An Idiot's Guide To Poker: The greatest call I've ever made


As my appetite for internet poker continues to grow, my appetite for doing pretty much anything else resembling work diminishes. 

My career, already stalling, has finally broken. There are other things I could do bar sitting behind a screen all day check-raising sets, value betting rivers with middle pair and bullying regulars out of pots with absolute filth, but none of these things appeal that much. 

None offer the constant intellectual stimulation, challenge and character-building that poker does. None can allow me to earn, in an evening, what I used to earn in a month. None, unfortunately, allow me to loaf around in my undercrackers all day smoking endless cigarettes and drinking endless cups of tea. 

But I need to get better (at poker, not at the smoking and tea drinking - I've pretty much got those nailed). This means more study, more bravery, more thought and, here and there, more luck. 

Example. Earlier I was playing in a £55 buy-in tournament for which I'd satellited into for £6. Things had been sludgy. In the early stages I picked up two red aces on the button. I raised three times the big blind and the usually frisky blinds both folded. Pfft, I thought. The very next hand I got two aces again. I raised three times the big blind again. Everyone folded again. Pfft, I thought, again. 

See? Luck. In the previous couple of orbits I'd seen opponents 4-bet shove all-in with AQo and nines or happily get it in on dryish flops with top pair, dreadful kicker. Win a couple of sizeable pots with those consecutive aces against such plays and I would have been challenging for the chip lead. As it was, I went horribly card dead for a couple of hours and watched my chips slowly evaporate until getting it in blind versus blind on the cash bubble with AKs against A6o.My pretty AKs didn't make it and I was out. 

Still, I didn't mind too much. You need luck at crucial times to win tournaments and today I didn't have it. Besides, I'm still on a high from a call I made earlier in the week, quite possibly the greatest call I've ever made.

We're entering the latter stages of a smallish tournament (120-odd runners) and I pick up QJ on the button. Blinds are 400/800 and I raise to 2,000 to try and pick up the blinds. The small blind complies by folding but the big blind - a sloppy, irregular regular - calls. The flop is 10-K-8 rainbow, giving me an open-ended straight draw. The big blind checks. I bet three-quarters of the pot. He tanks for a while and calls. 

The turn is an unhelpful two. The big blind checks again. I stubbornly make another large bet - hoping to take the pot down without further resistance. He tanks again, and calls again. I have a laughably unthreatening amount of chips behind - less than half of what is in the pot. The river needs to help me. 

It doesn't. It's a three. My opponent insta-shoves the rest of his chips in. I have around 5,000 chips left, there are 29,000 in the pot and I'm left wondering how I got in this mess. My first thought is to fold - I could then double or triple up on the next hand and be in some sort of shape. My second thought is to spite-call and then write something funny and horrible in the chatbox about his 8-3 or whatever the hell he has. My third thought is to think things through. 

The only hands I could reasonably beat are Q/9 or J/9. He's played this hand like he's drawing: check-calling the flop and turn and then shoving on the river because he hasn't hit and is weak and panicking. If he had, say, a ten in his hand he would most likely just check the river with some showdown value. He may well do the same with a king. In fact, the line that he's taken shows either massive strength or massive weakness. If it's massive strength, well, at least I cool calling down with queen-high. If it's massive weakness, well, I still look cool calling down with queen-high and I scoop up a massive pot.

I call and am delighted to see J-9. For a moment, I feel like a poker god. I feel less of one a bit later on the final table when I run my queens into kings for what would have been the chip lead and ghost out of the tournament. Like I said, you need some luck. 



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