Monday, September 04, 2006

The Getaway

'The Getaway' by Jim ThompsonTaking a break from watching that WSOP broadcast for a few days. Will get back to it. Have been playing a bit and reading some. Just reread Jim Thompson’s terrific 1958 hard-boiler The Getaway. Begins with a somewhat-botched bank heist that subsequently becomes a book-long chase of the crooks responsible. We spend most of the narrative following Carter “Doc” Cramer and his wife, Carol, on their murderous cross-country journey. They leave a trail of carnage behind them as they steal cars, hop trains, and hole up with friends. I say “hole up” because during one stopover they literally are forced to hide separately in underground caves in an effort to shake their pursuers. The chapter describing Carol’s rapid descent into an insane frenzy while inside the hole is one of the more harrowing passages you'll encounter in any work of fiction, I'd venture . . . hard not to feel a little claustrophobic just reading it.

There are other stellar passages in The Getaway describing these worldly, merciless characters. In the next post or two I might try to share a couple that seem to bear some relation to the kinds of situations and personalities one sometimes encounters at the poker table. Meanwhile, let me describe a few hands I’ve played lately in which the difficulty of “the getaway” was ably demonstrated. (Comments are welcome.)

Like Hand No. 122 of the WSOP Main Event final table, all three of these hands involve pocket queens. The first came in one of those FPP-qualifier satellites for the WCOOP over on PokerStars. I’ve now made four attempts to weasel my way into Event #7, the $200+$15 limit hold ’em tourney, none of which have been successful. The satellites I’ve tried have all been set up as “Turbo”-style tourneys with the blinds increasing every five minutes. They also allow rebuys during the first half hour (or six levels). Needless to say, the luck factor is quite high here.

I did make it down to 20th or so once (usually one has to reach the top four or five to qualify). I think I might’ve had an even better chance to make it, though, in the tourney featuring the hand I’m about to describe. There were about 75 players left (out of 198 entrants). I had 5,055 chips -- a bit below the average stack, if I remember correctly. I’m fifth in chips out of the eight players at my particular table. We were at level IX (the rebuy period was over); the blinds were 300/600 and the stakes 600/1,200 (this is a limit tourney, remember). I’m one off the cutoff and get dealt AsKs. Before the action gets around to me, ActionJane (with 4,960 chips at the start of the hand) raises from early position. It folds to me and I pop it to 1,800. I’d seen Jane preraise with ace-rag and small pairs already, and so I’m already thinking if the flop is favorable I’m probably going to take this hand as far as I can. It folds to the big blind who, already short-stacked, decides to put in his remaining 950 chips. ActionJane calls and the flop comes 2dAd5s. Jane bets 600, I raise it to 1,200, and she calls. Her call tells me I’m at worst tied in the hand -- nothing in her earlier play indicates she would slow down having flopped a set. I’m thinking she could well have treys or fours and is now hoping to plug the gutshot, or -- more likely -- she holds ace-queen. (Not really worried about the flush draw here.) The turn is the 2h and ActionJane check-calls me. We are now both nearly out of chips -- she’s down to her last 760, I’ve got 855, and the pot (including the sidepot) is a whopping 10,250. Neither of us is getting away at this point.

The river brings the Qd and damn if ActionJane doesn't decide to bet her last 760. Since I already had ace-queen in mind, I felt pretty certain I was sunk. But I had to call. The difference between 855 and 95 would be meaningless here, never mind the fact that I’m staring at over 14-to-1 pot odds. I call and sure enough she has QhQc. I’m pretty steamed that she didn’t go away after my raise on the flop, but in this sort of tournament one has to take chances, so I can’t really fault her play. (Next hand I’m all-in with QJ and am quickly dispatched in 72nd place.)

The other two hands are ones where I was dealt the queens. Both of these came up in my usual $0.50/$1.00 6-max limit game yesterday, occurring within about 30 minutes of each other (at different tables with different players). In the first it was folded to me sitting UTG+1 and I raised. The cutoff -- MrGreenJeans -- reraised, and both the button and the small blind called the three bets. The big blind folded and I closed the betting with a call. Four players and a $6.50 pot await the flop.

Whenever I see a flop with queens I involuntarily think “41%” -- that is, the chances an ace or a king will turn up among the three flopped cards. To be precise, that’s the chance an ace or king will come out if all eight are still in the deck (in which case, I’m less concerned). With a reraise and callers before the flop, I’m pretty confident at least one of my three opponents is holding an ace or a king; there may even be two of those scare cards among my opponents’ hands. Thus, the chances of seeing a king or ace flop decrease here, though if it comes it's gonna matter. (When I hold kings, I fret over “23%” -- the chance an ace will show.)

In this instance, the flop came Jc2cAs. The big blind checked to me, I bet, and MrGreenJeans again reraised. It folded back to me and I called. $8.50 in the pot.

The turn was the 6d. I thought a second and checked, and MrGreenJeans predictably bet the $1. Having only played a few orbits at this table, my read on MrGreenJeans was incomplete, although my initial impression was he was on the conservative side and wasn’t likely to show such aggression without the cards to back it up. I decided he had the ace (or perhaps kings or jacks) and I got away. I don’t always run and hide every time an ace or king says “boo!” to my pocket queens, but this time my heart just wasn’t in it. Various factors -- the most important probably being not having position -- made me less bold here.

A little later (at another table) I picked up QcQs on the button. It folded to the cutoff, MessyMarvin, who limped in and I raised. The small blind called as did MessyMarvin, so we had three players and $3.50 in the pot when the flop came 4sQd9h. The small blind checked and MessyMarvin bet. I had already witnessed some of MessyMarvin’s shenanigans -- e.g., raising with bottom pair, check-raising with overcards, etc. I was fairly confident he wasn’t betting a draw w/JT here. Willing to chance that the small blind wasn’t drawing either, I smooth called and the small blind called behind me. A $5.00 pot, then. The turn card was safe, the 7c. Again, the small blind checked and MessyMarvin bet out. This time I raised, the small blind folded, and Marvin three-bet. With the stone cold nuts, I happily capped the betting. The river was the very harmless 3c. (I couldn’t have asked for a more anxiety-free draw, actually.) MessyMarvin check-called and saw my trip queens was taking down this $14.25 pot. Rather than muck, he showed the table his 7s9d.

My slowplay on the flop was slightly risky, but given MessyMarvin’s earlier wildness I felt it was worth a try. As it happened, my smooth-call there made it a bit more difficult for Marvin to get away after pairing his seven. Of course, as those other hands and Thompson’s novel all demonstrate, getting away ain't always so easy . . . .

Image: The Getaway (1958), Jim Thompson, Amazon.

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Anonymous Cell 1919 said...

Your blog is getting dangerously addictive!

The effort that goes into it is much appreciated.

9/05/2006 8:53 AM  

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