Muck or stay? Every poker player's dilemma
February 20, 2019 3:00 AM
by George Epstein
Here’s a hand I was recently dealt at my favorite local casino, Larry Flynt’s Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif. The game was $4-$8 limit hold’em with half Kill.
It was early in the session, and I was a bit behind. But before delving into the hand, let me ask: Have you ever won a Bad-Beat Jackpot? Imagine the excitement to suddenly, out of the blue, win thousands of dollars. Wow! It has happened to me twice during my long poker career.
Starting out, I was dealt pocket 10s while on the Button. That’s a nice spot to be in; then I can see how the others are betting before I must act. In general, the game was fairly loose with a few raises along the way.
Pocket 10s is an interesting starting hand. Sometimes it can win without improving, but not likely. To improve, you hope for another 10 on the board to make a set.
But the Poker gods rarely listen. The odds are about 8-to-1 against connecting on the flop. If the flop doesn’t do it, then you have just two outs and only two chances (the turn and the river) to improve; so the odds against you become even higher.
In this case, the Under-the-Gun (UTG) opened with a raise — a 2-bet. “No matter,” I mused, “I will certainly call his raise to see the flop.” Then, a middle-position re-raised — a 3-bet. I was beginning to wonder whether I should invest $12 (3 x $4) in that pot. Two others called his re-raise, so the pot odds looked attractive.
I was prepared to call. But then the Cut-Off raised again — a 4-bet. That’s the maximum allowed when there are three or more players still in the hand.
Now it was my turn to act. A tough decision, I sweated it out, taking the time to deliberate my best action. Did I want to invest four bets — $16 — to see the flop?
My reasoning was with so many opponents raising and calling, there was a good chance someone already held a bigger pair in the hole, or would make one on the flop. Furthermore, based on the laws of probability, there was less than 1 chance out of about 9 that my hand would improve to a set on the flop.
It was too much of a long shot to invest that much, I decided. Hesitatingly, I mucked my pocket 10s.
The dealer slowly turned up the flop. I watched closely, secure in my belief that I had made a wise decision by mucking my hand without it costing me a single chip. But what a flop it was:
10h — Ah — 10d
Had I stayed to see the flop, I would have caught quad 10s — practically the nuts.
On the turn and river, there was lots of betting and raising. Both cards were blanks. The UTG continued to open the betting each time; and the middle-position promptly made the raise as the other two players dropped out.
The middle-position, with a giant smile on his face, turned up his hole cards: A-A. He had flopped Aces-full-of-10s!
“Oh, my God,” I said to myself. Had I stayed in the hand, with the quad 10s, we would have had a monster Bad-Beat and shared the big Jackpot of over $16,000! I could only picture in my mind, taking that kind of money home (Note: For safe-keeping, I would have deposited most of it in the casino cage).
Still thinking about it now, did I make a big mistake by folding my pocket 10s before the flop? Sure, hindsight is always better that foresight. But, considering the situation, did I goof? Was my reasoning off base?
The best response from a reader will win a signed copy of one of my poker books.
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