Independent Pursuits: Poker

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The Independent Culture
HOW MANY times do you get a straight flush in a lifetime of poker? It's a rare event. But I had two last week.

The first occurred in a low- level game of Omaha (the four-card version of Hold 'em) at the newly re-opened Grosvenor Victoria. Sitting on the big blind I found Ah 9c 7c 5s, - a tolerable starting hand, if there is no risk of a raise behind you. Three callers ahead of me.

The flop came down Jc 10c 6s which gave me four to a flush. In Omaha, if you haven't got an ace high flush to draw to, or at least the king, this is a high-risk hand, which you almost don't want to hit. So when someone bet pounds 10, I was inclined to fold.

But then I noticed I had an inside draw to a straight flush. OK, for a tenner, I don't mind taking a long shot, so I called it. And to my astonishment, down came the 8c. like a piece of confetti, to fill my straight flush. Naturally, I checked it. The player who had bet on the flop, checked along. I did not know what he had in his hand, but as sure as hell he knew I had a flush. I was hoping the board would pair up on the river, to give him a full house. But down came a blank. If I had bet, he would have folded, so I checked again. Assuming it was his pot, he mumbled an apology: "I had trip sixes on the flop, don't know why I didn't bet 'em."

I spread my straight flush, without comment. This incident served to remind me of the old truth about poker: there is no such thing as good hands, only good situations.

The other occasion I hit a straight flush was in a jolly local game, where everyone bets it up regardless, for the sheer fun of gambling. In a variation called Big Cross, players get five cards in their hand and nine cards laid out in the shape of a cross. You have to use two from your hand with three others from either line of the cross - you know the sort of thing!

Just to make sure it's not boring, each player has the option of changing one card from his hand at the end of the betting. This time I hit a straight flush in diamonds, against a full house. Split between the high and the low hands, as such pots usually are, I cleared all of 32 quid. Heigh-ho.