Kay to the Rescue

Dear reader,

This Painless Poker excerpt is about a bad losing streak that was surprisingly painless. 


The next day was Friday. I bought into the Big Game for five grand, and my stack grew to $8,000 over several hours with only a couple of showdowns.

      A perfect session so far. Steady now.

There have been a handful of wealthy philanthropists in the Big Game who donate so much so fast that the average pot size goes up tenfold when they sit down. With players like that, the regs like me wait our turn to take our shot at picking them off. All it takes is one pot in a game like that to make a fine payday.

Bert was one of those guys. A fish so big they called him a whale. He joined the game and I didn’t have to wait long for a chance to sink a harpoon.

My hand was 22. I opened. Bert raised. I called. Headsup. The flop went check, check.

On the turn, he made a pot-sized bet. I called because folding didn’t seem right, and neither did raising.

On the river, Bert bet $900. I thought he was bluffing so I called. I was right. He was. All he had was pocket threes.

When he said “one pair” and I said “how big” and he said “threes” and I said “that’s good,” I thought it was hilarious, and I chuckled, and my levity allowed others to laugh too, at this very funny hand. Technically speaking, I had been beaten and humiliated. Except I wasn’t feeling loss or shame.

My next stab at Bert went extremely well, for Bert. I flopped the nut straight, and Bert flopped bottom pair and a flush draw. My hand was still good when we put in $6,500 each on the turn. And you know how this story ends.

I came back from the cage and unracked an assortment of chips totaling $5,000. My play was super solid, mucking hands and watching the action, mindfully breathing as often as not. And feeling grateful, for being able to play, and play well, in this game, right now.

Along came KK. Bert made it $120. I made it $400. Everyone else got out and Bert called. The flop was A-K-8 rainbow. Bert’s hand was A-8. I flopped middle set and he had top-and-bottom two pair.

On the flop, I bet, Bert raised, I re-raised all-in, and Bert called. The pot was $10,000 and there were two cards to go.

I turned my hand over, showing my three kings. Bert said, “I’ve got two pair,” telling me that the only card I needed to worry about was an ace.

The turn was the 3 of hearts. So far so good. The river was the 2 of hearts.

     No ace. Yay. I win. But hold on. What’s he doing? He’s turning over his…

And in less than a second, with almost no movement from Bert, I already knew, from what he was doing, and from what he wasn’t, that I had lost this hand, and that Bert had back-doored a heart flush with the A8 of hearts.

The final board was Ac-Kh-8s, 3h, 2h.

I synchronized my next exhalation with the release of my cards, as I’d done a thousand times before. That’s not to say I was happy and settled like after the 99 hand the day before at Bay101. This KK hand stung bad, that’s for sure. I thought the pot was mine, but then it wasn’t, and that smarts. And I’ve got way more pride on the line at Lucky Chances than at Bay101. And $10,000 buys a lot of fruit plates.

I had no chips on the table. Again. So I stood up. To go for a little walk. And maybe phone home. All routine stuff.

Outside, standing at the far corner of the parking lot, gazing into an eye-level treetop, I called Kay.

ME: Hi.

KAY: Hi.

ME: I think I should quit this dumb game and write a book called, “Poker Really Sucks Sometimes.”

KAY: What’s our number?

ME: Minus ten thousand.

KAY: I’ll race you to P.F. Chang.

ME: Thank you. See you there.

I went back to the table and said seat open and so long.


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