Pursuits: Poker

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The Independent Culture
MOST PEOPLE are bored by bad beat stories. Me, I love 'em. Here is one that caught my fancy the other day. It was the last hand of the night - a crucial point. The game was a frenetic version of Omaha high low, 8-or-better for the low. Players are dealt a hand of six cards, of which they must use two, plus three from the flop. With this number of cards, going high and low, anything can happen.

So in his hand, Larry, with about pounds 1,600 in front of him, found 2 3 4 6 6 10, a good hand but not great. Betty, doing her money as usual, was on about pounds 600 and chasing. Roberto, a gambling type, had pounds 450. The betting was strong before the flop, as it usually is at this time of the night, building to pounds 140 in the pot, with these three players in.

When the flop came down 10s-10c-4d Larry was pretty pleased. He has hit the nut full house tens on sixes. There is no immediate draw if his opponents are trying for low, and if an ace flops, he will be drawing to the nut low. When Betty bet pounds 140, he called and raised pounds 400. Roberto thought and thought, longing to call. But finally he folded. (Larry thought afterwards that he shouldn't have raised; Roberto would certainly have called Betty's initial bet and, having got so far, would then have committed himself all in. It seems highly unlikely, though, that his calling would have persuaded Betty to fold on fourth street, so his raise probably made no difference.)

Announcing to the table at large: "This is the worst call of my life", Betty stuck in the extra pounds 400 she had left. Next card off was the 8s and the river brought Js. When Larry spread his full house, she threw her hand in. "I thought a flush would win it," she lamented.

The dealer left the cards where they fell, as it was the final hand of the night and the game was over. Ordinarily he would have gathered them up to shuffle for the next deal. "Hey!" cried Betty, retrieving her cards, which had not touched the deck, "didn't I have a straight flush?" And she turned over the Qs 9s, to scoop a four-figure pot. Larry blenched but took it well.

`High Stakes', 21 Great Ormond Street, London WC1, has a large range of books on casino games, poker, horse-racing, greyhounds etc. `High Stakes' magazine costs pounds 2 (0171-430 0021, fax 430 1021)