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 busts out
“Three bad beats, Dollink,” said my aunt Sophie, “that’s all it took to bust me out.”
We sat at a table in the foyer outside the Grand Ballroom of the Bicycle Club. For larger tournaments, the tables in the foyer would also be used, but the $300 lowball that Aunt Sophie was referring to had had 120 entrants, all of whom fit nicely into the ballroom. Glass doors near our table led to the valet parking area, the same glass doors that Phil Hellmuth had kicked out the previous year. The doors had been repaired in the interim.
“Are you here to tell bad beat stories?” I asked. “Are you looking for commiseration or criticism?”
“If you don’t think the beats are bad,” she replied, “Please tell me. Always my game I want to improve. Three times with the best of it I lost, and I want you should say how I played. Three critical hands and I was out the door”
I would have the same thing happen in the $1000 lowball event. That’s called foreshadowing.
“No it’s not, tsatskeleh,” she contradicted “If it was foreshadowing, you would include in this chronicle a description of your own bad fortune. Readers can clearly see you haven’t done that.”
“Huh?” I demanded. “How’d you know what I was thinking?”
“Please, Dollink,” Aunt Sophie witheringly riposted; “It’s right there on the page.”
“Okay,” I sighed. “Tell me about the hands.”
“Fairly early,” she commenced, “I think the blinds were $10 and $25, the first player opened for a raise. I got 7-5-4-3-2, and reraise. The button, him I’ve never seen before, made it four bets. The opener called, and I made it five bets. The button put in the sixth bet. This capped it. For this tournament a six-bet cap they got. The opener called two more and of course I called. The opener stood pat. So did I. I liked my hand. I figured he had about a smooth eight, since he never reraised. The button, one he took."
“Mmm-hmm,” I murmured.
“The opener checked,” she continued, “so of course I bet. Now the one-card draw raised. The opener folded. I didn’t like it, but too much money I had in there, so I called. He had 7-5-3-2-A. I thought he was going to show me a six or wheel. I think he would have raised with any seven.”
“Maybe,” I offered, “More likely he was drawing to a wheel and caught the seven. But, the point is, he did have you beat. In a ring game, sure you can call — and you should. But in a tournament, I don’t think so. Raising with anything worse than your hand in a capped pot would have been a bluff, and not one he’d likely make. Most of those players have been playing lowball all their lives, and, while they may play too loose sometimes, raising there is not a play you’d likely see. I think you could have saved a bet.”
“Well,” she answered defensively, “it was only one bet.”
“Agreed,” I agreed, “and early in the tournament. Still, you can’t buy more chips. Every chip is precious.”
“Yah,” she assented, “of course. So now the second even much worse and truly a bad beat. At a new table I got put, and this old-time player who used to own a casino and I know likes to gamble, under the gun I raise-open with 7-6-3-2-A, and he reraises, and so do I, and we cap it. I stand pat, and he thinks for awhile, and finally two cards he throws. As he does, to his neighbor he whispers, but I hear him, ocho-siete. Well, enough Spanish I know that he threw an eight and a seven. So he had to have started with 8-7-6 or one card only he would have drawn. He must have figured that if he couldn’t get me to break, a pat seven I had and it was better than a 7-6 he might make. Now it’s 100-200, so much bigger a pot. I bet and immediately he raises. But how can I lay down against a two-card draw? Of course he shows me a 6-4. And that’s also how come I know he started with 8-7-6 and was trying to get me to break. He had to have the six to start with, so he caught two perfect cards.”
“Aunt Sophie,” I commended, “excellent reasoning. But, again, the raise had to be with a hand that beat yours, however unlikely that was. Someone who is capable of breaking an 8-7 does so because he is sure you have better than a 7-6, thus no way would he raise with worse than that. If he made a smooth 8 or a 7, I’m certain he would only call. And now the chips are starting to be even more precious. You still could have saved a bet, $200 of your chips.”
“But,” she sputtered, “two cards he took!”
“Yes,” I assented, “and the odds against his beating your hand were about 13-to-1. He did have the joker, right?”
“Yah,” she admitted.
“So,” I pursued, “maybe 13-to-1 against him. Nonetheless, he did it. When you called the raise did you think he was bluffing?”
“No,” she replied.
“Did you think he was raising with worse than a 7-6?”
“No,” she whispered.
“Well, then,” I concluded, “I rest my case. Tell me about the third bad beat.”
“So, okay,” she went on, “now it’s 400-800, and I have 2000 in chips left. I know I got to make my stand soon. This one fellow had sat down when games were put together on my right. He lots of times raised on the come, especially when someone limped. In fact, one time someone raise-opened and he reraised drawing to an eight. And if you checked to him, he bet sometimes when he missed. My big blind, and I put in 400. Fellow across the table limps. New guy raises. So now I figure the most likely thing he’s doing is drawing. I have 9-8-7-2-A, and reraise. Opener folds and raiser calls. I stand pat, and he draws a card. I know I’m going to call if he bets, and I don’t want to go out calling, so I bet my last 800. He calls. He made an 8-5, and I’m out.”
“My dear Aunt Sophie,” I remonstrated, “I know you did wrong, and so do you. You had enough chips to go through at least another full round, including the blinds. You should have waited for a better spot. Sure, if the aggressive player hadn’t been in there, you could then have raised, and you would have had way the best of it against the original limper. That’s showed by his folding for two more bets. But what you did was sheer suicide. You essentially committed all your chips with a very weak hand, when, at best, you had slightly the best of it. Just because that fellow was capable of raising with a draw to an eight didn’t mean he had that specific hand now. He could have easily had a pat eight, which he would not have broken. He might not have broken a better nine than yours. He might have been drawing to a better hand. Even if he was drawing, you were essentially laying him more than 5-to-1 on that last call when he was certainly not taking worse than 3-to-2. You basically gave up, threw away your last chips. Once he raised, you should have realized he beat you to the pot, and you should just have given up. After the little blind, even if you couldn’t play, you’d have had 1400 in chips with which to wait for a better situation. You didn’t have to get desperate at that point. Even with just a few chips, tournament professionals give themselves a chance to get back in. Gambling with only a little the best of it when you don’t have to — and with a reasonable chance that you’re taking way the worst of it — isn’t the way.”
“Oy, tsatskeleh,” she moaned, “I really messed up, didn’t I?”
“Nah,” I consoled, “you might have gotten lucky and won that last pot, and then you would have had lots of chips. But it’s a chance I don’t think you should have taken, not when you didn’t need to. But you can see that it just takes a few mistakes to make a big difference in the outcome of a tournament.”