Flotsam & Jetsam for Oct. 11, 2009
AS SOME of my friends know, I’ve become an intensely addicted poker player. I’ve won a couple of tournaments, but as pokeristas go, I’m not a very good one (a “donkey,” in poker parlance, who can’t help making bad calls out of sheer hubris or dumb curiosity and enriching the rest of the table in the process), but one besotted enough about the game to be reading books by the likes of Daniel Negreanu instead of Thomas Pynchon, and watching video replays of classic poker games on YouTube instead of the new Pinoy indie movies that have “important” written all over them. My excuse is that I’m gathering material for my next novel (I am!) but it’s really to get away from everything else I have to do, especially anything having to do with words more elaborate than the only four words you need to know in poker: “call,” “check,” “raise,” or “fold.”
Yesterday, a Saturday, I joined a group of poker enthusiasts from pokermanila.com to play in the first PokerManila Inter-Collegiate Tournament at the new Big Ace Liberty Club along Shaw Boulevard. I was part of the UP Maroons “seniors” team—meaning, I guess, anyone with a UP student number earlier than 80-xxxxx. My pair of aces got painfully cracked by a straight and I busted out of the tournament early. So I moved over to the cash game, at the 25-25 table (the so-called “blinds” or mandatory first bets are 25 pesos), and promptly began losing again. Story of my poker life!
But I hung on, because aside from the pot or the money on the table, we were all going for the “High Hands” promo of Big Ace, which gives special prizes to the day’s best hands as of 12 midnight (a neat marketing ploy, of course, to keep you glued to your seat way past bedtime). That deadline passed and I had hit nothing better than a full house of jacks (JJJ77), and others were hitting quads and even a straight flush, so I said I’d cut my losses and pack up after another “orbit” (a complete turn around the table; for a glossary of poker terms, see here).
Now here’s what happened in one of those last few deals, where I had just about P1,500 worth of chips left.
My hole cards (the two cards every player is dealt) are 7h-8h. I often make donkey calls (way too often!) and I can’t resist suited connectors (the 7 and 8, same suit), so I say, okay, here’s where we make a gallant last stand, and I call the blind (the minimum bet), as do several others.
Now comes the flop (the first three “community” cards on the table): 5h-Kh-3s.
Aha, I say—a four-flush! I need just one more heart to complete a flush, which is probably enough to win, so I make a bet of about 200, forcing two or three players out, but one player goes all in for 850, and the next guy calls! Of course I call, and I think someone else after me also calls. So now we have a monster pot all of a sudden, and we all get up on our feet and people around us start following the action.
The turn (the fourth card, second to the last) is 6h. I hit my flush! But the guy beside me goes all in with his remaining chips, so I happily call, and we have a side pot of about 1,200.
Now everyone shows his cards before the last or “river” card is drawn. Player A, the original raiser, has Ad-Kd (ace and king of diamonds). So as far as I’m concerned, he’s drawing dead to my flush (no way he can win). But Player B turns up his cards—Ah-Qh! Suffering Jesus! He has the nuts (the highest possible flush, with an ace-high, short of a straight flush, or five cards of the same suit, in sequence)!
So now I’m showing K-5-6-7-8, all hearts, against B’s A-K-Q-5-6. I have a very faint hope of making a straight flush—either 4-5-6-7-8 or 5-6-7-8-9 of hearts—but another player has already folded the 4h, so my one and only out is the 9. That’s one card in a deck of 52!
The dealer draws the river card, and… drumroll… it’s the 9 of hearts! The crowd goes wild, I go nuts with the nuts, Player B is stunned speechless (as I certainly would be), and I get my name on the leader board for the next day’s High Hands, since it’s already 12:30 am.
Two deals later, I get up and cash out, to make doubly sure that my day has a happy ending. Hallelujah!
(You’d wish poker was like this every God-given day, but sadly, it ain’t necessarily so.)