Poker: Save the last hand for me

THE LAST hand of the night is often a tricky moment. The winners are trying to hang on to their chips and do not want to get involved. The losers are desperate to secure a last-minute reprieve and are ready to gamble. Both approaches are wrong. Each poker game should be seen, logically speaking, as part of a continuous process that extends through the whole year, and beyond. In that sense one particular hand at the end of the night is irrelevant to the overall outcome.

However, the emotion of the moment will always take precedence over common sense. Especially when you know that your opponent is gambling. I got caught the other night. The game was Omaha high low, the four-card version of Hold 'em. I was dealt Ac-As-6c-8d, which is a good but not great hand, and raised before the flop.

Ali, a player who had never sat in this game before, though an experienced high stakes punter, called. Out came 3-4-Q off-suit. He checked. I did not want to get involved and checked along, because Ali is the kind of player who is looking to check raise and get all his money in if he can. Next card was a 9. Now he bet a hefty pounds 70.

Ali: x x x x

Flop: 3-4-Q-9

Dave: A-A-6-8

Although I wanted to fold, I was sure I was best. There was no low yet (an eight or better low is needed for the low hand), and no straight and no flush yet (at Omaha a player must use two cards from the four in his hand). Ali was flashing his hole cards to a couple of friends sitting beside him, giving the impression he had a draw, rather than a made hand such as trips or two pairs. I had not seen a decent hand in an hour and now I had the aces. Any pair on board or a high card will do it for me, and leave him with nothing. So I called. Last up-card was a seven and Ali bet his last chips - pounds 28.

I was sure he had hit his hand to make a low. Did he have any kind of high as well? If he had four low cards, as I thought, it was likely he had made a straight to the seven. It was the last hand, though, and the last chance to get even. So I called for 'value'. He showed 5-6 for a straight giving him best high and A-2 for the best low.