Just got back from Foxwoods; on the ride back I was trying to think of a metaphor you non-poker players could grasp that would represent my day yesterday. Those of you “in the know” need only the two words at the top of this post. I was clinically “card dead.”
Anyway, the (awful, perhaps inappropriate) metaphor I came up with was to re-imagine the Vietnam war draft-lottery as something that did not send you to war, but rather to a wonderful amusement park. And instead of watching them draw people’s birth-dates on television, at home, they did it right in front of the gates to the amusement park, so while you waited and waited, you had to watch and hear everyone else having fun inside. They pull 300 dates out of the hopper, and still, you’re on the sidewalk.
I spent twelve fucking hours yesterday in the same chair, and never had a hand. What made it so particularly frustrating was that there were several bad players getting lucky and amassing big stacks of chips (“running like God,” as my friend Justin would say). In that situation, you just bide your time and wait for the cards to bust them; alas, they never came. The situation was so promising that on the occasions when I went outside for a cigarette, I stubbed it out halfway through because all you people who tell me to quit are correct and should be applauded I didn’t want to miss any more hands than absolutely necessary.
In twelve hours, I was never once dealt AA or KK, and I flopped a set a grand total of one time. That was in a raised, four-way pot, involving two guys who called everything, but sure enough, when I bet out, they folded. It was arguably the most boring day of my life. I slogged through several chapters of Infinite Jest and did three or four (!) Sunday-sized crosswords, folding shitty hand after shitty hand (though this did lead to a somewhat favorable “table image,” so I successfully bluffed at a few pots with 2-3 and everyone folded), but at the end of the day I was down $159. That means for the two days, I only won $56 — pretty disappointing results.
What makes a slow, boring day even crueler is boring talk at the table. For a looooong time, I was between two guys who were trading bad beat stories, not even really listening to each other, but just waiting to talk over the other. It was painful. If some guy at the table showed Q-6, one of them would launch into a story about how he once had Aces cracked by Q-6. You just want to say “fascinating story” and roll your eyes. Making things even worse was that one of these two guys had the habit of punctuating each of his “witty remarks” with “ha ha, you know?” I noticed this tic of his and it slowly began to drive me insane — to the point where I was thisclose to telling him about it in the altruistic pursuit of bettering his life.
Anyway, last night I saw the most insane “suck-out” I’ve ever seen at a brick-and-mortar casino. I will narrate from the POV of a guy who sat down with 300, ran it up to 1100, and then back down to 250 or so before winning a few more pots. I had a hard time trying to figure out whether he was any good — until this hand.
He had K-10, and may have made a small raise. The guy right after him (let’s call him Solid Guy) re-raised to $25. This guy had been getting huge pairs, making big raises (usually, to $25), and showing his cards, so there was no reason to put him on anything besides AA, KK, QQ, or maybe AK. Everyone folded, and our “hero” called. The flop came like so…
… and the Solid Guy bet out $100, half his remaining stack. Now, let’s think for a second about this. Here’s the short list of the hands Solid Guy could have, the cards you need to beat him (you are, as they say, “drawing to an inside straight,” which is one of the worst things you can do), and the probability of doing so:
AA — only a Queen — you have 4 “outs” out of 47 unseen cards.
KK — same thing, basically.
QQ — you have a whopping five outs (two Queens, three Kings)
JJ — it’s even worse.
AK — you’re basically hoping to see a 10, and even then you’re probably beat. Again, you need a Queen.
So, regardless of whatever Solid Guy is holding (unless he’s on a stone cold bluff — and we know that’s simply not possible given his table image), you are a gigantic underdog. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you are getting the proper odds (similar to the thought-process that once the Powerball jackpot goes over $195 million, buying a one-dollar ticket is technically a financially sound investment). But Solid Guy only has another $100 left in his stack! So the “implied odds” here are basically only 2.5 : 1. You are calling $100 to win $250 (since there’s $50 in the pot, plus his $100 bet, plus his remaining $100). You should only make this call if you think you have a chance of winning equal to or greater than 29%, and anyone with a brain can tell you that you don’t.
Well, our “hero” thinks long and hard about it, and calls. Sure enough… a Queen comes on the turn. Solid Guy immediately says all-in, “hero” snap-calls, and they both throw down their cards face-up triumphantly:
Un-fucking-believable (I’m sure I said something very much to that effect). Notice that Solid Guy is still a 22% chance to win — if the river is a J, 9, 2, or Q he makes a full house and wins. But the Poker Gods were very much behind our “hero” last night, and his King-high straight held up.
Now do you see why I was so frustrated at being kept out of the amusement park?