Hand of The Week – Week 137

To check-raise or to check-call? That is the question.

I don’t watch many training videos but I stumbled across one last night and saw this interesting hand which I am certain I would have played differently.

As is the norm in these videos, the narrator talked us through his play and described what he was thinking on each street. Playing in a $3/6 cash games he min raised to $12 from the cut-off before calling a 3-bet of $45. He said this player 3-bets him a tonne but doesn’t like folding to 4 bets either – so it was either a call or fold decision and he elected to call.

1 - shove or call 02-10-2014 14-30-25

The flop is an absolute beauty, even though he doesn’t hit. And he checks, just as I would.

2 - shove or call 02-10-2014 14-58-55 (2)

That’s eight cards for a straight (sixes and jacks) and nine clubs for a flush. I’m counting the 6c and Jc twice so taking those away you’ve got 15 outs twice.

Now this is where I would do things differently. I’m absolutely not claiming that I’m right and he’s wrong here. Absolutely not – I’m probably the one in the wrong here and I’m open to criticism/suggestion – but I’m just saying when I see this kind of flop I always think the same thing.

My (rather limited) thought process has always tended to be: “My word look at that draw! Get it all in and have two shots at hitting the turn or river.”

With 15 outs and two cards to come you are 54.1% to make your hand. So go ahead and shove it all in safe in the knowledge that even if you are called there’s a better than average chance you’re going to make your hand. That’s not to say you will always win – you might make a flush and he could have Ac-Kc – but that’s a small enough chance not to worry about.

First to act though – I would never bet first because I wouldn’t want to lose my opponent. If you bet and they fold well that’s not a disaster, but it’s a pity. When they show aggression before the flop they’ll probably have another crack on the flop so just check to the raiser, let him bet again and then pounce.  I’ve virtually always made this move in cash games. In tournaments it’s not so great to put yourself at risk on a draw but in cash games it’s a play I love. I don’t love it quite as much when the turn and river are the 2h and 3h or other variety of brick and that happens without fail of course. But our man in the video does something different.

He just calls.

He says by check calling the flop we look weaker (encouraging more bets which is good when you hit) and that with a hand this strong there are so many turns we can hit and so many turns we can bluff. So he just calls.

I suppose the reason I don’t like check-calling is because you can reach the turn having invested lots of money in the pot only to blown away by a huge bet. Say you face an all on the turn and it’s an over-bet you won’t be getting the 15/44 odds that you need. And then you’ll wish that you’d been the aggressive one. This is what happened.

3 - shove or call 02-10-2014 15-42-34

A King appeared on the turn and now he decided to check raise all in. And then the bad news. Two bricks in a row – isn’t this always the way?

4 - shove or call 02-10-2014 15-28-54

Like I said before, I’m not saying I’m right and he’s wrong. In fact after the event he’s absolutely fine with the way he played his hand saying “it’s a shame we’ve run into the very top of his range.”

My way – to smash all in on the flop – would have certainly taken the pot down and saved his stack because his opponent couldn’t very well call off his chips with A-Ko holding no pair. But that’s easy to say after the event. Granted you will win the pot right there and then against A-Ko. But it’s a smallish pot and you might win a lot more if you catch a club and he had AA for example. And this gets us to the heart of the matter.

The real question to ask when debating whether check-shoving this flop is better than check-calling in the long run is: “Which play wins the most in the long run against his entire range of hands?”

And all I can say is it’s a very tricky puzzle to solve. You’d have to consider every hand  in his range could have got him this far and then compare check-calling against check-raising for every one of those alternatives. When you’d finished doing that you could work out an average profit or loss.  Help!

Some other points I could make about this hand.

One argument in favour of not check-shoving 100% of the time is that it definitely makes sense not to always do the same thing. This is just for the sake of balance.  An astute player will pick up if you always shove your big draws but never your made hand. You don’t want to become easy to read.

But I can’t help feeling that with a draw this big, even if you are advertising “look at my draw that I’ve just over bet” you don’t care if you are called because you will still be a favourite against any hand bar a flopped set. (I suppose I just really love check-shoving drawy flops :) )

And did you see all those stats in the pictures? He keeps 30 stats on every player on display. I was really hoping he would talk us through some of these because I’d like to know how the good cash players get an edge with their tracking devices, but he barely uttered a word on the subject. Pity.

Another thing – and you might well think I’m a pussy here – I couldn’t help but think that it was a brave call with AK. He snap called and although I know it looks easy when you can see the cards how often would AK actually win this confrontation? When I call this turn with AK I guarantee they are holding either 77, 55 or 1010!

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Poll of The Week

I’m hearing news that Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, aged 28 and very much on the long term injured list, has signed a four year contract extension. Can this be right? Four years! Just how SLOW will he be when he is 32?

I try to stay optimistic as a gooner but it isn’t always easy. For every Vieira and Anelka signed by Arsene Wenger there’s an Andre Santos and Gervinho and much as I love what Arsene has done he can be quite stubborn. Why does he like Giroud so much? It can’t just be his lovely quiff.

I wasn’t exactly delighted when Arsenal signed Danny Wellbeck but I do at least try to believe he’ll come good. At least he runs around compared to that static piece of French concrete.  That’s my latest bugbear: footballers on 100k a week who can’t run.  It’s when when you actually go to the stadium you realise just how slow some of these characters and Giroud just takes the proverbial. Coming away from the Emirates after watching  Giroud play in a loss or a draw is a depressing feeling indeed.

He’s not our only paceless one either. Someone once said “Mertesacker runs like he’s on Baywatch” and Koscielny isn’t far behind (or should that be “in front”?)  Who is the slowest player of them all though? Gareth Barry has got some seriously leaden boots and watching Jamie Carragher trying to run at the 2010 World Cup was just ridiculous. (To be fair Carlos Puyol was pretty slow that year as well and he ended up winning that tournament. David Beckham and Teddy Sheringham also won things without troubling the 10 second 100m mark, or even the 12 second mark.)

This week’s question is: Which footballer is the slowest of them all? Answer this week’s poll and leave a comment with your Twitter username to be in with a chance of winning a token for my Bounty competition.

Congratulations to @ironnutzpoker for winning last week’s poll.

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Friday’s Caption Competition

It’s time for another caption competition. But before we do that, the password for the Freddie Mays Bounty tournament at 9pm tonight is:


While I take no interest whatsoever in golf – not even for betting purposes – it is always good to see Americans humiliated in a sporting event.  So in memory of the last Ryder cup we’ll be having a Ryder Cup themed caption this week.

One of the sporting delights of 2012 was Europe’s miraculous comeback at Medinah. Like I say, I couldn’t give a flying toss about golf but seeing Davis Love the THIRD and his boys collapse and choke after being 1/33 – including “Praise the Lord!” Bubba and his God Squad – well that was just beautiful. You’d obviously not been saying enough prayers Bubba!

There was an added bonus! After the presentations had been made the only Americans left on the course were the players and organisers trying (and failing) to put brave faces on. So it was basically thronging with well oiled Europeans. Step forward none other than Alex Salmond (why?) – who heartily congratulated the European team. Even in the throes of a glorious victory the  crowd drowned out his attempts to jump on the bandwagon in a chorus of drunkem boos.  And they just would not stop. Hilarious.

I’m a big believer that it’s talent that wins sporting events, not all this “preparation” malarkey – so as a confirmed sleep lover it was a joy to hear about Rory McIlroy sleeping in and nearly missing his start time before winning his match.

Not so great to sue your team mate and then make the ludicrous claim that “it made our friendship stronger” though. (Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are apparently in the middle of a legal dispute). What is the world coming to when the Americans can rightly take the moral highground about OUR litigious behaviour! Anyway, all will be forgiven if Europe can give the USA a spanking this weekend. Submit your caption on Facebook for your chance to win a token to my bounty tourney next week.

Ryder Cup

Congratulations to Kevin Cotter for winning last week’s competition with the short and sweet entry: “I’d rather lick my balls than that mug..”  Kevincotter.

Alex Salmond

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Hand of the Week – Week 136

I played this hand at a home game on Saturday. My gut feeling is that my opponent made a good call but to know for sure I have to get my thinking cap on and work it out. That’s what we’re going to do here.

We were playing our usual game: a £20 tournament with rebuys for the first hour becoming a freeze out after that (six handed.) We were down to 4 players and the blinds were getting big (at 300/600) when this hand cropped up. I was in the big blind and the stack sizes were:

Lee: 7000
Dave B: 8000
Dave C: 10500 (SB)
Me: 8500 (BB)

The action went call, call, call, or alternatively “limp, limp and complete.”

Lee was under the gun and plays a lot of hands. He likes to call as well, so it needs to be a big bet to get him out of there if you’re thinking of 3-betting. I suppose you could say he is a passive player (or even a “faackin’ calling station” in the words of Dave C :) ). Dave B plays a sensible game and would definitely have something respectable – I thought he might have a small suited ace like A-6s, or suited connectors, or a small pair. Dave C in the small blind could have anything. It costs him 300 to complete in the small blind to get a shot at a 2400 pot so of course he will come along for the ride. He knows the odds.

Well, with all that weakness in front it looked perfect for an all in steal. So that’s exactly what I did, smashing all in over the top and declaring war on all you weak limpers or something similar.  I had A-10o which I reckoned was the best hand, but I really didn’t want a call because I would be pretty much dead if I lost.

Well after I went all in it got interesting. Pretty quickly Lee and Dave B folded. It was good that Dave B folded because he could have had something as strong as, say 77, which I didn’t want a call from. But then it got to Dave C. He asked me questions…..lots of questions. I just thought this was irrelevant because I “knew” he  wouldn’t call. Even after two minutes I was sure he wouldn’t call. I mean what hand would call an all in but wouldn’t raise the limpers?

K-Qs, that’s what sort of a hand.

And he did indeed look me up! To my shock, he called. But I think that might have been something to do the fact he’d done a whole bottle of red. Between quiz questions on my hand he even told me he had K-Qs and that he was thinking of calling. Pretty sure you’re not allowed to reveal your cards in the WSOP but it’s allowed in our game.

I reckon I always lose these confrontations when they have two middle cards (A-10o is a 56% – 44% fav over KQs)….. but not this time!  An ace came on the flop and another on the turn so it wasn’t even a sweaty one.

But I got the inkling it was a good call. I couldn’t say it was a “bad call” at any rate, definitely not. So let’s work it out.

Looking at it from his point of view, of course he didn’t know I had A-10. He would have had to have made some guesses as to what I had. He would have also known I could shove with a wide range because it was such a great stealing opportunity. He knows the score. So let’s say “any ace” goes into the mix and any two broadway cards, because I could easily do that.

Something he didn’t say at the time, but that I thought massively relevant, was that I could have been doing this with a small pair. People always overplay their small pairs, don’t they? They don’t want to see a flop with 55 or 88, let alone play it multiway. So a small pair would have made perfect sense. K-Qs is virtually even money against the likes of 44 or 55 and I would have been really sweating after two minutes under the cross examination if that’s what I’d been holding.

I could have also been stealing with any two cards. It’s not impossible. So perhaps add in a random 10% chance that I was shoving any old crap. Adding in another 17 of the 169 combos gives us a very wide range indeed – 37.25% of all hand combos I could be shoving here. And I guess that is what tipped the balance in favour of a call.

K-Qs would be a 54.8% favourite against that little lot over a big enough sample.

Looking at the pots odds between the actual hands, he had to invest another 7900 to win the 18200 pot. That’s 1.3-1 odds and he needed to be 43.4% for it to be a fair call. He was pretty much bang on the money in that respect, being a 56-44 shot.

But against my whole range of hands, the call was a great one according to the pot odds. 54.8% when you only need to be 43.4% according to the pot odds is just fantastic. But pot odd, schmott odds. Pot odds isn’t the right way to look at a tournament decision.  As we well know by now, ICM is the correct way to look at tournament decisions.

For an ICM calculation we need to know the payouts. (We actually did a chop when we got down to heads up but we weren’t to know that during the hand.) Payouts would have been something along the lines of £220 for 1st, £100 for 2nd and £20 for 3rd.  At the start of the hand with stacks of 7k, 8k, 10.5k and 8.5k our stacks were worth the following values according to the ICM:

Lee: £72.7 (7000 chips)
Dave B: £81.3 (8000 chips)
Dave C: £100.5 (10500 chips)
Me: £85.5 (8500 chips)

Which sums to £340 as it ought to. What we are going to do now is compare whether it was better to fold to my all in or call it. We can work out the ICM for each case – 1) folding 2) calling & losing and 3) calling and winning. And then can decide what % of winning the hand he needed to have in order for the call to show a profit.

If he just FOLDS the ICM situation would be as follows:

Lee: £ 67.6 (6400 chips)
Dave B: £76.5 (7400 chips)
Dave C: £ 96.5 (9900 chips)
Me: £ 99.4 (10300)

If he CALLS AND WINS the ICMs now look as follows (based on new stack sizes of 6400, 7400, 19700 and 0):

Lee: £84.4 (6400 chips)
Dave B: £93.6 (7400 chips)
Dave C: £162.1 (19700 chips)
Me: £0 (0 chips)

If he CALLS AND LOSES  the ICMs would look like this:

Lee: £76.7 (6400 chips)
Dave B: £86.0 (7400 chips)
Dave C: £26.2 (2000 chips)
Me: £151.1 (18200 chips)

So folding = £ 96.5. Calling and WINNING = £162.1 and  Calling and LOSING = £26.2. Remember, these are the monetary values of your chip stack according to the ICM.

Knowing that the probability of winning the hand = (1 – the probability of losing) the hand we can set up an equation which tells us what probability is required to make the expected value (EV) of calling positive. Positive EV is the gambler’s holy grail after all.

For EV > 0

P (162.1) + ((1-P)*(26.2)) > 96.5

162.1P + 26.2 – 26.2P > 96.5

135.9P > 70.3

P > 0.52

In English, if the chances of winning the hand were 52% or better then it is a call which will show a profit.

As we know now – A-10o is actually 56-44% favourite over KQs so 44% is a long way from the required 52%. But that would be to judge in hindsight. It’s easy when you know what the cards are.

Dave was unlucky really. I could have easily been holding a lot worse than A-10o. We saw earlier that it was reasonable to suspect I was shoving 37% of hands. And if he thinks I am shoving 37% of my hands then in the long run KQs should indeed get the job done 52% of the time and more. Indeed, KQs would win 52% of the time if was shoving my top 30% of hands.

I think it was a good call.

Success in the long run comes down to a player’s ability to estimate his opponent’s range of hands. Especially when it comes to all  in decisions.  It’s not about saying “I think he had AK” or some other exact specific hand. You need to assemble a whole range of hands he mihjt be holding and then make your decision.

One final point. The all in call, after completing from the small blind no less, achieves something else. It tells me “you’d better think about it next time sunshine. You know I might just call.”


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Poll of The Week

Loving today’s headline in the Sportinglife.

 “Neville: United must spend more!”

Phil Neville reckons it will take two more transfer windows before United can think about winning the league again. Imagine that – they’ll get through about half a billion quid if they try that.  Please do it! Assemble a squad of 35 players all on £200+ grand a week and go bust. I would LOVE it!

He also added “There were no world-class centre-backs out there (this summer).” And this was after the weekend’s Man City Chelsea game where by all accounts, Mangala looked, well, “world class”.

I suspect if you were asked who had the best transfer window this summer you couldn’t really look much further than Chelsea. Getting Remy, Costa and Fabregas in (at a profit courtesy of the £50m for David Luiz) makes Chelsea look depressingly good.  West Ham and Hull did alright too. But other clubs have had shockers and I think you know who they are.

I’ve got stacks of pre season bets that hinge on Liverpool finishing higher than Man Utd. I was hugely confident about these bets a month ago but I ain’t so sure now!

This week’s question is: which club performed worst in the transfer market this summer? 

A certain Messr H Redknapp would usually be thereabouts in this market but compared to some of the other teams – and courtesy of him missing out on deadline day moves for Crouchie and Jermaine Defoe – he’s had a blinder! Answer this week’s poll and leave a comment with your Twitter username to be in with a chance of winning a token for my Bounty competition.

Congratulations to @chopos180 for winning last week’s poll.

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Friday’s Caption Competition

‘Tis caption competition time again! But before all that, the password for the Freddie Mays Bounty tournament at 9pm tonight is:


And just so you know, tonight’s tournament has a Bounty of $200 on my head because nobody managed to knock me out last week.

Well what a surprise eh? Scotland rejects independence, with only 4 areas out of 32 voting “Yes”.  And all this comes after much scaremongering and pretence in the media it would be close, not to mention millions of words of outright bullshit spoken by politicians.

A 55-45 result favouring “No” to independence might sound close but when you amplify an 11:9 ratio over literally millions of voters, it makes the odds nigh on a certainty. And the polls were probably a bit skewed unrealistically towards the “yes” vote due to people not being entirely honest about voting “no”.

Seriously impressive turnout though. Not that Alex Salmond will really care any more, because he’s got a big dog to kiss. What could he be saying here?  Submit your caption on Facebook for your chance to win a token to my bounty tourney next week.

Alex Salmond

Congratulations to Pat Doheny for winning last week’s competition with: “you can use the toilet first Oscar…….(padscouse)”


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Hand of The Week – Week 135

I don’t know about you but I cannot abide “Hollywooding” at the poker table.

There’s one player in particular I’ve noticed while multi tabling sit n gos recently. When you shove all in he always takes until the last second to fold. Every time! He must know full well that he is folding but he puts everyone through this performance every time he faces an all in.  It gets tiresome because when you play turbo sit n gos you get to face a lot of all ins!

Maybe the first time you’ll think “close decision there – perhaps he’ll look me up next time.” But by the 20th time it is just a joke. Yeah mate, we get the message, you don’t like being set all in. None of us do.

I can only imagine what an arsewipe he’d be at a live game. I bet he’s one of these players who chirps up whenever anyone raises his blind, trying to draw everyone’s attention to your “loose game” pretending to be good natured, but in reality just moaning and whining and doing everything instead of playing back at you like a man.

Well last Friday I ran into something even more extraordinary. This was Mr Hollywood himself – someone I discovered while playing my Bounty game. He didn’t just Hollywood when somebody raised him. This character would Hollywood if someone limped on to his big blind! Perhaps “Hollywooding” isn’t even the right word to use for this bloke because that implies that some sort of act was going on. He just took the maximum time, or very close to it, over every decision.

The effect this had on the game was something else. This tournament starts at 9pm and usually gets 50 runners (we had 51 on Friday). It has 10 minute levels for the blinds and is always done and dusted by 11.30pm. This game on the other hand?

With Mr Hollywood in attendance it just went on forever. It finally finished at 12.36am, over 3.5 hours after we’d begun. What makes this staggering is that at the first break (at 10pm) we were down to 19 players from the starting 51. We were well ahead of schedule!

Mr Hollywood simply refused to get eliminated and we eventually ended up heads up for 30 dreary hands. But it was three handed where the real agony took place. We entered 3 handed play at 11.25pm. At 12.25am we were still 3 handed. That was a mind boggling 104 hands later! Usually the entire final table is over in less than that. Do bear in mind that most of these 104 pots were done and dusted preflop or on the flop because we were three handed. It was utter torture.

The thing is it just made me try harder.  There’s no way I wanted to lose to a player whose only tactic seemed to be to bore everyone to death.  I played as if that €100 bounty was the crown jewels. My precious, precious bounty.  Even when there were setbacks I stood resolute in the face of tedium. I would not be perturbed! Heads up I turned a 2-1 chip advantage into a 2-1 chip disadvantage. But I just thought “so be it, just means I have to grind HIM down now.”  Finally I managed it, with this beautiful hand, 6-2 offsuit. He called my min raise with 8-5 and we flopped 2-5-2. This prompted an all in shove which I gleefully called (I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent).  And believe me it was always going to take a hand like that to see the back of this guy.

Mr Hollywood 18-09-2014 13-37-17

At the end there was the usual rounds of “wp, gg” and all that. I looked at the time and it was 12.36am, over 3 and a half hours after we’d started.  I said truthfully “That was torturous”.  And off I went to make a well earned cuppa.

I looked back at the table about 10 minutes later. I’d left the table open (a little habit I’ve got when I win tournaments, as if it somehow extends the glory :) ). And I spotted something in the chat.  He had actually said “sorry”.

I feel a bit bad now.

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Poll of The Week

I don’t think we’ve done a politics related poll of the week before but seeing as it’s so very topical right now (translation – there’s been nothing else on the TV for days on end) this week’s question will be about Scottish Independence.

This week’s question is: what percentage of Scots will vote “YES” for Independence ?

Answer this week’s poll and leave a comment with your Twitter username to be in with a chance of winning a token for my Bounty competition.

The polls seemingly have it “neck and neck”. Well that’s what they tell us anyway, but I’m not so sure it will be that close.  I suspect a lot of the people who claim they “don’t know” how they will vote are just worried that they’ll get put upon Braveheart style by belligerent nationalists if they admit they don’t actually want independence. I also think the press plays up how close it all is to make it sound more exciting than it really is, but we’ll know soon enough. The telling statistic after the voting takes place will be how many Scots actually vote “yes”.

All I know is that I haven’t seen so many economically illiterate assessments and genuinely dishonest economic forecasts, since ooooh, probably the last time a bunch of politicians got together and started talking about economics and making forecasts.  And that the English politicians are a bit worried (also that Alex Salmond is a bit of a clown.) 

Deutsche Bank have predicted a doomsday scenario for Scots if they vote “yes” to independence, akin to the great Depression of the 1930s indeed. And as we all know, we can really trust the opinions of banks (in this case a German bank which isn’t even incorporated in either of the countries that it professes to advise) because they are completely altruistic and never lobby for their own narrow self interest.

Congratulations to @ironnutzpoker for winning last week’s poll.

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Friday’s Caption Competition

Time for another caption competition! But first of all, the password for the Freddie Mays Bounty tournament at 9pm tonight is:


What better subject matter to choose for this week’s caption competition than Paralympic athlete and top actor (and definitely non-murderer) Oscar Pistorius?

Bailed today (que?) after being found guilty of culpable homicide he will return for sentencing in another month. Because after an entire month’s delay to read out a verdict they obviously need another month to work out a sentence (because no way this could have been worked out in the last month they just took off, see?) Perhaps they could send him for psychiatric reports more another month (again)?

Here’s a picture of the man-of-the-moment doing what he does best – no, not breaking down toilets doors with er a cricket bat, but running really fast.  Submit your caption on Facebook for your chance to win a token to my bounty tourney next week.


Congratulations to David O’Connor for winning last week’s competition with: “not everybody at Aston Villa left deflated on transfer deadline day – celtic3x”


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Hand of The Week – Week 134

A bit of light relief from this week’s hand of the week.

It’s one of those hands which although doesn’t quite make the category of “worst play you’ve ever seen” definitely hails from the annals of “what a strange was to play your hand”.

The stakes were low which might explain the laughable play on the river of this hand by my opponent.

You could tell he was a bit novicey by the way he would limp in to most pots and call most preflop raises or 3-bets”just to see a flop” regardless. He would also carry on if he caught any part of the flop and luckily for him it was working. He was hitting flops and winning chips and built up quite a stack in this 6 man sit n go.

On the hand in question the blinds were 100-200 and I had 1440 chips vs his 3860. I was in the big blind with 3♣-4♠ ready to fold and he limped in like he did every hand, this time from under the gun (although I doubt he knew if he was in early position or not.) Everyone else folded so it was just me and him. I checked my option.

The flop was 5 4♣ 2

I figured I was ahead and that he probably limped in with two overcards to the flop but I checked it anyway because there are still lots of cards that improve my hand. The turn was a 6d so I now I had my straight. With three diamonds on board I thought it was time to start betting so I bet 200 and he called. Immediately I wished I had bet bigger because the river gave us the ace of diamonds.

Sigh. Four diamonds on board and I don’t have one.  This was frustrating. I’d had pocket queens and AKs in this game and no-one wanted to play with me. Now I’d seen my straight flushed down the toilet. I could bet small here and represent the flush myself (folding to a raise obviously) but I didn’t want to waste any chips because I’d be bottom of the pile if I lost the hand. We all had similar stacks bar our chipped up odd ball.

I checked. He checked it back to me and in the second it took for the cards to be revealed I said to myself “great he checked it back, he probably doesn’t have a diamond.”

Unfortunately he did. The KING of diamonds. He had K-9 with the king of diamonds!

Absolute disbelief from my end. See for yourself – moves 17 and 18 where I checked first and he checked back the nuts at me.


“You just checked back the nuts to me!” I exclaimed.

He had the stone cold nuts and, last to act, had just checked it back to me.

“I didn’t want to scare you away with a bet”

…..came the inexplicable, utterly bonkers reply

Well what can you say to that?

Needless to say I was eliminated before him and he gave me the old “bye Freddie” send off. :)

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