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The World Series of Poker

Our Gambling Expert's Trip to the Big Leagues Ends With a Lesson in Hardball
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
John F. Kennedy, Nov/Dec 98

(continued from page 3)

Unless he has aces--and I don't think he does, or else he probably would have reraised me--I've got the best hand before the flop. I figure him for something like ace-king, possibly of the same suit. As long as the dealer doesn't put an ace on the board, I figure I'm good.

The flop comes 10-6-4, with two hearts. It's a flop I like. Not wanting to give my opponent a "free" card, a chance to improve his hand at no cost, I bet $1,600.

Larry thinks for a moment, looks at his pile of $24,000 in chips, and says, "I raise." He matches my $1,600 bet and puts another $3,000 in the pot.

Before I do any analysis, my first instinct is to fold. There's an old saying in poker: "If you can't sometimes fold the best hand, you'll never be a winner." I think I probably have the best hand--but I'm not sure. Given my position (first to act), Larry can exploit my uncertainty. I have about $18,000 in front of me. I can fold, accept my $2,400 loss and live to fight another battle, when I am sure of where I stand.

But. And yet. However. . .This is the best hand I've seen in more than seven hours of poker. I may have Larry drawing dead to two or three cards, making me a big favorite to take down a monster pot. On the other hand. . .

I run through the possibilities:

* He has aces, and he slow-played them before the flop, hoping I would bet out: Possible but unlikely.

* He has a flush draw, ace-queen of hearts maybe, and he's running what's called a semibluff, raising with the worst hand but knowing it can improve to the best hand if called: Possible. But very courageous.

* He has three-of-a-kind and wants to shut me out of the pot in case I have the flush draw: Could it be? Would he call my raise from early position with a pair of fours, sixes or tens? Possibly. But if he has indeed improved to trips, or three of a kind, with the flop, wouldn't he merely want to call and let me blow off more money on the next round? If I knew my man better, I could make a better decision.

* He has the same hand as me, kings, and he's exploiting his superior position: Highly improbable.

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