Commentary

Would you take this bet?

Updated: April 1, 2009, 5:23 PM ET
By BLUFF | Tommy Angelo

Have you ever played a hand so badly that you just can't let it go? During the session you keep thinking about it. The next day you keep thinking about it. You want it to go away, but it won't. It's like a festering infection that won't scab over. It's like those trick birthday cake candles: You blow out the flames, but they just keep popping back up.

Like this hand I played in Vegas, in a full $5/$10 no-limit hold 'em game at The Venetian. Two players folded, and the next player opened for $30. This guy was as reliable as a coin flip. Heads, he opens; tails, he folds. Yes, he liked to see lots of flops, and yes, his hand range was very wide, but he was by no means what I would call a donator. He did not get strung out for big money before the flop, or after it, without good cause. Even though he gave himself plenty of rope, he almost never hung himself with it.

Two players called behind him, and the small blind folded. I was in the big blind with 7-2 offsuit, and I folded.

Do I suck or what?

Before you answer that, you should know that my chips had a layer of dust on top. My image was so tight that if I had raised to, say, $150, it was dang near certain no one would have called. That was me. That was who I was at that moment. I was looking at $105 sitting in the middle of the table as if it was just sitting there on a sidewalk, and I neglected to pick it up.

When I'm in a good groove, I pounce on those bluffing opportunities. And many others after the flop, when the pot is destined to go to whoever bets. But sometimes, even after a whole day of successful bluffing, I lose anyway.

When I come home after a session like that, and my wife, Kay, asks, "How'd we do?" I reply, "If I were never to hit a flop, I would never lose."

Kay does not play poker, but she does know poker, and she knows me, and she knows exactly what I mean when I say that.

The short translation is "I lost." The full translation goes like this: "If we count only the hands when I had nothing, then I won $1,000. Unfortunately, I did happen to make a couple monster hands, and I lost them both, so our final score for the day was minus-$2,000."

When I say, "If I were never to hit a flop, I would never lose," it's my way of whining about how bad my luck was, while at the same time bragging about how awesome my bluffing was. But I don't really mean it literally. Lately, however -- ever since that 7-2 offsuit hand that I am trying to let go of but keep bringing up -- I've been mulling this over, and I've come to realize that when I get a hand like 7-2 offsuit, sometimes the spots on the cards distract me into playing bad. That's because I have been conditioned to think of 7-2 offsuit and its ugly cousins as "bad hands," so I lose interest when I see them. And, I get the dreck hands only now and then, so I don't get steady practice at playing them.

I wonder … what if I got 7-2 offsuit every hand? Maybe I would become a 7-2 offsuit expert! With enough practice, could it be possible to make money with those hands in the long haul? And why stop there? What if I had the worst hand all the time? What's the best I could do?

Physicists have a tool called a "thought experiment."

Here's the Wikipedia definition:

A thought experiment is a proposal for an experiment that would test a hypothesis or theory but cannot actually be performed due to practical limitations; instead its purpose is to explore the potential consequences of the principle in question. One famous example of a thought experiment is Schrödinger's cat, illustrating quantum indeterminacy through the manipulation of a perfectly sealed environment and a single radioactive atom.

We poker players do the same thing from time to time. We just didn't have a fancy name for it -- until now. I feel eminently qualified to suggest that we use the term "thought wager" because I once had a cat named Schrödinger. He half died.

Here's a thought wager, brought on by that purulent 7-2 offsuit hand. First I will give the conditions, then the wager.

The Conditions:

• On every street of every hand, you always have the worst hand.

• You must play 5,000 hours.

• You have an unlimited bankroll.

• You may play any game at any venue.

• You get 100 percent rakeback, even in live games.

• You may choose any stakes, but you may not change stakes during the wager.

• You have a mind-zapping device (much like the one used by the men in black in "Men in Black") that keeps your opponents from realizing that …

• On every street of every hand, you always have the worst hand.

The Wager:

If, after the 5000 hours of playing, you are ahead, at all, even $1, you will be awarded anything you want, such as, but not limited to: $100 billion (adjusted for inflation and/or global financial collapse), an island, a planet, ideal friends, a great body, a peaceful mind, immortality, etc.

If, after the 5000 hours of playing, you are behind, at all, even $1, you will be killed. And what the heck, to sweeten the pot, we'll throw in some torture, and we'll use the mental zapper to make everyone say and think bad things about you.

Would you take this bet?

Okay, maybe you don't think you have the skills to pull this off. Do you think anyone does?

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