"Haven't seen that happen in 30 years," claimed one of the dealers at London's Victoria casino. He might have exaggerated a touch, but this was certainly an exceptional hand. Darren returned from supper, having had a loosening glass or two of red wine, and picked up &J-10. That is, potentially, a very powerful hand at Texas Hold 'em, so he raised the opening bet and got one caller, Sasha, a fairly strong gambler, playing with plenty of chips.

D: (&J &10) S: (? ?)

The flop came:

&7 &8 !A

Darren, known as a solid player, bet the pot pounds 200. Sasha called and raised pounds 600. Darren was in a post-prandial mood but wanted to play this hand to the limit anyway. He can hit &9 for a straight flush, any diamond for a lesser flush, or an off-suit 9 to fill his inside straight. He wanted to get his money in then and there, because he reckoned that if a diamond happened to fall, his own hand was so obvious his opponent would not pay him off.

So he re-raised Sasha pounds 1,800, who capped the sequence by re-reraising the rest of his money. (Yes, this was a big game - far beyond the ambitions of your poker correspondent.) The dealer stacked up a glorious pile of red and orange, hundred and thousand pound chips in the centre, some pounds 7,000. With all the money in, everyone at the table held their breath. First card off was a black 5, which put Sasha ahead on a small pair. Then on the river came the card of Darren's heart's desire, the 42- to-1 shot, &9.

It was the card both players had wanted: Sasha had &5&6 in the hole, for a straight flush too. His moment of triumph was over in an instant. "Straight flush to the jack," announced the dealer, pointing to Darren's cards. Everyone gawped. Such things happen in books but seldom in real life.

"Why did you re-raise on the flop, when it looked like he had paired an ace, possibly the ace of diamonds?" I asked Darren the next day. "I had 9 outs for the flush and three 9s for the straight, and two draws to hit," Darren explained. "So I thought I was favourite. Besides, he might not have an ace in the hole. After all, this is Hold 'em."