Poker: A very British sort of gamble

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'THE Americans are always trying to do deals. They don't like to gamble,' Corky told me. 'Now the Brits - we'll always take a gamble,' he continued. He was explaining how he won a big pot by refusing to cut a deal, or 'settle' the bet before the final card (as sometimes happens in backgammon, before a critical throw of the dice).

Playing a game of pot limit Omaha (the four-card version of Hold 'em) in Las Vegas, Corky was dealt 8-9-10-Q which has potential. The flop came out 6-7-J. One player bet and he called. Next up-card was a king.

His opponent bet dollars 800 and Corky, quick as a flash, raised him dollars 1,600. At that point, with only the last flop card to come, he had no kind of hand at all - he has to use two cards from his hand, remember. What Corky had was what Omaha players call a complete 'wrap-around'.

Corky: 8 9 10 Q

Flop: 6 7 J K

If the final flop card is a 5, 8, 9, 10, Q or A, he makes a straight. There was no flush draw. Corky's gutsy raise was intuitive. It was highly unlikely his opponent held a pair of kings, so his quick raise might persuade him to dump two small pairs. However, the man called the dollars 1,600 bet and immediately offered a deal.

The idea is that both players turn their hands over before the final card is dealt out, make a rough and ready calculation of the odds of either hand improving, and share the pot on that basis. But Corky did not fancy doing a deal. His opponent asked what he had. Corky said: 'No, you tell me what you've got, and I'll split the pot 50-50.' The man wouldn't budge. The dealer waited.

Finally Corky said: 'All right, I've got no pair.' The other player triumphantly revealed trip jacks. Now he would not dream of offering a 50-50 split - he offered 10 per cent, which was way short of the true odds, and far from generous. (20 cards of the 44 remaining will improve Corky's hand.)

There is usually a lot of haggling involved in doing deals, but Corky did not want to split anyway. He might reluctantly have accepted 50- 50, but his attitude was shoot or bust. 'Deal,' he told the dealer. And out popped one of his straight cards. The loser was very unhappy.

What shook the whole table was how Corky had the temerity to raise dollars 1,600 on 4th street, on the come. Corky took the view was that the more pressure you can put on an opponent, the more likely he is go wrong. And anyway, he liked his wrap-around.

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