Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Thursday, April 28, 2005

Walk it off
Written by: Beck

OK, time for a "bad beat" story.

For non-poker types, a bad beat is when you lose a lot of money on a single hand. I've avoided bad beat stories because, well, they tend to sound whiney and annoying to the rest of the world. But I'm going to share this one, because there's a good lesson to be learned from it. That, and it makes for a relatively interesting hand of poker.

So anyway, I found myself with Queen-Jack offsuit in the big blind in a game of limit hold 'em at the Borgata. There were five other people in the hand, and no one had raised, so I decided to just check, hopefully disguising the strength of my hand should it hit, and allowing me to lay it down cheaply should things be unfavorable on the flop.

The flop came down Ace(hearts) Queen (clubs) Seven (diamonds). Not a great flop, but not disastrous either. I checked, as did the next person, and then a solid player bet out. Knowing his play, it was a virtual guarantee that he had a pair of aces. He almost always would slowplay trips or two pair, so I wasn't too worried, though I was pretty sure I was behind.

After that, an old and extremely weak player called, a tight Asian dude called, and I called (I figured I had five outs to the best hand, and the implied odds sufficiently compensated for a call here even though I was pretty sure I was losing at that point). The other two players remaining to act folded.

There was only one thing notable, and that was the Asian who called. He was a good player, and wouldn't call with nothing, but would likely have raised if he had top-pair to induce a fold from me. That made his most likely holding a pair of queens, but it was hard to guess his kicker, as he was in the small blind and could have limped in with nearly anything.

I paid no mind to the weak player. He was what is often referred to as a "calling station." There may well be no worse epithet in poker than "calling station." A calling station is someone who comes into a poker room, calls nearly any bet with nearly any cards, and then leaves the poker room with no more money. It's like watching a pedestrian get run over by a steamroller. They never stand a chance.

The turn was the Queen of diamonds. Now I was in business, as that improved my hand to three of a kind. The good player with aces was clearly bothered by this, but bet out nonetheless (which was the correct play, incidentally--perhaps I'll discuss why some other time). The calling station called. The Asian raised. Sure enough, I was right about him having a Queen. At this point, I wanted the pot heads-up. I didn't want Ace boy drawing out on me. If I lost this pot, it was going to be to the Asian or no one else.

So I reraised. Ace boy now folded--the smart play, though his behavior gave me a sufficient read on him that in a later hand I was able to bluff him out of a pot (which is why you should always guard your behavior, regardless of whether you plan on playing a hand any further). The calling station spent a long time looking like a deer in the headlights and eventually went for his chips like I knew he would and called.

Then came a surprise. The Asian reraised my reraise. I had been sure he didn't have Ace-Queen, but he likewise would be sure that I didn't have Ace-Queen (or I would have raised after the flop). Therefore, he must have King-Queen--in other words, I was out-kicked.

I resolved myself to defeat, but called the bet. The pot was getting huge now, and to fold would have been a very bad move. The calling station, of course, called.

The river was a nothing card. The Six of Diamonds. The Asian bet, I made a crying call, convinced that my money was lost, but unwilling to simply hand the pot over. The calling station--you guessed it--called.

And the Asian turned up Queen-Jack. The same hand I had. Relief washed through me. The pot had the equivalent of 42 big blinds in it. That was a lot of money. I had been so convinced that I had lost that the knowledge I had not lost hit me like an endorphin rush.

I tossed my own Queen-Jack down on the table and loudly announced, "Chop it!" (Poker lingo for dividing the pot in half). That was when the calling station showed up a Four-Six of Diamonds.

He had a flush.

He had limped in with an absolutely awful starting hand. He had then called a bet with nothing but a three-flush. I had been so dismissive of the chump that I never even thought--not for a second--about what kind of hand he might have. What's more, I was so certain of the Asian's hand, that I hadn't been alert to any potential flush draws after the flop came with three different suits. I knew that the odds weren't good enough to draw to a three flush, and as such, dismissed from my mind the notion that anyone else might not make the same realization.

What's worse, I had been so relieved upon seeing the Asian's hand that the sudden reversal caught me with my emotional guard completely down. It was like being punched in the gut.

At that point I realized I was in now shape mentally to continue playing, so I got up, walked upstairs, and bought dinner at one of the Borgata's many restaurants. After that, my head was straight, I was well fed, and I was good to go. I headed back down to the poker room, and proceeded to fight tooth and nail to get my money back.

The calling station left the table an hour or so later. He had no money left.

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