So I’m playing at the Lodge, in Round Rock (Austin-adjacent), Texas. It’s their $1/3 NLH game, about which I need to say something. In many poker rooms, $1/3 is the smallest game, and is the destination for the newest and weakest players. The Lodge is unique in that they maintain both $1/2 and $1/3 no-limit hold’em games. So the $1/2 game is where the beginners congregate. The $1/3 game plays as big and as tough as any $2/5 game (and most $5/10 games) you’ll find anywhere else. The point is that the competition at a Lodge $1/3 game is much stronger than you’re imagining, based on what you’ve probably seen.
Anyway, we’re 9-handed, and somehow I get mixed up with Jeremy Moore, a local crusher. Jeremy opens in UTG+1 to $20. I call, next to act, with two red 5’s. I don’t remember how many calls we got behind us, but statistically speaking, it will have been two or three. Jeremy and I started $900 effective, and he covers me by a bunch because – well, because he destroys these games.
Flopping a set is always a good start
With $80 in the pot, the flop is 3♣️-5♣️-T♣️. As my 8-year-old granddaughter likes to say, “Tell me the good news first.” Okay – good news: we flopped middle set. Bad news, we could be drawing already. It checks to Jeremy, who bets $20. Tough pro or not, it’s hard for Jeremy to flop a flush. So I make it $70. The action folds back to him. He pauses briefly and makes it $210. I’m not worried about him having pocket tens, because if he does, I know where I can buy more chips. I am, however, starting to wonder if he really does have a flush. But I call, planning to play pot odds poker on the turn. If it’s a brick and Jeremy bets, I’ll do the math calculations and see if I have the right price to fill up.
Until the turn comes the 3♦️, pairing the board and solving any worries I had about a flush. If Jeremy has TT or 33, he gets all my chips. Otherwise, I double through him.
Jeremy thinks for a moment, then bets $135 into the $490 pot. There’s zero point for me to raise here, so I call.
A clean run-out is a great next step
With $760 in the pot, the river is a meaningless 2❤️. Jeremy pauses, then checks. I wait an appropriate beat (I’ll never be accused of Hollywooding) and then announce that I’m all in.
Jeremy thinks for a moment, then says, for the table: “That’s five-five almost always. But it would be disrespectful to fold. I call.”
I table my hand and tell him that he’s uncomfortably good at the game. He tells me sotto voce that he had the nut flush. Now, I have a few prime rules about poker. Well within the top ten is, “If they tell you, but don’t show you, what they had, it’s all faeries, unicorns, and rainbows.” But in this case, I made an exception for Jeremy. I won’t go into all the reasons why I believed him. But there’s one reason you can see as well as I can: Jeremy is a damn fine poker player. He three-bet the flop, bet the turn, and then called my shove on the river. He even announced my hand before he saw it. He wasn’t doing all that with the king-high flush or trip threes.
I believe that when you’ve just won two buy-ins from a player, you owe them a little space. I quietly stacked my chips, and Jeremy took a lap around the room – another sign of a pro who knows how to shake off a beat. So while I wondered what he meant by that comment, I didn’t ask – that felt like bad manners.
But in retrospect, I think what he meant is this: me having pocket fives fit the bill perfectly. But to fold would suggest that I’m so predictable and transparent in my play that he can narrow my range to literally three isomorphic card combinations. So in full respect of my playing abilities, he needed to add in some other hands, presumably ones that he was beating (weaker flushes, maybe even trip threes?). And having done that, it was a call.
Could Jeremy have found a fold?
It’s easy to play this game when you can see the cards. So anything I say here is completely tainted by the fact that I was, indeed, looking at fives full. And, as I said, I’m going to give Jeremy credit for the nut flush.
Is he supposed to fold the nut flush? I suspect that had he been playing with me for longer than the hour or two it had been, he might have found that fold. I can’t imagine a hand other than a full house that I’m shoving on the river – either value or bluff. I know I’m “supposed” to have some bluffs, but I’m not that good, not that balanced. I was pretty sure that Jeremy had a flush, and I just don’t ask people to fold flushes on single-paired boards.
Jeremy and I ended up visiting quite a bit during my time at the Lodge. He’s an awesome guy, and we have a bunch of things in common. He brushed off that pot quickly, as a good pro does. I left at some point for dinner – when I came back, Jeremy was still in the game, and had all the chips.
A tough, but respectful player, Jeremy Moore.