There was a period of a couple years, around 2000 and 2001, when there was a no-limit hold’em game every night in a poker room in San Mateo called Pacific News. The room only had three tables. One of them was used for newspaper reading and dealer break-taking and players in waiting. The other two poker tables were used for poker – one for $3-6 limit high-low hold’em (<–Yes, that’s exactly what I meant to say) and one for no-limit hold’em. The blinds in the no-limit game were $2-3-5 (you can read about the Bay Area 3-blind structure here), there were two optional kills (which can make the game VERY big) and there was no maximum buy-in. The game started at 7p.m. every night. I was one of the regulars – one of the starters. Another one of the starters – a man I learned as much about no-limit from as from any other person – was Walt Z.
Here’s a hand Walt played that demonstrated the depth of his wisdom, and savvy, and ruthlessness. Walt was in the big blind position, but he had not posted his blind yet when the dealer started dealing. This is a very common situation. I’ve seen it thousands of times. Usually what happens is, when the dealer deals the second card, the player in the big blind is reminded to put his blind out. But sometimes that doesn’t happen, in which case, when the dealer or a player realizes that the big blind has not posted yet, someone says to the big blind, “Don’t muck your hand! You’re in the big blind!”
And sometimes none of that happens, and the big blind, thinking he is first to act, does actually fold. And then someone says something for sure. How it gets resolved at that point, well, it can get gnarly, and it’s not relevant to the story, so let’s move on.
Here’s what happened on this hand. Walt was in the big blind. When the dealing began, Walt was busy talking to someone standing behind him. The dealer dealt both cards, and Walt had still not posted his blind. Then Walt looked at his cards, and folded his hand, about a foot or so in front of him. The dealer said, “Wait! It’s your blind!” Walt was a little embarrassed, and he took his cards back and posted his blind. I’ve seen it work out this way many times, especially when a very experienced player makes the mistake. It’s a courteous way to handle it because it keeps the game moving and no one gets upset.
Here’s how the betting went.
It was folded around to the button. The button, the small blind, and Walt all had about $1000. The button was a tight player, and a smart player, plenty smart enough to take advantage of Walt’s telegraphed weakness.
The button opened for $30. (The minimum opening bet was $10, so $30 was a normal sized opening amount.) The small blind was another tight, smart player, plenty smart enough to know that the button’s range could be extra wide here because of Walt’s premature fold. The small blind made it $100. Walt looked a little confused, and he raised it to $400.
Right then I knew exactly what had happened. I resisted the urge to stand up and bow reverently toward the Walt.
The button, who as it turned out had AQs, shoved all-in. The small blind folded.Walt called with – have you figured it out yet? – pocket aces.
It was probably accidental that Walt did not post his blind at the right time.
Then he looked at his cards quickly and discreetly, saw that he had pocket aces, and now, in full awareness that it was his big blind and that he had not posted it yet, he folded, knowing that the dealer (or someone) would point out that it was supposed to be his blind, and that it would then be perfectly fine and normal for him to grab his hand back, laying a deadly trap from whoever happened to be unlucky enough to be moving around before the flop.