I have gotten into the habit here lately of not chatting at all (not that I ever did a heckuva lot of chatting previously), but yesterday broke that habit a few times to tell opponents “gh” after they had played well against me. I also might’ve added a “gh” or two after a couple of hands that weren’t necessarily well played but ones where I’d experienced some misfortune.
When I talk about my “misfortune,” I suppose I could be accused of referring to “bad beats,” although I’d like to draw a small distinction before I describe an example. And maybe coin a term while I’m at it. And yes, I am proceeding here with Cardgrrl’s admonition against bad beat stories from earlier this week in mind.
In The Poker Encyclopedia, Elkan Allan and Hannah Mackay define a “bad beat” as a “situation in which a player with a high expectation of winning the pot fails to win it.” They add that bad beats can come in a couple of varieties, with either a strong hand being beaten by an even stronger one (e.g., quad aces over quad kings) or an opponent hitting an improbable draw. However, what is most essential for it to be a bad beat, according to our encyclopedists, is that it involves a circumstance in which “luck mysteriously outmanoeuvers skill.”
So actually, the example of a strong hand being beaten by an even stronger one doesn’t necessarily have to be a “bad beat” if, in fact, both players play the hand with equal skill. Sure, “luck” does appear to trump “skill” in such a situation, but it doesn’t seem right (to me) for the loser to come away talking about the hand as a “bad beat.”
Here’s a quick example of the kind of hand to which I’m referring. We were five-handed, and I’d been at this same table for quite some time, meaning I had a good feel for how the other four players tended to play (or thought I did, anyhow). I was UTG (which could also be called the “hijack” seat in this short-handed game) where I picked up pocket deuces. I raised -- something I don’t always do with a pair of ducks, but the game was such that an UTG raise was sometimes enough to take the blinds. All folded except the big blind.
The flop came . My opponent checked, I bet my set, and he called. The turn was the . Again, the BB checked, I bet, and he just called. I considered ace-five as a possible holding, but would’ve expected a check-raise on the turn had that been the case. Seemed a lot like he was on a draw, or maybe had made a pair of some sort. The river was the . He checked, I bet, and he check-raised. Queen-eight? Queen-ten? Ace-eight? A bluff? What would you do?
I three-bet, deciding it more likely than not my set was best, and he capped it. I called, and he turned over to take a nice-sized pot.
I had to tell him “gh” as he certainly got the maximum out of me. Thinking about it from his perspective, waiting until the river to push might’ve been unorthodox, but if he’s putting me on high cards or a big pair, he hasn’t too much to worry about with that flop (other than a club draw, of course).
Going back to the encyclopedists’ definition of a “bad beat,” sure, luck played a role here. If I play the hand “perfectly,” I’m still going to lose (though perhaps not as many bets as I ultimately did). But I can’t really argue that luck “outmanoeuvred” skill in the hand, can I? (If I’m going to spell that word the British way, that is.)
This might not have been the best example, but what I’m talking about here isn’t so much a “bad beat” situation but an “I’m doomed” situation such as is sometimes referred to as getting “cold decked.” That term, of course, refers to an example of cheating whereby a deck has been prearranged to be dealt out in a certain sequence to ensure the outcome. The term originates from the fact that when the new, prearranged deck is introduced into play, the cards are cool to the touch because they haven’t been handled yet by the players.
But to say I was “cold decked” still sounds like I’m saying I was treated unfairly somehow. Yes, it was bad luck, but luck -- both good and bad -- is part of the game. When that dude who made a king-high flush paid me off big time with my ace-high flush the day before, he felt the same way. But it wasn’t a “bad beat” I’d laid on him, nor was there anything unfair about what had happened.
In my search for an apt descriptor, I’m resisting using another phrase that Cardgrrl recently devalued -- “It is what it is” -- an often-used, hands-up-in-the-air type phrase which I also don’t care for all that much, either.
We could call it a “Que sera sera hand” (whatever will be, will be), although that phrase has a couple of significant strikes against it. It is foreign, which sounds pretentious. And it introduces that Doris Day melody in our heads which is static most of us probably don’t need.
See, I’ve done it to you just now. Sorry.
So I’m going to call it a “so it goes hand.” That’s the phrase -- “so it goes” -- Kurt Vonnegut uses about a hundred times or more in Slaughterhouse Five as a kind of shoulder-shrugging refrain in response to the various horrors life can produce. I like the way “so it goes” connotes both an acceptance of what has happened while also looking forward. The phrase might sound a bit too much like we’re relinquishing control over our fate altogether, though I think as long as we keep in mind it is only the past that is now beyond our control, we’re okay to move on.
The “it” is an ambiguous pronoun, its referent dependent on the speaker’s relative attitude, I suppose. “It” could mean “the way I always keep getting screwed.” Or “it” could simply mean “the game,” which “goes” on, ready or not. That second meaning is the one I prefer.
Maybe it seems awkward to refer to a hand as a “so it goes hand,” but I’ll throw it out there, nonetheless. Even if one doesn’t use the term, I think it is a good way to think at the tables. And -- not unlike telling someone “gh” -- probably has a beneficial effect on one’s overall mood.
I swear I got all of the way to the end of this before I realized the acronym produced by the phrase “so it goes hand.” That seals it.
Just try not to sigh too heavily when you say it, okay? Not looking for pity here.