Poker

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The Independent Culture
WE ALL do it, and very annoying it is: misreading your hand. It usually happens in complicated games such as high-low, when a player gets confused. Sometimes it is a simple misperception, such as reading a heart for a diamond. These errors are caused by lack of concentration - probably owing to tiredness.

Anyway, I had a bit of luck the other night when I misread my hand and still won the pot. It happened in Omaha (the four card version of Texas Hold 'em) when I found myself holding 32-72-9!-10# with a flop showing 54-84-J#. Beryl was the only one still in, a competent player, not afraid to gamble. So when the fourth card came down 4!, I bet pounds 30. I thought I had made a low straight, but when I looked down at my hand, I saw I had completely misread it. Beryl, who was pretty obviously drawing to an ace flush, called. Last card was a deuce. I had absolutely nothing!

Feeling like an idiot, I checked. Beryl said in a resigned voice, "Yes, you win," and to the dealer, "Give him the money." I hung on to my cards and after a moment Beryl threw her hand away. The pot was worth close to pounds 100.

I saw exactly what Beryl's process of thought was. There was simply no way that a player as tight as me would have bet out on fourth street without a made straight. Not once in 100 times. Having missed her flush, there was no point in even showing her hand. But this was the one time in 100 when I had mistaken my cards. The pot was worth close to pounds 100. The moral is that no matter how sure you are that you are beaten, it is essential to show your cards so as to see your opponent's hand. The dealer then calls the winner under the old-established rule "cards speak". After the dealer pushed me the pot, I threw my hand in the discards, unseen.

The worst, or anyway most memorable, mistake I made was in Las Vegas, when I folded the best hand after the showdown. It was a low-level game of Hold 'em; I had been raising on A-J against one other player. There was an ace on board that I felt sure was winning for me, when a king fell on the river. After the final bet he showed K-Q, and without more ado I threw my hand away. Why? Some idiotic misperception that he had a higher kicker than me. If I had turned the cards over, the dealer would have called the winner. I have never forgotten this incident - which I suppose is some kind of plus.

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