Here's a bizarre case where a player hit a straight flush, won the hand and lost pounds 750 in the process. It happened at the Holland Casino's poker festival last week. In the big no-limit hold 'em tournament a special prize of one per cent of the total money was offered for the best hand of the night.

Player A, on the small blind (first ante), found 4244 in his hand. He called, as a small bet for value against the big blind (higher ante). The flop came 4345!10. Just these two players involved, so A checked. Then the 4K fell, giving A his flush.

Player B had about 3,000 chips left. Player A, first to speak, now bet 2,000. Player B, who presumably had a king in the hole, called. And the last up-card was 46, giving A an unexpected straight flush: (4244)4345 !104K46

What should A do? Answer: not bet a cent! With four spades on board, player B is not going to call with his last thousand chips, unless he has a spade too. But in his excitement at hitting such a powerhouse, A bet the thousand. B folded, of course. As the hand was not seen to the finish, it could not win the best hand prize. If Player A had checked, Player B would have checked along and the straight flush would have been seen. And, as it turned out, lifted the prize.

The event was won by a young Dutch woman player Belinda Blokker. She had her share of luck, as you need to do, especially at the final heads- up stage. With blinds up to 30,000 and 60,000 chips, this duel is always a bit of a shoot-out. Her opponent bet all-in. Belinda had already committed 60,000 as big blind, plus 6,000 ante. If she surrendered the hand, her opponent would be back to level pegging. She looked down at her cards: 3, 7. As she put it: "One side of my head said: I can't call! The other side of my head said: I must call!" So she called.

I don't believe I could face exposing such a pitiful hand to spectators' laughter. But better players assure me it was the correct play. Against two higher cards 10, 8, Belinda was getting 3.5 for her money on a 2-1 shot. And what happened? The flop brought a 3 and a 7.

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