It had been one of those sessions. Midway through, I’d value-owned myself for $650 – I’ll never know if it was a good bet or not.1 But poker goes on, and I crawled back until I was stuck “only” $800. The hour got later, then earlier. Around 2:00am, I promised myself one final orbit and then the short drive home. The orbit came and was about to go, when I reached the UTG position.
“Last hand, folks – make it a good one.”
Then I look down at pocket queens. It is going to be a good one.
Because of our weird straddle rules, the action starts (on this hand) with the cutoff. It folds to the small blind, who makes it $35. Folds to me and I make it $110. This would turn out to be significant. An action player behind me thinks briefly and calls the $110. Now the kid on their left, who’s been trying to punt off their short stack for an hour, says, “Aw, the hell with it,” and rips in all their chips. I watch carefully as the dealer counts it down. It’s $215, which, praise the poker rules, reopens the betting. Barely.
It folds back around to me, and I, of course, announce that I’m all in, for $1600.
Oh, the action player doesn’t like this at all. They have about $1200, so it’s all of their chips. They hem, haw, and scratch their head. Finally, they say, “Let’s gamble,” and slide in a stack of chips.
I say, “I have queens.” Action player says, “Oh man – you’re way ahead,” and turns up pocket jacks. The kid does’t show their hand – it may be two Starbucks gift cards for all we know.
The dealer starts organizing the whole mess, and as she’s doing this, l commence to thinking…
About a week ago, I published a short Q&A with Andrew Neeme, who will need no introduction here. The best answer he gave was to a question that I didn’t ask. In my last question to him, I had simply asked if he had any final thoughts he wanted to share. His closing paragraph displayed his equanimity and introspection about our game:
Watching the dealer arrange the $2,800 worth of chips into two separate pots, I thought, “Andrew Neeme is so right.” Not that there were cameras pointing at our game, but that thin line runs across the less glamorous tables, too. I did some quick math, and realized that if I won this pot, I’d not only be unstuck, but leaving the club with a profit north of $500. If I didn’t win the pot, I’d be walking out $2,000 poorer than I’d been when I walked in.
All because of five board cards that the dealer was about to put out. Not because of how well I played, or how good a person I am. But solely based on a random sequence of playing cards sitting there in the dealer’s hand.
And until she put out that fifth board card, I’d dance back and forth across Andrew Neeme’s thin line.
- “Value-own” means to bet for value, last to act on the river, and then be called by a better hand. Since you could have checked down your hand with showdown value, you cost yourself extra money. However, if you don’t occasionally value-own yourself, you’re not value betting thinly enough. I had a specific target for my bet, but unfortunately, my opponent showed up with a slightly better hand than mine. Whether he would have paid off with the hand I thought he had, who knows?