LAS VEGAS If your idea of fun is to experience extreme mood swings in a compressed period of time, then the World Series of Poker is definitely for you.
Last week, starting late Monday evening, in the space of little more than three days, I went from the depths to the heights to the absurd, with barely enough time to catch my breath.
TOO CLEVER FOR MY OWN GOOD
My roller-coaster ride started at 11 p.m., in the daily Second Chance No-Limit Hold'em tournament, an event that usually attracts between 175 and 250 players (it pays 18 places, with the top prize usually ranging from $12,000 to $20,000). On this particular evening, 187 ponied up the $225 entry fee.
Things started off well, as I managed to pull off my most creative move of the year. Remember, I said, "creative," not "wise."
About half the field had been eliminated, and I was in the big blind (blinds were $100-$200), sitting on a slightly below-average stack of $1,850. Everybody folded to the button, a young but rather dour Eastern European player, who quickly almost convulsively threw in a minimum raise to $400.
I knew, without an iota of doubt, the guy had nothing, he was simply on a transparent steal, and I could take the pot right then and there by raising (which would have been the sensible play), but I was kind of bored (I hadn't really been much of a factor in any of the tournaments I had played in thus far at the WSOP) and I decided it was time to do something interesting. (Warning: Many poker writers, notably Mike Caro, have strongly advised against the tendency to become addicted to fancy plays.)
And so, with my 7-6 unsuited, I just called. Here's what I was "thinking":
1. If the flop hit me just right, I would check, since I was pretty sure the button would make a decent-sized steal-continuation bet (wouldn't you, in the same position?), and then I would go all-in and (hopefully) take down the pot.
2. If I missed the flop completely, I'd just go all-in for my last $1,450 right away, banking on the likelihood that the flop hadn't hit the button either or, at least, not hard enough to warrant calling such a large bet.
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3. Either way, if I managed to survive, I would show my hand Hey, guys, I'm a maniac! a bit of false advertising I thought might serve me well later, for example, by getting someone to call me down for a lot of chips when I actually had a big hand.
The flop came Q-6-5 (with two hearts), neither a direct hit nor a complete miss, but good enough, I felt, to go with Scenario One, assuming the button didn't have a queen among his two hole cards. I checked; the button bet $600; and I went all-in. The guy seemed shocked, but after thinking about it for a long time, he finally called, and turned over the 9-3 of hearts. For those of you keeping score at home, that meant he had 12 outs the nine remaining hearts, the three remaining 9s which also meant he was only a slight underdog. So, although I had read him accurately, I still found myself in a virtual coin-flip situation, and my WSOP record on coin flips, to this point, was not salubrious.