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Christmas Is Closer Than You Think

Thursday 01/03/2008 12:20 AM

I love this billboard I saw in Michigan last fall.


A couple days later I'm sitting at one of the three packed $1/$2 No Limit Texas Hold'em tables in the Kewadin Casino in the Sault (that's Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan). I've been there about an hour, and I've already rolled my $60 up into about $135, when I get dealt a pair of fours. I limp into the pot in early position hoping to catch a nice flop.

Four other people see the flop with me and my heart skips a beat when it hits 4 6 K (budagi — all different suits). I remember how one of the tells you're supposed to look for is when people look away from the flop quickly. That tells you they really liked what they saw and are trying to disguise it. So I sit there staring at the king, the six and the four. I'm first to act, but I decide to play dumb and pretend I forgot I'm in the hand.

After about twenty seconds, the dealer looks at me and says, “It's on you.”

I look down, feigning surprise that I still have cards in front of me and am in this hand. I quickly tap the table and say, “Check.”

One-by-one, the player who will quickly disappear from this hand checks, then the female, smart, loose, passive player (let's call her Betty) checks and then the surely retired male, dumb, loose, passive player (let's call him Frank) checks to the last woman in position (let's call her Natasha). My read on her is that she's smart, loose and aggressive. A deadly combination for sure, and I've been watching her pull in pot after pot since the poker room opened at 6PM.

Natasha bets the pot of $12. Without touching my cards, I pause for a moment, finger my chips, pull out the two $5 chips and the two $1 chips. I pick them up and say, “Call.” Then I toss them into the pot.

Mr. Nobody Important In This Hand folds. Betty calls. Franks calls.

There's $60 in the pot and as the dealer is burning a card, I'm trying to put each of them on a hand. My best guess is that someone has a six, someone has a king and someone has a draw (five-seven? three-five?).

The dealer turns another six (which also puts two spades on the board) and now Yours Truly has a boat — fours full of sixes — and I check again right away.

Betty immediately announces “All-in for $38!” and almost spills her drink pushing her chips into the pot. She's got a six. No doubt in my mind, bet the farm on this one, Ma. She's got a six.

As long she doesn't have king-six, four-six or, God help me, two sixes, I'm a huge favorite to win. But it's not on me yet. There are still two people left to act.

Frank says, “Call,” and throws his chips in. Natasha thinks for about five seconds and says, “Call,” and tosses her chips into the pot.

My turn.

I'll tell you right now the one thing I'm not doing is folding. But with $164 in the pot and two people calling (and not re-raising) the all-in, I'm confused. What I don't understand is what in the world Frank and Natasha have. We know Betty has a six, but that means Frank and Natasha can't both have sixes. Plus, if one of them did have the other six, wouldn't they re-raise all-in to build a side pot in case they lose to Betty? That way they could still win money from one of the two people who might go to the river with them.

So maybe neither of them has the case six. Then what do they have? That turn card brought a flush draw so maybe one of them has spades. OK, but with a paired board like that they might be drawing dead if they're going for the flush (of course, you and I know that if they are going for the flush then they are drawing dead versus my full boat). That sounds like a move by a dumb passive player. Frank! Frank must be on a spade draw. That means if the spade doesn't come on the river, he's not going to call any bet I make. So I should try to get some money out of him now.

What about Natasha though? Of the three other players who saw the turn, I figured one of each of them for a six, a king and a draw. Does Natasha really have a king? She seems smart enough to not make a call like that. But maybe she knows Frank isn't too bright and is making that call against him more than Betty so she can try to pick up a sidepot if the river card isn't too scary.

Then I realize that I'm the wildcard here. It's the other two tables that have all the out-of-town hunters drinking and gambling. Just my luck that I ended up at the table with all the regulars who know each other by name. Natasha doesn't know what I have or what I might be up to, but does she really have a king? Could she have Big Slick? I can't imagine her not raising with ace-king before the flop, but I can't imagine her calling $38 with just a king in this situation.

Have you seen that Phil Ivey commercial for Full Tilt Poker? The one where you can hear what he's thinking in the time it takes for his opponent's chips to hit the table? That's exactly what this was like (though it took me a little longer to think it all through).

About ninety seconds had passed and the dealer says to me, “You look confused.” There is a slight murmur around the table as the other players are chatting quietly, sipping their drinks (with the ice cubes clanking) and watching the action at the other tables. They're ready for the next hand and probably think I'm stalling because I watch too much poker on TV and I'm just posturing to make it look like I'm laying down a big hand.

I respond, “I am confused,” and apologize for the delay. I look down at my chips. After the $38 call, I'll have about $85 left. I glance over at Frank's stack. We're pretty even. Then I look at Natasha's. She's got me covered. I take a deep breath and announce, “I guess I'm all-in.” I push all of my chips into the center of the table.

Everyone stops talking and the dealer says, “Hold on,” and puts his hand in front of my chips to keep them out of the pot for the moment. He has to worry about the sidepot if anyone calls me. When you play poker online all this accounting is handled for you automatically, but when you're playing felt and flesh, these issues take time.

The dealer points to Frank and says, “Action's on you.”

Frank says, “Call.”

Then the dealer turns to Natasha. She looks at my stacks of chips halfway between me and the pot. She looks at Frank's chips. She looks at her stacks. Natasha takes another glance at her cards, makes a face of disgust and throws them into the muck.

The dealer pulls the $38 from my stack and puts it in the main pot (which makes it a little less than $200 after the rake). Then he compares my remaining stack to Frank's. As it turns out, I have Frank covered by three dollars. The dealer pushes the three red chips with purple stripes on the edges back to me and I say, “Well, at least I'll have three dollars after this hand.”

The dealer says to turn our cards over and when I see what Frank has I know that I'm going to have a lot more than three dollars by the time this hand is over.

Frank has queen-ten of spades and is drawing dead. I'm guaranteed to have at least $170 after the river card comes.

I turn over my Dirty Harry and every one sees that I've got the boat.

Betty yells out, “I'm gonna need some help!” She turns over six-eight offsuit.

I'm an 84.09% favorite to win the whole thing. Betty can catch an eight or a king to make a better full house and take the main pot.

Everyone is staring as the dealer burns the third card in the hand and flips the river.

It's a six. Betty makes four-of-a-kind.

She screams at the top of her lungs and pulls in the $200 pot. I get my consolation sidepot of about $170.

After a moment, it sinks in and Natasha is disgusted. I hear her tell someone else what she had:

King-seven offsuit.

File Under: Michigan; Poker
Music: Jacques Loussier Trio "Beethoven: Allegretto from Symphony No. 7, Theme and Variations"

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