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 catches one
“In here, Dollink,” said my aunt, and I headed for her bedroom, where I knew I’d find her online.
I sat on the only free surface, the edge of her immaculately made bed. She was seated as usual at a computer table set up beside the bed. On the monitor was a familiar view, the playing surface of a popular on-line poker site, where she was playing poker as SophieNeny, Hungarian for “Aunt Sophie.”
I watched silently, as her concentration was fully on the fast-playing game, five-handed $5-$10 draw. It was her little blind. She had a pair of sevens. No one opened to her so she limped in for another $3 on her $2 blind. This was not a bad play, considering that she was about a 3-to-1 favorite against a random hand. The player on the big blind, one BigBully, raised. She folded.
“Certainly lives up to his name,” I laughed.
“Always when I limp, he raises,” she frowned. “This time I was just testing.”
A few hands later, someone limped under the gun. Sophie had a pair of queens, and folded.
I felt I could speak while she was out of the hand. “I approve,” I complimented.
Out of position
“Feh,” she snorted. “I know better than to call out of position with queens. If I just call, someone behind can raise even with a pair of kings, and I’m an underdog to any hand that can raise and weakness I already showed by just calling. So if it’s not a hand I can raise with, I don’t play. And, see, it’s good I didn’t call.”
As we watched, BigBully raised the limper. No one else called. The opener called and drew three cards. BigBully stood pat. The opener checked, BigBully bet, and the opener folded. Many neophytes make this mistake in draw poker: they limp with a small pair. That action may be correct in hold’em, but it certainly is not in draw poker, with only one chance to improve. If a raise comes, it has to be from a better hand, and the opener is at best a 3-to-1 underdog, and usually worse. Pair-against-pair is about 3.3-to-1 in favor of the higher pair. One small pair against two higher pairs, say a pair of sevens against tens and nines, is about 4.6-to-1. Draw poker contests are usually one-sided; the trick, of course, is trying to figure out what the other guy has, and always to be on the positive side of the ratio. Most of the time, if a player can’t come in for a raise, he should not be in the hand.
In the next round, the same happened. The player to Aunt Sophie’s right limped and BigBully raised on the button. This time the opener took two cards, and again BigBully stood pat.
“No one he fools,” remarked Sophie, “by taking two. If he really had trips, he’d reraise. A kicker he’s keeping to try to scare the raiser, but he fools no one.”
“Yes,” I finished, “and if he does make a hand, most of the time it’s two pair, so if he’s up against trips, or if the raiser takes three and improves, he’s still in trouble. Of course, against a pat hand, he’s going way uphill.”
As before, the opener checked, and folded to BigBully’s bet.
The scenario repeated itself next round, again with BigBully’s pat hand not getting shown.
“That many pat hands,” Aunt Sophie offered, “he can’t be having.”
On Aunt Sophie’s next button, someone limped in early position. She had two pair, kings and threes, and raised. BigBully reraised from the little blind. The opener folded, and Aunt Sophie called. BigBully stood pat, and Sophie drew one. BigBully bet, and this time Aunt Sophie called. BigBully showed a flush. Aunt Sophie did not show her cards, and the $50 pot was pushed, accompanied by a dramatic whooshing sound, to BigBully.
“Okay,” she muttered, “a real hand he had that time. I should have known, because he put in the third bet in bad position. Still that many pat hands he can’t have.”
A few hands later, BigBully again won with an uncalled pat hand.
“How many pat hands can one player have?” she demanded.
I didn’t respond, knowing it to be only a rhetorical question.
When next she was in the little blind, Aunt Sophie had a pair of kings. No one had opened, so she came in for a raise. BigBully immediately folded.
“Ha,” she exclaimed, “another point I proved. When I raise open, he doesn’t push it. Now the trap it’s set.”
The next round, she had aces, and limped in under the gun. BigBully raised. No one else called. Aunt Sophie called. I could see her plan, but suddenly she did something very strange. Instead of holding the aces, she discarded them and kept the three odd cards, 5-7-8 of three different suits. As if by magic, a 4 and a 6 floated into her hand, making her a two-card straight. BigBully stood pat. Aunt Sophie checked, BigBully bet, Aunt Sophie called, and BigBully showed his hand, a pair of kings.
“I knew he couldn’t have that many pat hands!” she yelled, and took down the pot.
“You’re sure lucky,” BigBully typed petulantly into the chat window.
“I’m always lucky,” Aunt Sophie immediately responded. “This way,” she directed back to me, “again he’ll try that trick and again I’ll catch him. He thinks only I called because I made a straight, and if only a pair I had or two pair I wouldn’t call.”
“Well,” I said, wonderingly, “so did I think he didn’t really have a pat hand, but how did you do that? Whatever impelled you to throw the pair and draw two to the straight. It’s almost as if you knew what was coming.”
“Ha ha,” she laughed. “An accident that was. I meant to keep the aces and draw three, and, if he stood pat, check and call. But also on that other site you know I play, and I got confused. There you click on the cards to keep, and in my excitement on the aces I clicked. Here you click on the cards to discard. I was horrified when away my aces went, but then when I looked up and saw I’d made a straight, it was just the same as aces. I still had to check. If he was bluffing, I would catch him by checking. If he was bluffing, my bet he wouldn’t call.”
“So,” I chuckled, “you were fated to win the hand. But would you have called him with a pair smaller than kings?”
“No,” she chided, “I wouldn’t have slow-played anything worse than kings in that position, so in the situation I wouldn’t end up. And after I made my mistake, unless I ended up with at least two pair, I still wouldn’t have checked and called. Of course, when I saw my mistake, if I made absolutely nothing, I would have bet, and I think he would have folded. But that way the extra $10 I wouldn’t’ve made.
“And now,” she finished, logging off the game, “time for a glazl varmss.” Earl Grey tea I could readily handle, and we repaired to the kitchen.