A new pet peeve

Updated: July 5, 2005, 3:09 PM ET
By Jay Lovinger | ESPN Poker Club

Previous WSOP Moment

I've got a new pet peeve, one that, before Saturday, when I played in the $1,000 buy-in Seniors NLHE tournament, I didn't even know existed:

The guy who makes an incomprehensibly bad play, lamely tries to explain why to the table, then sucks out on the river to send you home.

Here's how my latest demise came about: I was in the small blind ($100-200), short-stacked at my table (I had exactly $1,000 in chips - just what I had started with four hours earlier - but three-quarters of the field of 821 had been eliminated, so the average stack was almost $4,000), and my hole cards were A-8 unsuited.

By the time the action got around to me, three players had limped in for $200. I considered going all-in at this point - I was desperate to accumulate some chips - but I finally decided just to call, and see what the flop brought. Assuming the big blind didn't raise, this would give me two chances to make my last big move - post-flop on this hand, or another hand before the blinds got back around to me.

The big blind just called, and the flop was promising - A-K-4, with two diamonds. I checked to see what was going on out there with all those limpers, and it was checked around, which I took as a good sign. The turn was a 7 (not a diamond), and I went all-in for my last $800. The big blind folded, the first limper folded, the second limper - one of the big stacks at the table - thought about it for a long time, then called, and the last limper folded.

I turned over my A-8, and the second limper showed 7-6, neither card a diamond. However, before he showed his hand and after he'd seen mine, he said to the table, in an defensive tone, as if he knew that everybody was thinking he'd made a very bad call, "I thought he was bluffing."

Of course, one of his five outs - another 7 - came on the river, and instead of picking up a $2,600 pot that would have given me a shot to get back into the tournament (or, in any case, to get within one more double-up of being competitive), I found myself stumbling out of the Rio's poker area with my characteristic glazed post-tournament expression on my face.

Now, let's stop for a minute and consider "I thought he was bluffing." The guy thought I was trying to bluff out four players simultaneously - all of whom were still in the pot when I went all-in - for 800 lousy chips at that stage of the tournament?!?!? My betting was certainly consistent with my hand - A-x - and it was also consistent with something like K-Q or K-J or K-anything, either of which likely holding would have made him slightly less than an 8-1 dog. Even if I only held something like 8-7, I was a huge favorite - about 14-1 - to win the pot. And why would I risk my last chips - unless I was totally crazy or on extreme tilt - if I held anything less than one of those hands, especially since (I forgot to mention this detail) I hadn't played a single hand in the half hour or so I'd been sitting at his table.

So, basically, he took pot odds of slightly better than 2-1 on what was almost surely - at best - an 8-1 shot.

And then he tried to justify his bad play.

And then he was rewarded for it.

No question about it, poker is one brutal game. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Jay Lovinger

Founding editor, Page 2
Jay Lovinger is a former managing editor of Life and a founding editor of Page 2. "Jackpot Jay" spent a year as a poker pro and participated in the World Series of Poker. He will be writing a book on his poker adventures for HarperCollins.

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