Poker: Sunar's showdown

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NINE players came down to the final of the British poker championship, held at the Victoria Casino last month. They comprised an Italian, an Anglo-Indian, an Israeli, two Swedes, a Canadian, an American and two English players, which reflects pretty well the cosmopolitan mix of players in London these days. Only the Greeks and the Arabs were missing from the final table.

As expected, the showdown was between two of the best players on the international circuit: Surinder Sunar, who lives in Wolverhampton, and Chris Bjorin, an itinerant Swedish player. They made an interesting contrast at the table. Sunar sits absolutely still, hardly moving an eyelash, looking down at his cards and seeming to absorb by intuition the strength of his opponents' hands. Bjorin is a very aggressive player. He stares unblinkingly at his opponents, trying to spot give-away 'tells', before looking at his own cards.

In the crunch hand, which decided first prize of pounds 43,500, Bjorin took a flyer. Playing Texas Hold 'em (two cards concealed in the hole and five dealt face-up in common) Sunar opened with a moderate bet. Antes and big blinds were pounds 2,000 and pounds 4,000. Bjorin stared at him, looked down briefly at his own hand, and went 'all in', pushing some pounds 80,000 in chips into the pot.

What is Bjorin playing on? In heads up (two-handed play) an ace is a great card. An ace with a high kicker, like a queen, looks good, but if Surinder is paired in the hole, Bjorin is somewhat worse than even money to win the hand. Ace with a second card in suit gives him chances. But if Bjorin is semi-bluffing, on an ace and a low card, as he was, it is a dodgy hand to do or die for. Sunar called. The 'flop', or first three up-cards, was intriguing.

fe1001 Sunar (9h 9d) Bjorin (Ac 3h)

Cards: 4 Hearts, 5 Clubs, 7 Diamonds

Now Sunar is only a marginal favourite. A two or a six will win for Bjorin, and of course another ace. Although of the 45 cards left in the deck only 11 will win for him, he has two chances to hit. Sunar could make a third nine but that won't help him against a straight. When a king and queen fell to complete the up-cards, Bjorin had to content himself with second prize of pounds 17,400.