I usually hate when people dedicate blog space to tales of poker woe (even Mike D’Angelo, who can make even the most staid and unwatchable third-world cinema seem exhilarating, tends to resort to navel gazing when reporting on some amazing hand he witnessed) but if I didn’t get this experience out of my system it’s just gonna eat at me for weeks.
Okay to set the scene, we were playing nine-handed, No Limit Hold ‘Em. I was first under the gun, but what’s important to note here is that the guys in front of me were getting messy with both their chips and the dealer button. The guy with the button had flopped it down between himself and the small blind, so from my angle it looked like the small blind was actually the dealer. How could I have made this mistake you ask? Well as often happens when people have been lighting up during the breaks of the game, he was getting a bit lax with getting his blinds out in a timely fashion (not that I’m bitter). And of course, I’m as sober as a priest so I look to my right, see the button followed by what I assume is the small blind so I dutifully toss out my “big blind” and, like a good donkey in training, wait for the action to come around to me (the presumed BB) before I take a peak at my cards (the preferred technique of pros everywhere). Except of course, the action doesn’t come back to me. I’ve just called the blind without even looking at my cards.
After grumbling about the sloppy chip work ahead of me at the table, I announce that I have checked in the dark, although realizing that doesn’t mean much of anything to this call-happy bunch. I finally peak at my cards and I find AQ off-suit, which is actually the best starting hand I’d had all night up to that point. Obviously, under ideal circumstances, I’d have raised (even first to act) just to keep the cheapos from out-flopping me, but whatever. I’m quickly appeased when the flop comes in a rainbow of 5A7. I quietly begin counting all that money in the pot which will be mine in a minute. I raise 100. The girl to my right labors for a few seconds before making the call. I dismiss it as she’s been playing pretty loose all night and I figure she caught middle pair with a decent kicker. A couple people fold followed by a quick call by an accomplished player. I immediately suspect he’s got an Ace but that he doesn’t re-raise tells me he’s not confident about it.
The turn hits and it’s a lowly 4. Another card I don’t have to worry about. I bet 200. The girl next door calls, which definitely scares me as now I think she maybe hit two pair. Mr. Experience labors for an eternity before finally folding. He recognizes the strength of my Ace, going so far as whispering his hand to his girlfriend just so she can appreciate his table discipline. I’m starting to suspect I may be in trouble though. A Jack comes out on the river and at this point I know my only hope is to check then re-raise all-in if she tries to bet it but thankfully (in hindsight) she checks herself.
We flip over her cards. She’d had a 23 and caught an improbable, bordering on impossible, 5-high straight on the turn. I was out roughly 40% of my chips.
So what happened? Putting aside how sloppy the business with the dealer button was, my mistake was pretending I was Phil Hellmuth and deciding not to check my dealt cards until the action came around to me (a practice that is henceforth banished from my repertoire). If I had bothered to look at them as soon as they were put in front of me, my sizable re-raise would have easily scared away the 2-3 which was a shit hand, and possibly encouraged the more experienced player to go over the top with a bet to try and defend his hand (which ended up being a totally dominated A9). But instead, I gave a player the chance to win with one of the worst starting hands in the game and paid dearly for it.
I was pretty much on tilt after that so when I was dealt pocket Q’s in position I went all-in. It was the right move but only because of my low chip stack. I actually got 2-calls (yelp) but was better off than both of them. Problem is, one of the guys behind me pairs his Ace on the flop and I’m off to the rails. Done before 10:30 and I’ve got a long ride back to the valley in front of me.
Stupid fucking dealer button.