Inside the Poker Tour (23)
I know that my longevity in the game has given me front row seats in situations that others can only imagine but I will mention the following hands, all are true stories and will seldom be seen at the poker table.
Hand one happened in a bar in downtown Coos Bay, Oregon in 1982. The game is five to ten dollars a bet on every street Texas holdem, eight handed, and is played as fast and loose as the following hand indicates. Big John puts the live 10 on it, as he often does. Now Big John is no longer with us but he was an amazing character that some will remember from his later jaunts to the Bicycle Club in Los Angeles after California legalized holdem. He was a young man of about 350 pounds with a big beard and a twinkle in his eye who wore coveralls with many a "Jesus" button pinned to the straps and his favorite joke was to ask anyone new in the game if they knew what a 300 pound canary sounded like, when they replied "No" he let loose with a CHIRP that would take the paint off nearby walls.
So in this particular hand he got a raiser and three callers and when it came back to him he made it 30 to go, it was capped and five players took the flop, which came Jc4s3h. Big John led out, one caller, and a young man from the Coast Guard (CG) that had likely had a beer or two too many raised him, Big John re-raised, the third player mucked and CG capped it. The turn was the 9d and the same action followed, now heads-up. The river was the Js and Big John bet out again. Now CG squirms for a while and finally says "I know I can't beat you, but I want to see what you have" and calls. Big John gives a victory spread and roars out in that canary cackle of his, full of sheer delight, "Five high, beat it if you can!" and shows 5h2h, the NUT NOTHING. Don't worry that takes half the pot as CG turns over 5c2c and a good laugh is had by all.
A few months later I was playing in a 5 to 20 holdem game (this means 20 dollars was the maximum bet size on all four streets), the game was six handed when this happened. I was in the big blind and held 7c5h with three limpers in front of me and I checked for the free flop which came 4c3s2d. I bet right out for 20 and was called only by Tom Burgess who was an export log buyer in the area at that time who had a love of poker that cannot be surpassed. The turn came the 9h and the same thing happened, the river came the 9s and again I led out for 20. Now Tom goes into a long huddle and finally he calls! (Why not raise, folks, if you think your opponent is betting a weak hand?) I show the 75, the NUT NOTHING, and he shows 7c6c for the second best nothing! Which wins!
There have to be some witnesses to these hands that were played in what were high-middle limits for those times.
Let us move on to a few famous moments in the world of the true high roller we will call M (he has won a WSOP gold bracelet as well and is a fearless aggressive player of note). In scene one he is in a casino playing blackjack and has already lost 6 figures, now he is betting 10,000 dollars on a hand of blackjack and is dealt two face cards for a total of 20, a close neighbor to the perfect hand. "Hit it!" he says emphatically as the dealer tries to go on past him. "What," she says, flustered, "do you mean 'split' them?" "No," he responds, "I mean hit it!" "But, but..." she splutters. "Do you think I am going to let you bust me?" he asks, with an insight that would make Celine cackle from his grave.
In scene two he is playing pot limit holdem freezeout for five figures at a time, in Tunica, Mississippi, and at the end of a hand his opponent makes a large bluff at the pot. M studies for a moment and then calls with 10 high. Now maybe a few of you can imagine calling for 10,000 real dollars or more in a real game but what happens next is surreal. M's opponent knocks the table acknowledging that he has been caught betting some type of nothing, but instead of letting his opponent throw his cards away as most of us would be happy to do after we call a bluff with a weak and vulnerable hand M now says, "Let's see those cards!" He won the hand just as he expected to, but lost an opponent who did not go for another heads-up session. Who wants to play with someone that reads you that well and then humiliates you on top of it?
Now I have played hundreds of thousands of holdem hands and have called with jack high on the river about 15 times winning about 10 of those hands, most of those hands occurred in limit holdem with it costing me no more than 60 real dollars each time. If you strongly feel that your opponent has nothing, or logically might have a draw with small cards it is occasionally correct but I have to share with you the fact that in every case I thought that my opponent either had nearly nothing or a huge hand. When you try to peer into the "soul" of your opponent it is often hard to tell the difference. Poker is certainly a game of imperfect information and when you see an opponent as weak it is sometimes because they are bad actors or that their big hands make them tremble.
I have also called on the river with no cards to come with 10 high thrice (2-1), 9 high twice (1-1), and 8 high once (0-1) with 6 calls in no-limit and 15 in limit holdem. My advice would be to never call with less than king high but there are two intangibles to explain my calls with, beyond any perception of my opponent.
One is that if you are perceived to be a player that starts with big hands you must make some tough calls to protect your territory and earn the respect of your peersthis applies to me and to some other players, most notably Eric Seidel. Every time the whole table stands up and screams "what?" in unison as I call the river and win a huge pot with Q high I know that the message has been sent and that it is loud and clear. There will always exist a doubt in the back of a potential bluffer's mind that he may get called.
The second intangible is what it does to the psyche of your opponent. If it makes them see red and chase you down for hours hoping to put a bad beat on you then you might get an extra benefit from winning with a long-shot call.
Some years ago David Chiu gained fame by not only winning the Tournament of Champions but by doing so by laying down KK when he raised on, or next to, the button and faced a huge re-raise by Louis Asmo, from the little blind, when the antes and blinds were large and it was late in the tournament. In this same tournament he doubletake counterpointed this decision by calling a bet that was made by a busted flush draw with king high!
So now you know what to do! Play good...and get lucky!
Ed Note: Dennis is going to Aruba - Are you?? Win your way to paradise at Ultimate Bet