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.
Aunt Sophie flops a full house and a flush
“Nu, tsatskeleh,” said my Aunt Sophie, “How could I flop a full house and a flush both in the same hand?”
“You must,” I immediately responded, “be playing in the double-flop hold’em tournament.”
We were at a table in the dining room of the Aviation Club de France. I had responded to Sophie’s call on my rented cell phone to join her at the break for dinner. The timing was perfect; Sara and I had just come out of the nearby multiplex on the Champs Elysées, where we had seen Shrek with French subtitles. We had walked two blocks, in the direction opposite l’Arc de Triomphe, past the giant Mercedes-Benz showroom, salmon swimming upstream against the sea of humanity overspilling the wide sidewalks of one of the most famous boulevards in the world. Mid-June, and it was still light after 10 p.m. We had turned in at the sliding glass doorway of the ACF, escaping into the luxurious elegance of what definitely did not resemble an American cardroom. We had ascended the carpeted curved stairway, passed the reception, where I was already known, passed through the corridor, one wall of which was filled with backgammon setups, at some of which players were engrossed in high-stakes games. Finally, we had turned in to the elegant dining room and joined Aunt Sophie at a table with linen tablecloth and full place settings for three. An opened bottle of Bordeaux seemed to invite us to partake of the conviviality.
“Yah,” she acknowledged, “and a break for dinner they’re taking only now. I got a table and called you, and now we just have to order.”
Aunt Sophie requested the avocado with shrimp entrée, or “starters” as the British call it and as it appears on almost every European menu that contains an English translation. Americans call this an appetizer, and confusedly call the main dish the entrée. I ordered soupe à l’oignon, and Sara opted for the white asparagus. We also specified our main courses: the salmon special for Sophie, rack of lamb for me, and vegetable risotto for Sara. When asked for a wine choice, I asked the waiter to make a suggestion. He pointed to a Bordeaux on the wine list, and I nodded.
“So,” I prompted after the waiter left, “tell me about your tournament.”
“Well,” Aunt Sophie began, “it was 500-franc buy-in, about $70. After paying, from two chairs you picked a seat token, one chair for smokers and one for nonsmokers.”
“You mean,” I interrupted, “you sat in one chair if you smoked and in another if you didn’t?”
“No, no,” she explained patiently. “One chair the seat assignments for the nonsmoking room had, and the other chair for the smoking room. At the start of the tournament, two rooms it began, one was nonsmoking, that’s what I chose, and the other smoking, that’s where I didn’t want to be. Smoking is very big in Europe. A long time I think it will be there till all nonsmoking the casinos are. Anyway, once everyone got seated, they started. For the first hour, there were three blinds, starting to the left of the button. The button didn’t have a blind. The first player put in 25, the next player 25, and the big blind 50. Oh yeah, for 500 francs your buy-in 1000 francs in chips you got. The opening bet was either 50 francs, or, if you wanted to raise the pot, 200 francs. Usually when someone wanted to raise, he said, ‘Pot,’ and just looked at the dealer, who announced the amount the player had to put in. When I did that, into English the dealer translated the amount. Actually, several helpful players at the table were there and they usually told me what to do in English. Most opening bets were for 50, and then usually five players or more came in. But even if someone opened for the pot, still four or more played. And sometimes that would get raised to the pot, and still they all came. Several four-way pots I saw with everyone all in before the flop, and when that happened the house rule to turn over the cards right away it was. The dealer wouldn’t even deal the flop until all hands got tabled. And such cards they played! On my right the player went all in and won half the pot with 9-7 of diamonds. A gut shot straight he made on the river of the bottom board. The other three players all started with an ace and the other card a small one, and A-K-J-9-6 it came on the top board. I think one player had A-2, one had A-3, and the other had A-5, so each of them got a sixth of the pot.”
“Did the player with the 9-7 say ‘But it was SOOOOOTED!’ in a French accent?” I innocently wondered.
“No,” Aunt Sophie responded; “afterward they didn’t talk much about the hands, and, anyway, he didn’t speak much English. So I got tired never having what I thought was a playable hand. I opened in late position with king-jack suited for the pot, and the button and all three blinds called. Not a king or a jack or a straight or flush possibility came in either flop, all little cards. One of the blinds bet 1000 francs and I gave up. A little later in about the same position ace-10 I had, not suited, and again 200 francs I opened, and this time only three callers. This time flopped all little cards on the top, all rainbow on both flops, but a 10 on the bottom along with a jack and a deuce. No one bet to me, and I checked, and so did behind me the button. Came a third club on the top and a 9 on the bottom. Now maybe a straight could be made on the bottom, and I had no club with the top, and I still didn’t feel confident about betting. Maybe a jack someone must have had, maybe a club, and my bet would get called, so again all around it was checked. On the river, comes the ace of clubs on top and a 4 on the bottom. Again everyone checks to the button, but this time the button bets the pot, 825 francs I think. The first two fold and I think now I got aces and no one seemed to be betting like aces and maybe my pair of 10s for the bottom for half the pot might be good one of those ways. So I call and turn over my red ace-10 and the button turns over his ace-10, and I think we split the pot, till the dealer points out his 10 is the club, so I get a quarter of the pot, a small loss.”
“Yeah,” I calculated, “you put in 1025 and took back a fourth of 2475, losing a bit over 400 francs.”
The sommelier uncorked a Château Curé-Bon-La-Madeleine, and poured a small amount for my inspection. I did, and pronounced it an excellent complement to our meal, allowing the sommelier to fill the other two glasses, and then come back to mine.
The waiter appeared with our entrées. My onion soup had a thick roof of partially solidified cheese through which I had to dig to get to the liquid. Aunt Sophie had me sample her shrimp-stuffed avocado. Tiny pink morsels of tenderness blended with avocado of exactly perfect creamy ripeness. I had never tasted better. Sara appeared to enjoy her asparagus, thick white spears that you don’t find in many restaurants.
“I think I had to call,” Sophie questioned, “didn’t I, with what looked a good chance on either one half or the other?”
“Hmm,” I opined, “I’m not sure. The button didn’t come alive till the fourth club appeared. True, it was an ace, and he could have been betting that, since no one seemed interested in the clubs. And the way they were playing, with better than your ace-10, surely he would have reraised before the flop, or at least made a bet at some point. If he was betting either of those, your 10 should be good on the bottom flop. He had about the only hand that would get you quartered. Ace-jack gives him the whole pot, but he would likely have had more interest early on with that hand. That was an unlikely hand to put him on. He could possibly have been betting a lone ace, but I think a club was more likely. I don’t think you had a shot for the top half. Half the pot gives you a profit of about 200, for which you’re laying about 4-to-1. I’m not so sure on the proper way to play this game pot limit. Proper strategy on the river is to bet strongly when you have a good chance of having the nuts on half the pot, hoping to pick up the whole pot there. Given the situation, his nut hand would be any high club. If you think it’s 4-to-1 that his good hand is just the top, then a call is in order. If he had two pair for the bottom, or a pair of jacks, your ace would maybe take the top. He could consider that a strong hand, too. He would make the same bet with ace-9, if the 9 was a club, a reasonable hand on top and a pair of 9s on bottom, and then you get half the pot. Couple that with the button’s possibility of trying to buy a whole pot that no one seemed interested in, and, yes, I think I would have called. I think I also would have been cautious earlier with the middle pair, just as both of you were. I guess you had bad luck and ran into the one hand that would quarter you.”
“Like 3-6 limit at home they played,” she offered. “No way of telling what they had.”
“True,” I agreed, “and it seems they were also straightforward, not being willing to continue betting without hitting a piece of the flop. And your big hand?”
By now we had finished our entrées. The waiter unobtrusively removed the plates, deftly substituting main dishes for each of us. My lamb dish was accompanied by delicately boiled tiny new potatoes and diminutive haricots verts. Sophie’s salmon was covered in a creamy sauce, redolent of shallots. Her vegetables were tiny green asparagus. Sara’s vegetable risotto looked delicious.
“The only real playable hand,” she continued, “and full action I got. Someone opened in first position for 50. I had ace-king of clubs, and raised the pot. The dealer told me that was 250 francs. Two people called behind me, the big blind called, and the opener. This put 1300 francs in the pot. About 350 francs I had left at this point. The dealer put out the two flops. First a card he burned and placed it in front of him at an angle. Then three cards he dealt horizontally to the table, and three more beneath them, with the burn card beneath them angled extending out a bit to the left. This way they burn I think it is so that everyone knows a card has been burned. The top row had two aces and a king, and the bottom row had J-10-4, all clubs. So a full house and a flush I flopped. The opener checked. All my remaining chips I bet, and everyone called. The dealer burned a card, this one angled below the right of the two flops, and a turn card for the top flop and another turn card for the bottom flop. A queen came on the top and deuce of hearts on the bottom. Now the opener all his chips, maybe 1000, he bets. A side pot this makes. One player calls, the next player raises the pot, the big blind calls all his chips, and so does the other player. Everyone is all in and the action stops because two more side pots the dealer has to make. Finally the dealer tells everyone to turn their cards. Aces full of kings on top and the nut flush on bottom everyone can see I have. The first big raiser has ace-queen, so he has aces full of queens. The first player has 10-jack, so he has a straight. The big blind has king-queen, for aces and kings. And the other player has 6-7 of clubs, a smaller flush. The dealer again puts a burn card to the right, and the two river cards on top. On the top is 7 of diamonds and on the bottom 9 of hearts, which is nothing changed. I get the main pot, 3050 francs. The man with aces full of queens makes more money than I do. What a shame more pots I didn’t earlier win, because now I would be chip leader.”
The waiter cleared away the dishes, and returned with a dessert tray. “Café?” he asked.
“Oui,” I replied.
“Thé citron, s’il vous plaît,” Sara requested.
Aunt Sophie’s French permitted simple requests. “La même, s’il vous plaît,” she essayed.
I chose a pear tart from the dessert tray. Sara liked the looks of the multilayer chocolate cake, while Aunt Sophie picked the crème brûlée.
By this time, players were returning to the seats, and we accompanied Aunt Sophie back to her table. We sat unobtrusively in a corner, whence within two hands I observed the following. Sophie had about 3000 in chips. The blinds were 300, 300, 600. The first player opened for 600. “Pot,” exclaimed Aunt Sophie. When the dealer announced 3000, she went all in. The player directly behind her called, as did the opener. The two flops came A♠ 3♣ 2♣, and A♣ 9♣ 7♠. The opener checked, and the player behind Sophie bet the pot, a bit over 9000 francs. The opener called all in for 8000. The dealer suggested that all contestants for the pot turn their cards face up, which they did. Aunt Sophie had another pair of aces, A♥ A♦, giving her a set on each board. The opener had 9♥ 10♥ and the other player had 3♠ 2♠. The opener had a pair of nines on the bottom and nothing on the top. The other player had two pair, threes and deuces, on the top and nothing on the bottom. If either board paired, Aunt Sophie would have aces full, and one player would be drawing dead and the other almost dead. The 10♠ came on top, which together with the two spades the one player had, gave him four spades. The 6♦ hit the bottom board, giving the other hand a gut shot straight possibility, plus he had now added a pair of 10s on the top to his pair of nines on the bottom. The dealer delivered the 6♠ to the top board and the 8♥ to the bottom. Aunt Sophie was out. Her two sets of aces had been beaten by runner-runner spades on the top board and a runner-runner straight on the bottom. She got up sadly and headed over to me and Sara for commiseration.
“So what,” I gently queried, “did you learn from playing in this double-flop tournament?”
“That the frustration doubles with two boards,” she concluded.