Poker: Mysteries of the Orient

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The Independent Culture
'I WON'T sleep all night,' moaned Ali, after yet another horrible outdraw at Hold 'em. Ali raised A-Q of hearts in the hole and the flop came up queen of diamonds, 9-7 hearts - a Hold 'em player's dream hand.

He has flopped the top pair with an ace kicker, in case an opponent also holds a queen, plus he has a flush draw to the 'nut', or top, flush to go with it. What could be better that that? Especially when a Japanese rookie calls the bet (the pot had been well raised by Ali before the flop) for pounds 40.

Next card is 4 diamonds - no sweat. The Japanese could hardly have stuck around with low cards in the hole. Ali bet pounds 120 this time, the size of the pot. The Japanese gentleman tentatively pushed his chips forward. He had a pile of about pounds 800 in front of him. Last card was a real nothing, two of diamonds. So Ali stuck it all in - well, wouldn't you?

Ali (Ah Qh)

Qd 9h 7h 4d 2d

J (? ?)

As the Japanese pushed his chips forward to call Ali's bet, he murmured the word 'flush'. He showed J-6 diamonds in the hole. What persuaded him to stay on such a hand, after the big bet on the flop, heaven only knows.

Could he really have expected to catch two more diamonds on 4th and 5th street, to hit a 'back-door' flush? The problem of trying to read poker players who don't know anything about the game is that normal judgements are rendered inoperable.

Proof was provided a few hands later, when the Japanese gentleman hit yet another miracle flush, and didn't even realise his good fortune. His opponent, an experienced player, turned over a pair of kings in the hole.

The Japanese threw his cards away - showing, as he did so, a spade flush. Unfortunately for him, the rule is that once you chuck your hand into the discards, the hand is void.

He showed no ill feeling at this reversal. So a few minutes later, I commiserated with him on such an unlucky turn, even though he had by now amassed about pounds 1,500 worth of chips. 'No problem,' he replied. 'Next hand I hit a straight flush.'