Wiesenberg (s106 poker): Sophie wonders why

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.

Michael Wiesenberg index.

Black and white photo of Michael Wiesenberg

Michael Wiesenberg

Aunt Sophie wonders why they take the worst of it

Nu, tsatskeleh,” complained my Aunt Sophie, “how can someone all his chips on the turn with three outs call?”

We were in the lounge of the Anaheim Club having a post-playing session glass of wine, merlot for me and a pinot noir for Aunt Sophie.

“Three outs?” I demanded.

“Yes, three outs,” she responded. “But that he probably didn’t know. Four he might have thought he had.”

“And the circumstances were?” I prompted.

No-limit hold ’em

“In the $100 buy-in no-limit hold’em game,” she began, “$2 and $3 blinds, everyone checks to the button when my little blind and he opens for $6. I have Q♥ J♥ and I call and the big blind calls. Comes on the flop Q♣ J♣ 7♥. Top two pair. I don’t like to slowplay like some and besides this is a hand I think I need to protect. I bet $15. The big blind calls and the button folds. Now comes the 6♥. This is a big card for me, because now not only a full house but a flush I can make. In the pot now is $48 and the big blind has $50 left. So I think if he’s got a piece of that, I’m gonna make him pay. There are two possible straight draws and two flush draws, although one of those maybe I got covered if he doesn’t have the ace or king. I bet all his chips and into the pot he beats me.”

“Aha!” I exclaimed. “Wait a minute! I can see it coming. You wouldn’t be telling me this story unless it was a bad beat story. That last card made him an inside straight, and he had nothing else going.”

“Well, Dollink,” she scolded, “if you wanna tell the story, go ahead.”

“No, Aunt Sophie,” I laughed, “I don’t mean to steal your thunder. Finish.”

“So,” she finished, “you guessed it. Came the 4♣ and he had 5♣ 3♦ and a straight it made him. The 4♥ it couldn’t be because that makes me a flush. Three outs, 13-to-1, he had and he was getting even money on his call on the turn. How could he do that? How could he even call on the flop, anyway? He had nothing.”

Bad beat stories

“Well,” I offered, “you’re not the only one something like this has happened to. It’s part of lots of bad beat stories. As for the flop call, he was hoping to turn a draw. You know that. And he did. Before I give you my thoughts on why players make these terrible calls, let me relate two times it happened to me. A long time ago in no-limit lowball I was under the gun with a great pat hand, 6-5-3-2-A. The minimum bet was $4. I was hoping to generate some action, so I opened for $8. No one played till the big blind on my right. He raised it to $20. He had $100 left. I knew he’d seen me get out of line before, so I decided not to get cute and just put him all in. I figured he’d call with any pat 7 and maybe an 8 or 9 if he really thought I was out of line. He called immediately and pulled a king out of his hand and drew one card, so of course he’d been planning to draw all the time. Now any sensible lowball player would have just folded, because he had to assume I had a pat hand and the only way he could win is to make a hand, for which he wasn’t getting odds against any hand except a 10. He couldn’t think I was drawing because I wouldn’t put him all in. Plus, he couldn’t win anything after the draw because he was all in. He turned up the 3 he caught and set the rest of the hand down around it, 6-4-2-A. Since I had one of his threes, there were three cards he could catch, same as your situation. He could have caught a 5 and made a terrific hand but that wouldn’t have been good enough. And I know he hadn’t seen the card about to come off, because the house dealer was the best in the place and very careful with the deck. I would never have asked, but he told me anyway, ‘I just felt like gambling,’ as he took down the pot. You may have the best of it, but there’s no way to stop them from making the hand they’re going to make.”

Oy,” she put in, “it’s like he felt it coming.”

Same online

“Same thing happens online,” I continued. “Yesterday I was in a five-handed pot-limit draw game with $2 and $4 blinds. The player on my right limped. I had three queens. I raised $12 because I knew the guy on the big blind was subject to call with a substandard hand and raise with not much better. It got to the big blind, and he reraised $16. The opener folded. Big blind had $70 left, and I raised all of it and he quickly called. Didn’t even think about it. He took one card and I took two. He made a flush. He put in $70 for $145. He could win only by making a flush. Worse than 4-to-1 against him, since I could improve also, and he was getting barely 2-to-1. Not nearly as bad as your situation nor the first one I described, but the principle is the same. At first I thought he might have been making a play on me, and just didn’t know what the situation was. But a little later, again with him on the blind, I raise-opened for $10 with a pair of aces, and he reraised $12. I wished I’d had a little better hand, because I would have reraised as much as I could, but with only one pair, I just called. He drew one card, I drew three, I didn’t improve. He bet the minimum, $4 into the $28 pot. I couldn’t throw my hand away for $4, and I called, and he showed a busted flush. So the identical situation and all he was doing was hoping to get lucky.”

Yah,” she agreed, “but still why?”

Gambling mentality

“It’s what I call the gambling mentality,” I suggested. “You see the same thing in casinos all the time. I think the mistake people make in poker is attributing such plays to some kind of rational behavior. They’re just hoping to get lucky, and they don’t mind taking the worst of it doing so. If that wasn’t the case, people wouldn’t play any casino game. They know the odds are against them. Oh sure, maybe they don’t understand how bad it is in slot machines, video poker, the proposition bets on Let It Ride and Caribbean Stud, the outside bets on roulette and craps, because they’re hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and make a big score for a small investment. But they know they’re taking the worst of it in games with even money payoffs like blackjack and the even bets of roulette. They want to gamble and they don’t mind taking a chance to win something. So just grit your teeth when it happens and be glad that they have this attitude. Because they lose overall, and a lot. And they’re usually not upset about any individual loss because they expect it. They just want to get lucky.”

At that moment the cocktail waitress came by. It was the right moment, for both our glasses were just then empty.

Next: 107 Aunt Sophie wonders about the future (final entry)


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