December 2008
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Four play

I was beginning to wonder whether I’d actually find anything of note to write about poker after seeing nothing at all out of the ordinary in my first 3 sessions.

Then tonight in the first 15 minutes of playing at the Rio I have the most surreal poker experience I can remember.

When good things happen early on, I just don’t seem to be prepared for them.  I’m much happier to sit for a while folding hands, or limp in and missing the flop until I’ve settled in the game.

Today, when I end up flopping a pair of kings, turning trips and rivering quads with my mighty king-jack suited on only the second hand I’d been dealt, I was caught somewhat on the back foot.

One player bet $15 into a pot of about $60 and I raised to $50.  The third player in the hand showed his cards to everyone who wasn’t still involved (I later learned he had flopped the nut flush and played it way too slowly) and the initial bettor folded.

I dragged in a modest pot and mucked my hand.  As you do.

It was only a few minutes later that it hit me that there’s probably a high hand jackpot.

I turned round and saw something written on a whiteboard on the wall: "Quad 8s or better: $900".

Oh. Did I win?  Well, no, because I didn’t show my hand and nobody would believe me if I suddenly started piped up "oh wait, I had four kings the last hand". 

Why would I just muck my hand though?  I knew I had quads, obviously.  I’d also seen they were dropping a dollar every hand for a jackpot.  And I knew that many casinos offered high hand jackpots.

But two cards have to play for a high hand, right?  They do at most places, but I don’t know about here.  Also the dealer would have said something after I raised with three kings on board, right?  She’d want her cut.

I really REALLY didn’t want to ask now.  Effectively spewing off $900 in a single hand at a $300 maximum buy-in game was definitely going to make me tilt, and letting everyone at the table know that’s what I’d done would be even worse.

I had to try to convince myself that I hadn’t won anything, but I wasn’t doing a very good job.  "Right then, never mind", I thought, trying to compose myself.  "I’ll just have to hit it again".

I still wasn’t convinced, but someone up there must like me.

Before the button had moved all the way round the table I was dealt 88 and the flop was a magical 788.  I re-checked my cards about 30 times.  Yes, I definitely had quads again.  This time I was definitely showing it.

I couldn’t have written the script any better myself.  Quad eights was the lowest possible hand that was just high enough to qualify for the jackpot I thought I’d missed.

If I had actually been paid on the quad kings, chances are either the prize amount would have been reset to a smaller prize, or the qualifying hand would have gone up so that four eights didn’t win anything at all.

Either way, I’d no longer lost $900 and I could breathe normally again.

First, I needed to get some value from the hand and that happened fairly easily.

The player to my right had been catatonic since I arrived at the table.  I’d already had to tap him on the arm when the waitress turned up with his beer, to which his head rotated like the girl in The Exorcist until he realised what was going on.

He had managed to order the drink without speaking and almost without moving.  He lifted up the bottle a few inches, the beer lady said "turn it around for me honey" and he eventually figured out that only he could see the label when it was facing him.

He bet all the way and I just called until the river, keeping one other player in the hand for a couple of bets.  The turn was a jack of hearts and the river 9 of hearts giving a possible straight flush against my quads, but that would have made an even better story so I wasn’t worried.

I moved all in on the river and he called, slowly turning over a pair of nines for a rivered full house.  It took him a while to count all four of my eights and then suddenly there was movement.

He’s alive.  Alive I tell you.

The dude stood up, said "so sick" about a hundred times, started to leave the room, came back to whinge a bit more and eventually stormed off for good.

So, ship me $900?

Apparently not.  That jackpot is only good between 3am and 3pm, and I was playing at a time when the games were actually running.

They still take $1 from every pot towards the jackpot during normal hours, but not a penny is paid back until stupid o’clock.

False alarms and near-heart attacks aside, I’m really not a fan of this "promotion", and I’m probably not going to play at the Rio again.

Anyway, what are the odds?  I might work it out some time, but it’s pretty slim.

I checked back through my records and it’s almost exactly two years since I last hit quads.  In total it’s more than 200 hours of play.

The really strange thing though is the last time I also hit two in the same session.  There was no jackpot then either, but at least I got a t-shirt and a cap.