My winning hand turned nemesis

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It wasn’t really a bad beat on the river, but it sure felt like one.

The other night, I was playing $4-8 limit hold’em at the Hustler Casino, and a little behind. But, confident in my poker skills, I had hopes to end up a winner. It was a fairly loose-passive game, with modest raising before the flop.

A seat became available; and “my nemesis” was called to our table. That’s how I label him because it seems he almost always beats my decent hands, even when he plays a poor starting-hand. Also, he raises quite often, changing the texture of the game to become quite aggressive – lots of raising and re-raising. That is not my preference.

As he got seated, I asked the floorman for a table change. Just as the cards began to be dealt out, the floorman came to me; he had a seat for me at another table. “Let me just finish this hand,” I said, looking at my holecards: K-J offsuit. Great starting hand.

In a middle position, I called to see the flop, as did several others, including my nemesis, two seats to my left. “Good,” I thought, “he didn’t raise it up.” The flop was fantastic: two Jacks and a deuce. That gave me trip-Jacks with a King kicker. Overjoyed, I was careful not to show any emotion.

On the flop, there was a bet before me. I slow-played my trip-Jacks, hoping to build the pot on later streets when the bets were double. Four of us, including my nemesis, called to see the turn – a blank. After an $8 bet before me, I raised to $16. My nemesis and the original bettor called.

The river was another blank. I was sure I had the best hand. After a check to me, I bet out, expecting to scoop the pot. I was thinking how fortunate I was to have stayed long enough to play that hand before moving to the other table where a seat awaited me.

To my surprise, my nemesis raised me. As he did so, pointing at me, he announced to the table: “He has trip Jacks with an Ace or King kicker, but I have him beat.”

I wondered why he was stating this. Did he want me to fold? Did he want me to re-raise?

My confidence was shaken. Of course, I had to call. He turned up J-2 spades.

With K-J in the hole, I had been a huge favorite over him before the flop. But, he had flopped Jacks-full-of-deuces! My King kicker was of no value.

Had the board paired up, we would have split the pot. But it didn’t. My nemesis had struck again.

Thinking about that hand – as I changed tables – I wondered how could he have been so lucky? It was almost like he knew what to expect.

It wasn’t a Bad Beat – where an opponent has just a few outs to a decent draw, but catches one of those outs, usually on the river, taking the pot away from you. In this case, he simply called to see the flop from a late position with J-2 suited – not even a marginal drawing hand. The odds were much against making the flush; but it’s often worth a shot, especially if it’s a multi-way pot – so the pot odds can become quite significant if you catch a draw to your flush.

The card odds are about 8-to-1 against catching two more of your suit on the flop. Then, you still have to catch another of your suit on the turn or the river.

Personally, I would have folded that hand; it’s more likely (only 2-to-1 against) that J-2 will pair one of the holecards on the flop. If it’s a pair of Jacks, you have a poor kicker that loses to a better Jack. If you catch another deuce, anyone with a higher pair has you beat.

Was he just plain lucky? But, that’s why I call him “my nemesis.”

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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