Wiesenberg (s071 poker): Sophie goes to the hospital

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Card Player. This entry in the "Aunt Sophie" series covers poker.

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Michael Wiesenberg

Aunt Sophie goes to the hospital

Sara and I sat cozily in a booth of the coffee shop of the Anaheim Club, speaking of many things, of ships and shoes and sealing wax and cabbages and kings, when Aunt Sophie breathlessly jammed her bulk opposite us at the table. “Dollinks,” she announced, “sorry for so late being, but from the hospital I’ve just come.”

“Anything wrong?” Sara asked solicitously, as worried thoughts of age-engendered physical problems flooded into my mind.

“Not at all,” Aunt Sophie returned. “A sort of Good Samarital visit I paid to two knuckleheads who ended up in the emergency room because they thought they could get smot with an old lady.”

“That ‘old lady,’” I interpolated, “wouldn’t be you, would it?”


“It would,” she admitted. “In the Omaha game yesterday I was and this one nogoodnik kept criticizing my play and trying to intimidate me into buying useless tchotchkies from him. Chips with his name and big ugly puss on them he was trying to peddle from some casino in the Central Valley I never heard of. Hundred-dollar chips, no less, and he wanted $125 each because collector’s items they would be and a good investment. When I told him he should sha so we could all play in peace, he started screaming like a two-year-old having a tantrum, and tried to stand up, but he’s so big the chair stuck to him, and he sat right back down. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do, maybe come around and hit an old lady. I asked the person next to me what this nudnik’s name was, and he said what sounded like ‘Big Dummy,’ which a strange name it seemed but seemed to fit him, so I said, ‘Hey, just relax Mr. Dummy,’ and then the guy really got upset, and again tried to stand up, and again the chair stuck to his big tuchiss and his knees hit the edge of the table, and he went over backwards, with all these ridiculous chips of his spilling all over him, and hit his head on the edge of the coffee station, and like a light he was out, and the security guards were right there, and next thing paramedicals were hauling him out. No wonder they call the guy Big Dummy.”

As Aunt Sophie paused for breath, I signaled the waitress to bring fresh coffee all around. “So the empty seat was taken,” Aunt Sophie continued, “by this alte cocker with a shiny head and a beard like Yasser Arafat, you know who always looks like he has gone exactly five days without shaving, never more, never less, I always wonder how he manages that, and this guy has a schtick, too, seems he thinks people know him because he keeps asking everyone if they want his autograph, and he has this case of books he wants to sell people with the autograph on them, I guess he drags them around everywhere he goes, and it’s some sort of joke book with the name Max Shulman or Schmendrick or something on it, and another one that never stops talking, mostly about himself, jokes about how the only way he can afford to play is his girlfriend gives him the money to keep him out of her hair, and so him to sha I tell, and would you believe the same thing to him happens, he tries to stand up and trips over his own feet and hits his head, too, and the paramedicals take him out, too. So I play for awhile and a few dollars I win, and then feel guilty that these two nebbishes sort of on my account to the hospital had to go, so I cash out and drive over and ask what room the two who came over from the Anaheim Club are in, and they told me, and just when I’m outside the door, I hear Big Dummy telling the other dummy how he felt so bad because he had punched out this little old lady because she had been swearing at him in some foreign language, and 10 security cops had beat him up and he had ended up in the hospital, and what a coincidence it was that good old Max had come right after, and if Max didn’t buy those commemorative chips he had promised, he was going to sit on his head, and, anyway, how had Max injured himself, and Mad Max said he ran into a woman who fit the same description, but must have been another one, because this woman was untouched and she had besmirched his good name in public and so he was going to put her in her place, and the same 10 guards had fallen on him and beaten him up, and he was darned if he’d ever play there again because the gift shop wouldn’t take any of his books, even on consignment, and he had to sell them all on his own. So a minute later I strolled in and didn’t let on I’d overheard them, and gave them each a little Yiddishe medicine in the form of my chicken soup so I could fulfill two mitzvahs at once, visiting the sick and forgiveness. And that’s why I’m late.

“But more about Omaha,” she went on, “you promised to tell.”

River betting

“Okay,” I assented. “How about a few comments on river betting? You often see someone bet the river, and the player immediately after raise. This can either be a very good or a very bad move.

“Here’s where it’s very bad,” I expanded. Someone who bets out obviously has the nut low. The next player raises, and often the person who raises has the nut high with a straight but no low at all. In this case, the raise is often foolish, because it discourages any lows from calling except with the nuts, and the raiser can easily be quartered or worse. When he isn’t quartered, he eliminates a lot of his profit by chasing potential callers.

“Now, when it’s a strong move,” I extrapolated, “is when the raiser has the same hand as the bettor, plus a hand for the other end, but definitely a non-nut hand. Say he’s got the nut low plus a high straight, but a flush or full house is possible. At this point he is trying to promote himself from being quartered to getting three-fourths of the pot. This play works well when a scare card comes on the river, for instance the board pairs, and the raiser has not bet or raised in the previous action so his nut low is hidden. This move of course won’t chase out nut hands, and can backfire, but when the pot is large can also be a very valuable tactic, because someone with the same high straight might lay it down for two bets, fearing the hand is beat and that it could cost four bets to find out. When the move fails, you’ll often get berated by the bettor for raising when you both were getting quartered, since only the winning high remains against your two low hands. The effectiveness of this play depends a lot on who’s in the game, so, as in every game, you have to know how your opponents play.

“I’ll raise on the river,” I pointed out, “with the nut low and no high if I’m reasonably sure five or more players will show down. Even if end up with getting one sixth of the pot, I’m losing little, and I gain if I get a fourth or more of the pot. I won’t do it with a one-card low — that is, with one of my cards counterfeited — because the chance of getting only an eighth of the pot is too high, unless I happen to be paired on the ‘missing’ wheel card. For example, if the board is A-2-4-5, and I hold A-3-X-X, I won’t raise, but if I hold A-3-3-X, I might.

“Anyway,” I concluded, “just a few thoughts. More another time. And I hope you won’t be sending any more bullies to the hospital.”

Author’s note: You may wonder what’s going on here. Max Shapiro, who wrote a humorous column for Card Player, often featuring “Big Denny’s Casino” in Barstow, California, insinuated once that what was really in Aunt Sophie’s teacup was gin. Shapiro also liked to capitalize on his relationship with his “sweetie,” tournament expert Barbara Enright. My column was meant to be payback. Thereafter, Shapiro regularly “borrowed” Aunt Sophie for his columns, sadly foten portraying her in unflattering terms. The preceding, however, was my only riposte.

Next: 072 Aunt Sophie raises on the flop


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