Beating great poker hands is a big time high

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What’s a WOW? That’s what I call a fantastic, breathtaking, sensational, spectacular hand that wins a great pot for you. Some WOWs are much better than others, of course.

The very best is when you have the absolute nuts and two opponents have made great hands; one has an almost-unbeatable monster hand, but it’s a poor – and very costly for him – second-best to yours. WOW!

Here’s what happened. Playing middle-limit hold’em at the Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif., I was in an early position with 8c-8h. On the flop, praying to Hopi, the great poker god, for a set; the dealer obliged: Kd-8d-Jc.

My trip 8s looked so good. In an early position, I decided to slow-play so as not to alert my opponents to the strength of my hand and encourage a multi-way pot. So, I checked. An aggressive player in seat No. 7 bet out; I considered what he might be holding.

A set of Kings or Jacks was possible but unlikely; for certain, he would have raised preflop. Two-pair, Kings and Jacks, seemed more feasible; perhaps only a big pair. I just called – along with several other players. “No King; No Jack; no diamond,” I silently called upon Hopi once again.

No such luck. The turn brought the nine of diamonds, putting a possible diamond-flush and a straight on the board. Uh, Oh.

Hoping my opponents were still drawing to big hands, this time I decided to bet to protect my medium set. Perhaps I might induce the drawing hands to fold; and two did.

But then, much to my dismay, seat No. 7 raised. He could have caught a flush or straight on the turn; but since he had open-bet on the flop, most likely he only had top two-pair. I decided to call, as did one other player.

On the river the dealer calmly placed a second 8 on the board – the 8 of spades. Beautiful! I now had quad 8s! WOW! I had the nuts. My “heart skipped a beat!” There was no way anyone could beat me.

In my bliss, an old-time popular song popped into my mind. As the refrain from “I Got Rhythm,” goes, “Who could ask for anything more?” (Note: The song was written by George and Ira Gershwin in 1930, and introduced by Ethel Merman in the Broadway musical, Girl Crazy.)

Now my goal was to get as many chips into “my” (for certain!) pot. Rather than try for a check-raise, I thought it best to bet out in case the second 8 on the board warned off my two opponents, and then they both would also check; and, I would lose out on any further big bets.

On the other hand, with all his betting and raising, there was a chance the aggressive player in seat No. 7 would raise me. Let them think I may have made trips. My bet was called by the opponent to my immediate left and then it was raised by seat No. 7.

I peeked at my hole cards to be positive of my strength, and announced: “I re-raise,” adding more chips to the pot. My neighbor folded. (He later showed us he had made a King-high straight on the turn.)

Seat No. 7 took one look at me and the board, then announced in a loud and confident voice: “It’s just the two of us so there’s no limit on raises. I’m going all-in.” I didn’t hesitate to agree, as I pushed my stacks of chips toward the pot. He did likewise.

Showdown: Proudly, he turned up his hand: A big full-house – Kings full of eights! His jaw dropped several inches, I swear, when I turned up my pocket 8s and placed them along side the board.

I was pretty lucky. And, as co-columnist Irene Edith would say, I had “a really good customer.” WOW! Who could ask for anything more!

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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