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Sometimes You’ve Gotta Go with Your Gut

January 20, 2010
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There are three things I try never to do at the poker table:

  1. Go on tilt
  2. Play weak or marginal hands out of position
  3. Let the game get personal

Last night, I failed at all three and still got lucky, which is how I ended up walking away with a whopping $5 profit after a seven-hour session at the Venetian. And no, I’m not complaining, considering I could have walked away with a +$300 loss.

The evening started well enough as I made a few hands early on and quickly chipped up to a profit of $150. Then, the bottom fell out as I made three hands on the river and lost each time. First, I made my top two pair and lost to a weak flush. Then, I rivered both my set and an eight-high flush only to lose to a King-high flush. Then, I moved all in with my up-and-down straight flush draw and hit my Jack-high straight only to get notched by a Queen-high straight. Suddenly, my profit had disappeared along with a full buy-in.

Deciding I needed a change of scenery, I moved to a new table that was much more enjoyable than my first. The table was fun and loose, with lots of random conversation keeping everyone entertained. Again, I picked up a few hands early on and quickly won back $200 of my first buy-in. In fact, I was cruising along nicely until a young, fat, obnoxious player (henceforth known as Jabba) plopped his ass into the 2 seat.

Jabba wasted no time in taking over the role of table captain, inserting is opinion into every conversation, bragging about his gambling prowess and, most importantly, raising every hand to $16 before the flop. I played back at him a couple of times with reasonable hands, but couldn’t do much to slow him down as I was catching a steady supply of crap. Nor could anybody else. Jabba, on the other hand, hit just about everything he played and, as a result, got even more obnoxious as his chip stack grew. He also got more and more drunk, which was a good thing.

After more than an hour or so of Jabba’s antics, he had painted a big target on his forehead with at least three of us actively looking for spots where we could mix it up with him. Which brings me to my hand of the night.

The hand started with Bob, a solid young player from Boston, raising to $10. Jabba, as was his want, quickly re-raised to $26 from the button before action moved to me in the big blind where I looked down to find pocket 4s. Figuring even a small pair was well ahead of Jabba’s range, which now seemed to be any two cards, and that Bob was certainly calling an extra $16 to see a flop, I re-popped the pot to $95. Bob folded and Jabba thought for a few seconds before drunkenly re-raising to $200, leaving himself just $40 behind.

Having to call just $105 to win more than $300 was a no-brainer, so I moved all in preferring to get all the money in now than after the flop. Jabba, of course, called and happily flipped over pocket 8s – the first real hand I’d seen him with in about an hour.

I kept my hand concealed and he grinned like a monkey as the flop fell 9-6-4. Bingo! A 9 on the turn left him just two outs, which didn’t come as a 10 fell on the river. I grinned back at Jabba before showing my boat and causing the table to erupt. Jabba, of course, wasn’t happy and went into a drunken rage about his bad luck. I couldn’t have asked for more as I enjoyed watching him tilt at least as much as I enjoyed scooping up his chips.

Whether or not I played the hand badly is certainly open to debate. I know Jabba had gotten under my skin and that I was a little tilted before the hand started. Against anyone else at the table, I also know I wouldn’t have re-raised with my 4s preflop, preferring instead to call and, hopefully, hit my set. That said, I really did believe my hand was best, and I was more than happy to take my chances with Jabba.

As it turned out, I got lucky after making the wrong play at the wrong time. Still, given the same circumstances I would trust my gut and make the same play again.

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