On a random night after work, with nothing to lose and a little change in my pocket going jing-a-ling-a-ling, I found myself with a hankering to play some cards. Next stop: Hard Rock Casino poker room.
I no longer profess to be the poker whiz of old when I was frequenting rather profitable house games three to four nights a week. A steady job has made an honest man out of me… but don’t be confused. I can still hold my own on the felt.
This particular Friday night, I sat down with $100 worth of chips at the only $1-$2 cash table available, low stakes for anyone you would normally take poker advice from, however, this particular hand is worth discussing.
Three hands into my session, I became the big blind. I was dealt the 4-8 of spades, ordinarily a crap hand but playable for the right price. The first three players to my left folded… and then came the raises. One player directly across from me bet ten dollars with two others after him calling. Since I had just sat down and was feeling a little frisky, I decided to call the eight bucks. Had fewer people called, I probably would not have reciprocated but the thirty in the pot, plus my blind already posted, gave me a nice enough number to at least see the flop.
It was a good thing I did. The flop came out 8C, 6S, 2S, giving me top pair (eights) and a flush draw, albeit low (spades). At worst, I was against a higher pocket pair or a better flush draw. Since action fell first to me, I decided to test the waters and weed out the riff-raff.
I bet twelve dollars.
The initial bettor tossed in fifty-five bucks, giving me the impression he had that higher pocket pair and wanted to set a healthy price for me to wait out that flush. He had considerably more chips than I did. The two players behind him folded which left me with $43 to call.
How confident did I feel about his hand, my hand, landing that fifth spade with two cards to come and whether that spade would even help me? I put him on that high pocket pair, certainly good enough to beat my eights if the flush didn’t hit. I figured he wouldn’t have bet so high were he also on a draw. I decided to call.
The next card came: a king of hearts, no help to me. With odds of winning the hand considerably less in my favor, but still pot-committed and not going anywhere, I pushed in the rest of my chips. He quickly called.
The river came: a spade. He turned over trip kings but knew he was toast. “If you have a flush, you’re good,” he said. I turned over the 8-4. Eyes on the table lit up, my beautiful big blind special. I acted like I had been there before, gathering my chips without a word. Four hands into my session I had doubled my chip stack, set an opponent on tilt and made the rest of the table aware that I wasn’t going to be pushed around. Some might find that move unorthodox, others routine, but to me, playing that hand the way I played it made perfect sense, win or lose. That side of the table went on to murmur about the hand for the next twenty minutes or so, upset about the outcome but also acknowledging I had made the right calls.
So, poker stars, what’s to be learned here?
Any hand is playable for the right price. Forget top pair. My eights were obviously beatable. Had I not hit four to the flush on the flop, I would have dumped the hand and cut my losses but I also knew going in that I was prepared to see that hand all the way through to the river, particularly once the spades hit. I used my table position to set the tone.
Playing, and more importantly winning, a hand like that shrewdly and aggressively will establish a table reputation you’ll want to take advantage of. Just be cautious when doing so. Calculate your risk/reward. In the long run, you’ll find it to be well worth it.