This week’s hand of the week comes from the 1981 WSOP main event and features Doyle Brunson and Ken Smith.
I found this hand in the classic book “The Biggest Game in Town” by Al Alvarez and I’ve taken the liberty of quoting directly from Alvarez further in. (It would be rude not to really as he tells it a lot better than I ever could.)
I don’t know what the blinds were and I don’t know the stack sizes either. But trust me – these are mere details, unimportant in the scheme of things.
Doyle Brunson you will have heard of but perhaps not Ken Smith, so a quick word about him.
Ken Smith was a top level poker player, a chess master and a bit of a character. A large man, he would always show up at tournaments in a decrepit old top hat which he claims was found in the Ford theatre the night Lincoln was assassinated. And he had one mannerism in particular when he was at the table. Every time he won a pot he would lumber to his feet, turn to the audience, doff his top hat and say “What a Player!” Literally every time he won a pot.
Now some people might get a bit vexed after three days of this caper but personally I reckon I would be heartily amused– if only at his sheer repetitiveness and inability to give a monkeys.
Of course, in an era when the average players’ age was nearer 50 than 20, Doyle was well familiar with Ken Smith’s routine. And with only 75 entrants in the 1981 renewal, it was likely that the two men would get involved in a pot at some point. Sure enough, they did. In the words of Al Alvarez:
“Minutes later, Ken Smith was at it again, his ‘What a Player!’ almost drowning out the din of the slot machines. Doyle Brunson, who has known Smith for thirty years, grinned at him benevolently. ‘You’re all heart, Ken’, he said. ‘Heart and belly’.
The railbirds applauded. ‘Know what I’m gonna do?’, Brunson continued. ‘I’m gonna raise you on two rags and bluff you right out’.
‘Try me’, piped Smith, and he came out betting when the next flop was dealt: king, queen, jack.
‘Raise!’ said Brunson so loudly that his jowls quivered. He put both hands behind his now depleted stacks of chips and pushed them belligerently into the centre.
Smith paused, shrugged and docilely folded. Brunson pulled in the pot, then turned over his hole cards and tossed them, face up, across the table: a six and a five of different suits. He rose majestically to his feet, doffed his Stetson and cried, basso profundo, “What a player!” The crowd roared.
I just love this play. The flop’s as scary as can be, but Brunson was coming with the lot, 100%, no matter what.
What a player! Quite.