One of the trickiest decisions in poker is folding the best hand. It happened to me in a round of Omaha at the Stakis Regency in Russell Square (where the poker continues to flourish Mondays through Thursdays) the other night. I called a raise on 9-7-5-4, and the flop came down:


giving me a nice straight - at that point the nuts. Two very strong players ahead of me.

Player A now bet the pot, pounds 65, and B followed. My first thought was to raise. The trouble is, my hand is completely lifeless. Sure, it's best at the moment (more likely equal best) but it cannot improve. Two spades on the board point to a possible flush draw. And if a jack or a queen falls and someone happens to have J-9 or Q--9, my straight may be useless. I called to see what would happen, feeling in fact that the smart move might be to fold!

Down came a !5 - so far so good: no improvement for anyone. Now to my surprise Player A bet the pot, pounds 260, all-in. As he knew either B or myself or possibly both of us had straights, he obviously had to have a premium hand himself, perhaps a double flush draw now that a second heart had come down. If so, this gave him odds about 2-1 to hit, against 3-1 in the pot, if both his opponents called the bet.

Player B then went all-in himself for a shade more, pounds 300, clearly intending to drive me out. I looked at my cards again. There was no way my straight could improve, Even if it held up I would win only half the pot, or perhaps just a third. Reluctantly I folded the nuts.

The last card was a deuce and B won the pot on a 10-high straight. He also had two pairs, 8s and 6s, which was valuable back-up for a full house draw.

A day or two later, when people were relaxed about previous clashes at the table, I asked A what he had. He told me Q-J to give him a higher straight if the missing 9 came down, and also two 10s for top trips.

"I thought I was favourite to win the hand," he told me. "But when you folded, the money odds were only 2-1. Perhaps I should have checked on the turn [fourth card], and let B bet it. You would probably have called and I would have had better value."

This was a typical Omaha situation, when you have to measure fluctuations in odds against your knowledge of the players.