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Suck Out

Tales of the Improbable - Poker Suckouts

Poker Suckouts"Man can believe the impossible, but can never believe the improbable."
-- Oscar Wilde


When I hear moaning poker tales of woe, I'm surprised I'm still surprised. I should know by now that Oscar Wilde's comment is right on the money.

For me personally, I need to remember that a large percentage of poker players have a massive void in their understanding of how some folks play poker. In other words, if you haven't seen an idiot play poker with your own eyes, it is reasonable to tend to not believe that such a creature can exist. On the other hand, if you followed my learning curve in the game, a pixie could burst out of the head of an opponent and sing Hooked on a Feeling and it wouldn't surprise me.

When flop-style Holdem games first came to California, they rolled out across the state in the late 1980s gradually, not all at the same time. First only Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties offered the games. Many months later a few other places like Emeryville (by Oakland) began spreading the game, then smaller counties also did. San Jose didn't finally join the fun for a couple years.

During this time there was much money to be made traveling to each area when they first started spreading Texas Hold'em, because people used to playing lowball generally have no clue how to play Holdem. In making the rounds of Northern and Central California, I put in some time in a small cardroom in Prunedale -- a little dot of nothing on Highway 101 about ten miles north of Salinas. (Sadly, the room is now closed.) There I witnessed some of the worst poker playing that humans can perform. I suppose this jaded me for life.

Two hands stick out. The first hand I had 6c5c in the small blind. With six players already calling two bets, I called. The big blind raised, it was capped eight way action. The flop came 4c3s2d. I forget how the action came down but the turn card was the Ac, at which point I went FOURTEEN bets against my one opponent. This took so long a few of the other godawful players at the table started table talking, saying I had to have 6c5c and why did my lunatic opponent keep reraising me. Around the twelfth bet I suddenly had a fear I was up against AA, an opponent actually drawing live, rather than 65 offsuit where I was freerolling to make a flush.

Needless to say everybody was wrong about everything. The river card came the Jack of clubs. I gleefully bet... and my lunatic opponent raised by almost orgasming on the table. I groaned and called, and he showed -- Qc9c. He drove the betting on the 432 flop so that we lost the other players. He made 14 bets with a hand that even if he did suck out it could have even been up against Kc5c for all he knew.

Don't look for an explanation aside from this: lots of people play poker like blithering idiots. There is nothing more to it than that. No impossible mysteries to solve. Nothing special here other than a person willing to bet a lot of money in a situation where the odds were heavily against him.

This stuff happens. Get used to it. Be GLAD it exists, even when you lose to some looney's play. The fact of the matter is: the loonies play even worse than I just described.

Another hand I played in Prunedale had me holding Kd3d when the board was something like KsKc9s8c. The action was capped on the flop. I bet the turn into two opponents. Both raised. When it came back to me I capped the betting, even though I figured I was dead. As I capped it though, my King of diamonds (but not my three) squirted out of my hand for everyone to see. Oh great... not only do they see the entire value of my hand, but my heart sinks when they both calmly call. The river card comes an offsuit deuce. I check. The first opponent bets; one of the table talkers says "I guess he isn't afraid of the king of diamonds"; the second player calls; another table talker laughs and says "He REALLY isn't afraid of the king of diamonds!" I can't possibly beat anything but I sit for a second as another table talker asks what my kicker is. At this point I figure it is better to just pretend my card didn't expose and call the one bet.

The bettor turns over JJ! The caller looks at the pair of jacks... and folds!!! Amazingly I win two extra bets after I have shown my hand. I even got a call from a player who somehow was involved with capped betting but couldn't even beat two jacks, let alone the hand I showed.

There are people out there playing poker who do things so improbable that you just can't believe it, even when you see it. But believe it you better, because it happens all the time.

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