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There is the Poker Player of the Year (PPY) award; so why not one for the Strangest Hand of the Year? (aka: SHY)

According to the “Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook” ([email protected]), with seven cards to make the best five-card hand, the most common is one pair (probability 44%), followed by two-pair (23%). The most rare – and most valuable – are royal straight flush (probability 0.00323%), straight flush (0.028%), four-of-a-kind – Quads (0.17%), and full-house (2.6%).

But there are some hands – among the rarest – that also are the strangest by virtue of the circumstances involved. These usually will have little relationship to the players themselves, no matter how skilled they may be. Strange.

My SHY Candidate

Playing 4-8 limit hold’em the other evening at one of my favorite local casinos, I was involved in such a hand. Strange, to say the least. It was weird, remarkable, surprising, unexpected in my wildest dreams. Extraordinary, for certain!

In a middle position, I looked down at K-J diamonds as my holecards. With no raises preflop, four of us stayed to see the flop. And what a flop it was: Three deuces, including the 2 of diamonds.

By the way, the odds are about 424-to-1 against three-of-a-kind, three cards of the same rank, falling on the flop. But that is what happened.

Opening bet

Two opponents checked before me. With my K-J suited, I thought it appropriate to make the opening bet. Perhaps I might encourage an opponent holding A-rag to fold; then my King in the hole would be less threatened. But then the player to my left quickly raised. After the other two other players folded, I decided to call his raise.

Trying to get a read on the raiser’s hand, I strongly doubted he held the fourth deuce. He was fairly deceptive and aggressive; he could be trying to steal the pot. Since he had not raised preflop, he probably did not have a big pair or premium drawing hand.

Chances were he had a small/medium pair – or any two cards – in the hole. My King and Jack offered me 6 outs to make 4’s-full, which would likely be a winner at the showdown. (There was also a chance for runner-runner King-high diamond flush, which would be much less desirable in view of the possible full-houses.)

The pot odds were favorable compared to my card odds – a Positive Expectation. Of course, I called his raise. The turn was the ten of diamonds, another card to my flush; but, of course, I would prefer to catch the full-house on the river.

I decided to check, whereupon my aggressive opponent made the big bet on the turn. I did consider raising, but had second thoughts. What could my raise accomplish? If my aggressive opponent had a pair, I would be faced with a re-raise. If he held an Ace in the hole, he certainly would call me, more likely reraise.

The River

Now, hold on to your seat!

The dealer seemed to hesitate as he burned the top card, and carefully placed the river card on the board. A tense moment. Everyone at the table watched in silence. It was the fourth deuce. Quads on the board.

Can you imagine the comments from the onlookers? At that point, I bet out, hoping my King-high was the best hand. Only an Ace in the hole could beat me. My opponent grimaced (a tell?) as he seemingly, reluctantly called my bet. I turned up my King-Jack.

My opponent scowled as he slammed down his pocket 6’s. And I scooped a big pot! Yes, I had been lucky. None of my outs connected. I had won a huge pot with Quad deuces – and did not even have a single deuce in my hand! Thanks to my King kicker.

Would this qualify as the Strangest Hand of the Year (SHY)? In any event, I was so lucky to be the beneficiary. It could happen to anyone. Can you match it with a better candidate for SHY that you have experienced?

“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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