Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

I like those funny phrases that rewrite clichés or popular sayings. Like saying “it’s easy as falling off a piece of cake.” Or “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Sort of like how New England did versus Indianapolis Sunday night, much to my dismay after having picked the Pats in Dr. Pauly’s Pub Pool. Criminy!

Speaking of wins turned into losses, I had kind of a rough session of pot-limit Omaha on Saturday (six-handed, $25 maximum buy-in). Started especially well, and I was up nearly two buy-ins, then hit a bad stretch where I’d fallen back to even, then into the red, then even farther into the deeper, bloodier red after a couple more hard luck hands.

On my way down, I had not one but two of those hands in which the money had gotten all in on the turn, a river card came, and I was genuinely surprised to see the chips sliding my opponent’s way. Not because of any hubris regarding my invincibility -- how could I lose?! -- but rather, in the split-second swiftness of the online game, I hadn’t been able to read the board quickly enough to anticipate my having lost the pot.

There should be a name for such a hand. Not necessarily talking about a “bad beat,” although this sort of hand can be that, too. What I’m talking about is that (hopefully) somewhat rare phenomenon of getting to the end of a hand and not realizing until after the dealer (virtual or otherwise) is sending the chips in the other direction that one has lost.

Wait, wat?Perhaps you have turned an ace-high spade flush, you and your opponent push all in, and you see he has a lesser flush. Then the river brings what looks like a harmless fourth spade. You smile, anticipating a nice profit. Then -- after having mentally registered a win and experienced the pleasure that results -- you notice that river gave your foe a straight flush.

You wince. Criminy! It’s like you’ve lost the hand twice or something.

To describe just one of my two examples from Saturday, I was sitting in the cutoff with $48.60. The player in the big blind, Fisherman, was one of those can’t-wait-to-gamble types you see at the PLO tables now and again. Especially on the weekends, it seems. Very loose, and apparently not too aware that, say, flopping two pair ain’t always the bee’s knees. He’d already lost two buy-ins in short order, and here, on his third try, had developed a bit more patience, lasting several orbits and sitting with $26.40 when the hand began.

There had been one limper and I limped as well with 8cJhQc9d. A raise was probably in order there, but I actually was looking to play hands in position versus Fisherman, and since he seemed to have learned how to fold from the blinds, I wanted to make sure he’d stick around for the flop. The others folded to Fisherman who checked, and so three of us saw the flop come TdAcKs.

Nice flop, that. Fit my hand like a glove. It checked to me and I bet the pot, then Fisherman check-raised to $3.40 total. The third player folded and I just called. I figured Fisherman either for the same straight, or perhaps a set (or even two pair). If the turn is safe, I thought, I’ll push then. The turn was the Js. I still held the nuts. Fisherman quickly bet the pot ($7.30), I raised pot, and Fisherman called with his remaining chips.

Our hands were revealed, and he had Th9sQhJc. First thought was, well, damn, we have essentially the same hand. Next instinct was to check his hand for spades, and when I saw he was not on the flush draw, I relaxed. Stupidly.

The river brought the Jd, and when I expected the pot to be split, I sadly -- and somewhat confusedly -- watched as all of the chips moved in his direction. What gives? Then I realized, Fisherman had a full house -- jacks full of tens.

The Two Dimes calculator was down this morning, so I ran the sucker through the one over at Card Player. On that flop, we were nearly 94% to tie, and in fact I had a slight advantage with my backdoor flush possibility. After the turn, we were exactly 92.5% to tie, and he had three outs to win (the case jack, or one of the two remaining tens).

The online game moves quickly, of course, and I did have two tables up. So it is understandable how I’d failed to see the faint possibility he could steal my half of the pot from me on the river. Indeed, this sort of situation probably occurs much more online than live, although it can happen live, too -- especially in Omaha -- where a person who thinks he’s won has to be shown he has not.

Not nearly as bad as misreading a hand partway through and thus mistakenly committing chips while way behind or drawing dead (oof, thought I had a straight, and I only had ten-high!). But still, there’s a special sort of pain there, thinking you’ve won (or split, in this case), then realizing you haven’t.

I suppose we’re talking about a version of dramatic irony, wherein one of the characters -- me -- is not fully aware of what is going on, and thus the drama is produced by this divide between what I think is happening and what is really happening. “I win! Wait. What? I lose?”

So what do we call this sort of hand? The Bummer? The Blind Spot? The Letdown?

JawsOr how about a Jaws hand? Indeed, think of the movie -- one example after another of dramatic irony, there. The swimmer thinks it’s just a harmless, fun, recreational activity she’s pursuing. But the audience knows better. Maybe we can even make an acronym out of it? Judged A Win, Stupidly?

I can think of another good reason to call it a Jaws hand. It bites.

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Blogger bastinptc said...

I feel your pain. Really. Gaping wound.

11/17/2009 12:02 PM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

Call it The Dewey. He "beat" Truman, after all.

11/17/2009 2:14 PM  
Blogger stephenAmurphy said...

The Dewey is a great name for it. Great call.

Same thing happened to me in a razz hand last week. I almost emailed PokerStars, saying they had a glitch because I was that convinced, before I finally realized the error in my ways. Good times.

11/17/2009 4:09 PM  
Anonymous baglife said...

Hi there mate, hang in there.

I recently started a blog about poker and planning a move to Vegas:


Any input would be much appreciated. I linked your blog under my favorites on my front page.



11/17/2009 4:16 PM  
Blogger Bluejack said...

That is definitely the worst feeling, captured perfectly in your stoned cat photo. "Dude... Wait, what?"

The ones that trip me up most are straights beating three of a kind in THNL. I've ruled out a flush, I'm concerned about a better triple, and on a rainbow board my brain simply doesn't parse the straight as quickly as it unfolds after an all-in.

11/17/2009 11:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Twice last night I got this comment on the NLO8 tables:

"Are you freerolling?" after pushing over the top of an opponent's oversized flop bet after we both flopped nut straights.

3rd Heart hits.

3rd Diamond hits.


Remember these words in Omaha:


And in the end you'll get the car instead of the steak knives :)

11/18/2009 10:29 AM  

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