April 2008
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Not the eight o’clock tournament

As the Gutshot poker club no longer exists, while I was staying in London for work earlier in the week I headed down to the Powerhouse Sporting Club to enjoy their coffee bar and see if I could get a game of Jenga or Connect 4.

As it happened, there was a poker game about to start but of course it was definitely not for money. I did not pay £50 to enter, and there was no additional £5 bounty.

There was also definitely not any pressure for players to leave a voluntary donation.  I did not buy in with three £20s, so obviously they did not not offer me any change.

53 players turned up to enjoy only the thrill of the competition and to battle it out for no more than bragging rights.  It’s a game of skill… yada yada yada.

We started with 3500 chips and I picked up pocket aces on the second hand.  Blinds were 25/50 and an early position player raised to 225.  His neighbour called and I was next, making it 800 to go.

The player to my left called in a flash and it got folded round to the early raiser.

"How much to me?", he said.  "Five… what…. six…? fift…?  seventy five?".  He figured it out eventually and made the call, but not before proving what I’d always suspected: a raise to a "normal" amount plus one small chip has nothing to do with any strategy, it’s just so you get to see two different pretty colours tumbling through the air when you make your bet.  Wheeee.

I expected to see this player make a three-chip flop bet and show us all that he could count to 625, but in fact he checked, as did I and the third player.  The flop was a king and a ten and a seven, all different suits and I didn’t want to get too excited with one pair so early on.  In truth, I wasn’t really ready to deal with a tough decision yet.

The turn brought another ten – now I had two pair, for what that’s worth – and the first player bet 250.  With all that pre-flop action, the pot stood at 2475 so it may as well have been a check.  I raised to 800, again a tiny bet in relation to the pot, but I hoped it might buy me a little information – or a free showdown – while still keeping the pot quite small.  This line is either genius or ultra-weak, I’ll let you decide.

I didn’t have a great handle on the situation, but I figured that if a player who had only called my re-raise out of position pre-flop now decided to 3-bet on a king-high board, pocket aces were almost certainly not good and I would be able to fold and still have more than half a starting stack to play with.

However, if the third player decided to stick around (he’d already called two raises cold pre-flop, why not call a bet and a raise again now?) I was going to be completely stumped.  I was very glad indeed when he folded.

In for two fiddy, in for eight hundy, the other guy called and we went to the river heads up.  I don’t remember what card it was.  I didn’t look until he’d checked, and I already knew I was checking behind anyway unless it was another ace.  I flipped up the aces and he slid his hand into the muck.

"I had pocket nines", he said.  And now, the punchline: "I put you on ace-queen".

That was as interesting as it got though, I hardly saw another hand worth playing before I ended up flipping a little pair against two big cards and losing.

I took a nice long walk back to my hotel, thinking about what I could have not won.