The Ogre and Me

The ogre did not trust me. I knew so because of what had happened. Playing limit hold’em, we were headsup on the river and he was first. Eventually, he checked. I bet. With his right hand he held his cards by the slightest corner, teetering over the muck, while his left hand backspun four red chips into the pot, then four more. “I don’t trust you,” he said. I showed my hand and he dropped his.

A little while later I had the button. Everyone folded to the OGRE (Obstreperous Guy Raising Emphatically). Right-handed he raised, with a slam and a snort. His left elbow bumped my right as he swiveled at me with the impatience of a bird. I, however, was on a much slower temporal plane, more like a slug. During an exaggerated recline, I began to look at my cards. The ogre watched me. I watched back at him. I peeked at my hand — ace-king, both black – and quickly I looked up and at him. I reraised while our embrace held.

The small blind folded, the big blind called two bets, and the ogre set about to call my raise. His left hand pushed his cards three inches toward the muck and stopped, as if thinking better of it, then his right hand grabbed a stack of chips and clunked them down in front of me. He cut the stack, four up from the bottom, as if about to raise, but he pulled back as expected, as if letting us off easy.

We were three: the caller, the ogre, and me. The flop came in 8-4-2 with two hearts. The caller checked and the ogre initiated a checking routine. My hat bill was down to where I could only see up to his nostrils. I knew he was looking at me, trying to resume the eye dance. But I was playing turtle.

In time the ogre erupted with a check. I extended my little finger and suspended it for a second. Then I lowered the pinky on him. The dealer promptly burned and turned. The turn card was the jack of hearts.

8c-4h-2h, Jh

Again the caller checked. Again the ogre finally checked. This time I bet. The caller called and at that moment I believed my ace-king was good. The ogre sat still. Suddenly like a toad’s tongue his right hand snatched up a stack of chips and tat-tat-tat-tat arrayed them four by four on the table. Despite his checkraise, I continued to put the ogre on no-pair, and that’s why I wanted the caller to think he had no prayer, and that’s why I made it three bets, just as fast. The caller folded and it was the ogre and me. He got all wiggy and mumbled something about an idiot. I could not be sure which of us he was talking about.

The ogre raised again and we were up to four bets on the turn, with the action back to me. I figured one of two things. Either he had deep-checked twice with a hand that had me drawing dead (two pair or a set or a flush), or, his reraising power was generated by one really good card: the ace of hearts. With that card, he would know that I did not have the nuts. And he would be drawing to make the nuts on the river, or top pair, or even after a total miss he could always showdown ace-high for a shot at this gorged pot. Yeah, that was it. He was pushing hard with the lone ace of trump. I could feel it. But am I really supposed to make it five bets? With no pair and no flush draw? Too uncertain to advance with a raise, or retreat with a fold, I called, fastened to this pot like a barnacle. Had the ogre said, “Let’s bet an additional and final $40 right now and run the river and see who wins,” I would have agreed to it, on momentum. I had mentally appropriated one more bet to this pot. If it went in on the river with me as the caller, fine. As the bettor, even better.

The river was a blank seven. The ogre held eight chips in his right hand and extended it palm up, submissively. Meanwhile, I had $40 in chips in hand too, looking like I was momentally ready to call a bet, or make one. The ogre’s hand moved lower. His knuckle touched felt, and my bluff-catching chips transformed into value-betting chips, and in they went, cascading forward like eight round ripples beneath a skipping rock. The ogre turned over one of his cards, and no surprise, it was the ace of hearts. He pushed the naked ace so close to me that there was no hiding that I could not hide from it. He slid the ace back and forth like a cat shaking the life out of a mouse. The mouse died and attention moved back to the ogre’s right hand as it embarked upon a call. Crying chips dripped from the side of his cupped palm, one and two at a time, some rolling a little, some plopping flat. I showed my hand. And it was good.



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