A Hand I Didn’t Play at Lucky Chances

I was in the big blind in the $10-10-20 game. The player under-the-gun opened the pot for the minimum, $40. Everyone folded to the button, who called the $40. He had about $6,000. The small blind folded. It was my turn. My stack was $5,000, and my hand was Q-9 suited. If I wanted to see the flop, it would cost me $20.

Many times in this situation, I have folded. And many times in this situation, I have called. And sometimes in this situation, I have raised.

This time, I folded. Why? I have no idea. Just as I wouldn’t know why if I had called. What I did know is that whichever play I chose would remain forever unquestioned, like a note on the piano.

The flop came J-10-8 rainbow. My Q-9 lay in the muck, so I didn’t check, and I didn’t bet.

The UTG player bet $60 into the $110 pot. The button made it $200. The UTG player raised again, the button raised again, and even though I would have flopped the nuts, I didn’t regretfully imagine myself putting lots of +EV chips into this pot, as the UTG raised the rest of his stack, and the button called.

Both players turned over their cards. The UTG player had pocket jacks. He flopped top set. The button showed 9-7. He flopped a straight. I knew it would take a while to count down the stacks, and I knew I’d be able to figure out what happened, so I didn’t resist my urge to go fill my coffee cup.

When I returned to the table, the dealer was already shuffling for the next hand. That was fast, I thought, and my poker sleuther told me the reason, which a glance around the table confirmed.

The player who had flopped top set had his same $7,000 stack he started the hand with, and the player who had flopped a straight still had his $6,000 stack, which meant that the turn and river must have been a queen and a nine, putting a queen-high straight on board, making it a split pot. The player who had JJ was shaking his head in gratefulness. The player who had 9-7 was shaking his head in disgust. The chit chat revealed that the 9-7 player now had some tiltiness fluttering around inside, just below the surface.

There but for the grace of folding go I, I thought.

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