Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in the London Telegraph in 2005.
Historical note: The following explanatory note didn’t appear in the series, but was sent with each column as submitted.
Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson stands unchallenged as the most celebrated poker player who ever lived. In 2005, at age 72, he won an unprecedented 10th championship gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker. He is among the few living members of the Poker Hall of Fame, and his books are the bibles for poker professionals.. Through www.poker1.com and www.doylesroom.com, Brunson has teamed with Mike Caro, today’s premiere poker educator, to offer a free learning experience to players worldwide. This column is founded on those collaborative teachings.
I was 28, already a threat at poker, but young enough to be occasionally manipulated. Usually, I’d see through an opponent’s antics and babble. But sometimes, I’d allow myself to be steered in a direction of their design. My antenna was attached, but it wasn’t fully extended yet.
I was in a no-limit draw poker game with a man everyone called Runty, even though he was fairly tall. I had drawn three cards to a pair of aces and captured a third. Runty, having opened the betting before the draw, took just one card and checked. Runty must be drawing to two pair, three-of-a-kind with a kicker, a flush, or a straight. Reasoning that two pair was his most likely opening hand, I fired an average-size, $200 bet into him. He immediately put $700 in the pot.
Seconds ticked by, and I just kept studying. Eventually, I began to conclude that he had a hand that could beat me – a full house, a straight, or a flush. But, as I was about to fold, he started to chatter. “Show some courage,” Doyle,” he said. “No one ever got anywhere without taking a chance.”
Now that only made me more convinced that he was begging for a call and had me beat. But as I again decided to fold, his babble renewed, and he blurted, “You can call me for half price.”
It seems clear that normal players aren’t going to let you call for half price if they’re bluffing. But Runty wasn’t your normal player. If the saying about a man marching to the beat of a different drummer ever applied, well, it applied to Runty. He kept up the prattle.
I said, “Show me a card and I might call.” I didn’t expect him to comply, but he did! And what he showed me was the six of diamonds. It turns out that I’d thrown away a six, so the most he could possibly have was three of them. But with three sixes, he could beat my three aces with a full house.
I asked him to show one more card. This time he turned over the ace of clubs. I probably haven’t pushed my whole stack into a pot so quickly before. I was 100 percent certain my three aces were the winning hand. They had to be. He couldn’t have four sixes, because I’d thrown one away. He couldn’t have aces full or four aces, because I held three of them. And that meant he couldn’t have sixes-full over aces, either. My fears of him holding a surprise flush or straight were calmed. Six doesn’t stretch down to the ace to make a straight, and since he’d shown me two different suits, he obviously didn’t have a flush. I was safe and he had proven it!
Now I don’t usually talk much during a hand, but this seemed like the time, so, I simply said, ‘That pot looks awfully big to me.”
He pondered. I talked a little more. He finally called with two small pair. Sometimes, I guess, a man needs to be prodded. And there’s another lesson to be learned here. Before he had shown two cards that proved I was going to win, Runty had talked himself out of the pot. When a player holds the worst hand and is about to steal the pot, he ought to just shut up and let it happen. — DB