very limited series

February 15, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 15, 2018

I interrupt my series on royal flushes to offer a short primer on sorting all-in pots. (The reason for this will become apparent in part 3 of my very limited series.)

When three or more players go all in, multiple pots are typically formed. This isn’t always the case: If all but one of the participants have exactly the same amount of chips and the last participant has more chips, there would only be one pot. Be that as it may…

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The ultimate hand: Part 2 of a very limited series

February 12, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 12, 2018

The second of the three royal flushes that I’ve ever gotten was the least lucrative.

I think this happened sometime in the middle of 2016, though I could be off by a season or two…and by a year or so. I am certain that this hand was dealt in the same venue where I had a nasty late-game crack-up a few Junes back. (It’s possible that bad beat was the very same evening, and perhaps the very same tournament, as what I’m about to relate. But again, I can’t say for sure.)

We were at a table of probably six or seven people, with maybe three or four calling pre-flop. I think. It was early in the contest, and blinds were low — 300–600, I think.

I have a weakness for suited connectors, and I’m also overly fond of jack-10 whether or not they’re suited. I started this particular hand with jack-10, although I couldn’t tell you whether one or both of them were clubs.

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The ultimate hand: Part 1 of a very limited series

February 11, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 11, 2018

I’ve had three royal flushes in my lifetime. The most recent of them nearly escaped my attention.

The NCAA Division I FBS football championship was played on Monday, Jan. 8, and I wanted to watch the game. As noted previously, I (still) don’t have a television at home, and I generally don’t like streaming live video. (Before you ask — and I know you’re oh so curious — I have no particular reason for this preference.)

But rather than just go to a bar and watch the game, I decided to go to a bar and play poker and watch the game. So it was that for the first time in about seven months, I drove to a Cary, N.C., sports bar on a Monday evening to participate in a pair of World Tavern Poker events.

The early poker tournament that evening wasn’t memorable in any way. However, I wound up making a deep run in the second tournament, which had 28 players.

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The ultimate hand: A preface and primer

February 10, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 10, 2018

Most Americans are obsessed with the best of the best. For decades, children have been encouraged to dream big: Growing up to become president, for instance, or the richest person in the world. Some of our most successful movies involve people striving to become — and succeeding at being — the most accomplished or powerful person in a given arena. The GodfatherTop GunThe Lion King, the Star Wars and James Bond and Harry Potter franchises, just about any superhero feature — the list goes on.

A lot of poker players revere the straight flush. This is the best hand in Texas holdem, consisting of five cards of the same suit in order. It’s the kind of thing players dream of hitting, and many movies with poker scenes cater to this fantasy. The high-stakes poker sequence in the 2006 movie Casino Royale, for example, shows James Bond hitting a straight flush and collecting a massive pot against incredible odds.

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Tales from the free poker postseason

February 8, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 8, 2018

Author’s note: This post includes a brief reference to criminal activity that may upset some readers. I’ve placed a trigger warning to mark the relevant text. MEM

It’s been nearly nine months since I last wrote about poker. But my experience Tuesday night makes it time to revisit the topic.

For the season that concludes this week, World Tavern Poker retooled one of the various contests that it runs at each venue, replacing Big Spender with Best Customer. There are some similarities: Then and now, for each game, a tournament director awards a point to one or two players.

Previously, though, people were selected for (as the name states) spending the most money at the venue. Now, people are selected for making positive contributions to the competition. You can get a Best Customer point for bringing new players to the game, being friendly to other players, helping the tournament director or the servers at the venue or, as before, spending the most at the restaurant or bar.

There’s another change. Previously, a tavern’s Big Spender prize — a medallion — was handed to the person who accumulated the most points at that venue over the course of the season. Now, the top eight to 10 point-getters at the bar or restaurant face off in a short tournament. The winner receives the Best Customer hardware.

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General notes on East Coast road trips, or: More morning motivation

June 17, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 17, 2017

I recently made one of a number of hometown pilgrimages that I undertake each year. On Wednesday, the eve before my return to North Carolina, my Parental Unit and I were discussing what time on Thursday I planned to depart. (I’d asked to be awoken by 9 if I wasn’t already up and about.)

P.U. then asked if I was trying to get back to the Old North State for any particular event. “Nope,” I responded flippantly.

Actually, this answer was in the nebulous realm between truth and untruth. I typically play free bar-league poker in Raleigh on Thursday evenings, and I prefer to arrive in time to participate in the early game, which begins at 7 p.m. (There’s a 20-minute grace period for late arrivals.) So there was that incentive for returning to Carolina by a particular time.

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Robert does me dirty: In which a terrible man beats me terribly at free poker

June 13, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 13, 2017

Time for more tales of free poker!

Last night, shortly after the late tournament consolidated from two tables to one, blinds were 10,000–20,000; as it happened, 20,000 was all that the fellow in the big blind had. I was sitting in first position with suited ace-10, both hearts. Naturally, I called. So did Robert, the player on my left. A third player did as well.

The flop, it seemed, could hardly have been better for me. The first card out was an ace; then came a four, followed by a second ace. That gave me three of a kind. I checked.

Not so Robert, who went all in for 65,000. The other live player folded; I counted Robert’s chips, sorted through mine and announced that I would call.

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Regional championships, Aug. 27, 2016: Finale

September 6, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 6, 2016

We pick up the action late in the afternoon of World Tavern Poker’s North Carolina Central East Regional Championships on Aug. 27, 2016. You can also read my accounts of the first part and the second part of this event. 

After I raked in my big pot, there were at least five tables left in the tournament, meaning that 45 or so players remained. That was good — we’d started with 26 overall, I believe — but there was plenty of work to be done before I could claim to have accomplished anything…

Most poker tournaments have an ebb and flow: You win a hand, or maybe a few hands, and then you go through a dead period in which either you lose a few chips or nothing much happens. I went through a dry spell, watching other people win and lose massive amounts of chips, while I waited for a hand worth playing. I entered a few pots, but nothing big, and none of them worked out in my favor.

Finally, not long after blinds went up to something intimidating — either 4,000–8,000 or 5,000–10,000 — I found myself sitting in the small blind with king-two off-suit, which is a lousy hand. (The website Holdem Tight ranks it 135th out of 169 possible starting hands.) Because blinds were so big, I considered sitting out. Instead, I decided to call.

One of the reasons I did was that my participation would make the hand three-handed; that is, there would be three players — myself, the big blind and a gentleman three or so seats to my right who had called.

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Regional championships, Aug. 27, 2016: Part 2

September 3, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 3, 2016

We pick up the action late in the afternoon of World Tavern Poker’s North Carolina Central East Regional Championships on Aug. 27, 2016. Click here for an account of the first part of the tournament

Finally, there was a (figurative) knock at the (metaphorical) door. I found myself on the button — that is, the dealer — with pocket fives. Few if any people had called the hand, and I don’t think that anyone had raised, suggesting that I had a superior hand relative to the other players. I raised and got a call from the woman immediately to my left, who had what seemed to be an immense stack.

The flop excited me, because it contained a five. That gave me three of a kind.

However, I was faced with a classic poker dilemma. In many hands, there is a tension between maximizing the amount of chips in the pot and actually winning the hand. If you pretend to have weak cards by betting small amounts, your opponent or opponents are likely to call your bets, thereby increasing the amount of chips in the pot. The flaw with this tack, alas, is that as more players see more community cards, their chances of having their hand improve rise. This means, of course, that your chances of maintaining the best hand decrease.

One can minimize the risk of losing a hand by betting big on it. This has two potential flaws, however. One is that you scare off opponents who are on a draw. That is, people who are hoping that the flop or the turn or the river will improve their hand will fold rather than calling your bet. You can win this way, but you won’t win as many chips as you would if opponents had called your smaller bets and you wound up with the strongest hand.

The other problem with betting big is that your opponent can call you and win, either because she or he started off ahead or because the community cards helped her or him. This can be true when you bet small, too, but at least in that case you can abandon the pot with relatively minimal losses.

At any rate, just by betting small enough that my opponent could see first the flop and then the turn, I was taking a risk. So when the turn came out— a three, I believe, which I didn’t perceive as causing me any potential trouble — I declared all in.

My foe called me right away, which surprised me. I showed my pocket fives. “I have three of a kind,” I said, somewhat tentatively.

“I have a straight,” she said gleefully, revealing the two and four of hearts. “And I need one card for a straight flush.”

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