THE CHARACTERS AND THEIR CARDS: Mark D’mann, with pocket aces Chatter, with pocket eights Robin Blinds, with nine-four offsuit
Mark: That idiot Robin has the button and I know he will raise with anything, so I’ll be real slick and just limp in with my pocket aces, planning to reraise when it comes back around. So I open for $20, and this goofball next to me, they call him Chatter, he says to me . . .
Chatter: “Hey Mark. I think you forgot to raise. Is that legal is this game”? But then, I say stuff like that all the time. I suppose that’s why they call me Chatter. Thing is, all I do is say the truth, or some of it anyway, and they always take it the wrong way, just like I trained them to.
I have pocket eights and there is no point in raising, not with Mark already in, and reckless Robin right behind me on the button. I know Robin will raise whether I do or not, so I just call the $20, and of course . . .
Robin: Of course I raise. Somebody has to. Besides, I have the button. Plus I have granite Greg and tiltless Tommy on my left, in the blinds, both just itching to fold again. So I raise, and both blinds fold, and while that’s going on, I look at my cards. Nine of hearts, four of clubs. That’s okay. I’ve seen worse. Besides, when they say, “You have to play the cards you’re dealt,” they don’t say anything at all about folding.
Mark: Nice raise, Robin. You are like a puppet on my string. But wait. Both blinds folded? And it’s just me and Chatter and Robin? I think I’ll just smoothcall with these two aces, to make sure Chatter stays in. “I call.”
Chatter: I’m in here with dingus and doofus, and I’ve got pocket eights. Not bad. I call the four chips and say, “Let’s see the river.”
Robin: I was the raiser, and I have the button, and these two yahoos never know what I have. I like it. And I like my 9-4. It makes Mark and Chatter feel so good about themselves when I turn over a hand like this at the showdown. It amuses them, so I continue to do it, as a public service, like a humanitarian. Maybe they would be likewise amused to know that I got kicked out of Harvard for peddling bongs built in chem lab. And that now I own a chain of pipe stores, and that my cell phone is all charged up in case my head is needed at one of my head shops, so let’s see some flops. Here comes one right now:
ace / ace / eight
A perfect flop for my 9-4. Most likely I’ll lose one bet or win the whole pot. Looks like it was a good flop for Mark too, judging from the way he just said . . .
Mark: “Check.” I check. Did anyone see me check? Jesus Mary and Joseph I just flopped four aces. Did I check too fast? Too slow? holy-christ-I-cant-breathe. “I check.”
Chatter: I suppose ace-ace-eight isn’t too bad a flop for pocket eights. Gives me merely eights full. The bad news is, even Robin won’t give me much action unless he’s got an ace, and in that case I’ll get all I can eat. So I’ll just check it and let Robin bet and maybe get Mark to join the party. I give the table a hearty rap while I say, “That flop is all me, boys. But I’m going to check it anyway.”
Robin: Man I’m hungry. “Hey Susie, what’s the special today? Seared Ahi? No thanks. They say you are what you eat, and I don’t want to be a fish. Or a fruit or a vegetable for that matter. Bring me a side order of — yes I know it’s my turn — I check — bring me a side order of bacon and two scoops of spumoni, like I had yesterday. Thanks hon.”
Mark: Dammit. I cannot believe Robin checked. Damn waitress. Oh well. I guess nobody has anything. I’m going to check my four aces again, real smooth, no matter what. Here comes the turn card. It’s the . . .
Chatter: Last eight in the universe. Nice. I make quad eights on the turn and Robin is ordering food and Mark is in some kind of weird trance. Looks like my best bet to make any money on this hand is to give Robin however much rope he needs to hang himself with. Sometimes I scare myself, how good I play. I cast the bait and say, “Looks like it’s going be up to you to steal this pot, Robin. I check.”
Robin: Mark and Chatter both check the turn? Hmm. That’s odd. Now I’m thinking that both of them might have started with pocket pairs in the hole, smaller than eights, and that they both just got counterfeited by the two pair on board. And that means that my nine-high is the best hand. Either that, or one of them has a full house and is trying to get me to bet. The best plan is to check now, and maybe call one bet on the river if it comes to that. After all, I’ve never called on the end with nine-high and won before. And how many chances will I get?
My cell phone rings. I look at the phone display. It’s Earl, my manager at store #2. I decide to have some fun. I answer the phone loudly and say, “Hi Earl. Do you think I should bluff ’em?” I ignore Earl’s “huh,” and I say, “I think you’re right. Thanks.” Then I say to the dealer, “I check.” Everyone has a little chuckle, except for Mark and Chatter.
Mark: They should ban those damn cell phones in here. Damn things take the gamble right out of people. I guarantee you, if Robin’s phone had not rung at that instant, he would have bet the turn. Damn cell phones. Here comes the river card. What is it? An offsuit deuce? Fine. Here then is the type of reasoning that makes me a great poker player: I am 100% certain that Chatter and Robin will both fold if I bet the river. Therefore, the correct play is to check, to get one of these chumps to bluff. “I check.”
Chatter: Here is the type of reasoning that makes me a great poker player: I am 100% certain that both these clowns will fold if I bet the river. Therefore, the correct play is to check and give Robin one last chance to bluff. So I say, “I don’t even want to win this dinky little pot. I check again.”
Robin: Should I bet the river? Well let’s see. I am 100% certain that neither of my opponents has an ace or an eight because one of them would have bet by now. If I bet the river, I will be called by these hands that beat me: king-high, queen-high, and maybe even jack-high. And if I bet, the counterfeited pocket pairs will fold. That leaves ten-high as the only hand that I can bluff out. Therefore, the right play is to check the river, for value, with nine-high, and hope to win the showdown if they both limped in with pairs.
Instead of checking and waiting for them to show their hands, I go ahead and turn over my 9-4, for two reasons. First, if nine-high is the best hand, it looks great that it looks like I knew that it would be. Second, I don’t want these guys to ever forget my range of starting hands.
Mark: Robin shows, even though he doesn’t have to. He has his typical trash: 9-4. I turn over my pocket aces, poised and dignified. I have nothing to be ashamed of. It is yet another perfectly played hand by me. These simpletons have no idea how big my edge is against them. If the cards ever break even, I’ll bust ’em all.
Chatter: Mark turns over pocket aces and I’m thinking this must be one of the happiest moments of my life. Not only did I save three or four hundred dollars by outplaying Mark. But now I can torment him about this hand, for weeks, months. And not surprisingly, I have just the right material to kickoff the occasion. First, I pause and look at all those aces on the table. I touch a couple of them. Now I turn over my four eights, without saying anything, and I look at Mark. He turns bone white and stops breathing. Now he turns beet red and starts panting. I let the moment linger, tastefully, exquisitely, until everyone at the table has fully grasped the greatness of it. Finally, I deliver the line, as if scooping salt onto Mark’s wounds. “Listen up, boys. I advise you to examine the way I played this hand, and learn this lesson from it: You can ne-ver-be-too-care-ful.” No one laughs except for that peebrain, Robin. Mister nine-four offsuit. Look at him, snickering, as if he is the one who just got away with something.
Robin: It’s a tie as to who is worse at poker between these two bozos. And they both think they are way better than the other one. And they both think they are both way way better than me. But the truth is, I am way better than they are, because I know the secret. And here it is. Every player thinks he knows more than his opponent thinks he knows. And staying true to that idea, I really don’t think Mark and Chatter know that I know this.
At the showdown, I look at their hands – four aces and four eights – and I commend myself on being the greatest poker player of all time, this time. Then I realize something that makes me giggle. My hunch was right. They did both have pocket pairs.
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