Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Horror-scopes (poker blog)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

  In the poker game tonight, there was a visiting Chinese gambler: the sort of player you dream about. He liked pretty much every hand he found. Expressed as a rough percentage, I’d say he folded 10% of hands, called 60% of hands and raised 30% of hands. When he raised, he always slightly over-raised, then massively over-bet the flop. It was a £5-£10 game; he might open for, say, £40 or £50, get three callers and then bet £475 on the flop. Out of position, regardless of field size, whatever came. His base stack size was about £2000, so he was usually happy to call a raise that set him in, then either get lucky or pull up. (That’s why I say “base stack size” - at any point he might have double or triple that in front of him, but that’s what he’d pull up for when he got wiped out.)

  Basically: the kind of guy against whom you want to find a hand. I watched the usual suspects lining up to pick him off. I bided my time - while still playing pots and seeing flops, of course. I’m not the kind of player who refuses to give action without the pre-flop nuts, I like to help make a good game. But, you know… I bided my time for getting in a big pot.

  Finally it came: Q9 of spades in my hand, J-10-8 the flop (two hearts on board). As it happened, the fellow had a pretty big stack at the time. He over-bet and called a raise, but we didn’t get it all in til the turn. And the river made his flush.

  But that’s fine, that’s poker. Good luck to him. I was happy to congratulate him on a nice hand. Here’s my problem. After the pot, I picked up a Daily Mail that was lying on a nearby table. I do that sometimes after losing a big pot in a good game: read a newspaper or a poker magazine that’s lying about, or do a crossword or a sudoku, just to use up some of the energy that might otherwise cause me to tilt into unwise pots. And I turned to my horoscope. (This is from Monday’s paper, if you happened to want to verify; I’m writing this in the small hours of Tuesday morning).

  And this is what I read, as I watched the money thrown around the table, as my lucky opponent kept betting and raising and betting and raising, into the apparently effortless jaws of my usual rivals, while I miserably struggled to get out of it.

  “Chinese emperors”, it said, “often saw themselves as ‘descendants of the dragon’. They believed that they were born blessed with great power. I mention this because you are in a win-win situation.”

  What an astonishingly appropriate horoscope, I thought! And it’s quite right! Anyone can get unlucky, but this is still a good game! Eagerly, I slurped up the encouragement that all must come right.

  “But that isn’t to say”, my horoscope continued, “that you can’t lose. Of course you can.”

  Oh MARVELLOUS. I was getting the rubdown from a horoscope! Why didn’t they just go ahead and print it on sandpaper?

  The amusing thing - and I mean this in the bitterest sense - is that horoscopes are supposed to be written in an incredibly general way, so a twelfth of the population will find that it magically chimes with them. And yet… this one… surely translates only to a situation where you’re doing your money in a brilliant poker game? Otherwise… I mean, just look back at it… it doesn’t actually mean ANYTHING AT ALL.

  At this point, I couldn’t swear that my old friend The Chimney Sweep (who is currently owning me at Scrabble, to a humiliating degree) hadn’t come up with a way to get that newspaper printed especially for me, and slipped it onto the table just as that third heart came down.

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the Sweep at 11:04 am on January 24th, 2012

well, if you insist on playing poker on Chinese New Year when it’s the Year of the Dragon - that guy was actually a 99% favourite on the flop. No, much better off sticking to the game in your own flat:—-Flush-Six-Card-Replace/

or maybe not….

psychofant at 11:48 am on January 24th, 2012

horoscopes are for sheep,sheep get fleeced,whats your problem?

AndytheDealer at 11:48 am on January 24th, 2012

Well done Vicky, a bad beat/rubdown story that made me laugh!

Emma H at 12:15 pm on January 24th, 2012

Lol. Have you checked your horoscope in the Daily Mail today? It starts ‘DO YOU recognise the situation that you face? Is it striking a chord, ringing a bell? Be careful’. It sounds like a warning about horoscopes themselves, maybe they should print that at the beginning of them every day!
Excited to see the Sweep posting on here having read about him in your book. But might have to read the link to his blog about 9 more times before I’d be ready to play the game he’s talking about!

Harry Weston at 12:52 pm on January 24th, 2012

Hi Vicky! You should know better that bad beats are part of professional poker player routine. But yeah, this horoscope coincidence is a funny one! Anyway, congrats with your new blog. I would be very grateful if you could visit my poker guy blog ( a few times a month and share some ideas and your superior knowledge on different poker topics :) Good luck at TCOOP

Gentleman at 1:40 pm on January 24th, 2012

Thnx for that Vicky, made me laugh on a rainy day. I liked the Sweep’s blog about the variant game as well. I think most home game players make up variants after a period of getting to know each other. I play heads up with a mate quite often and we ‘tick’. You have to win a raised pot with all of the different 2 hole card combinations, A2, 22, 23 etc. and you receive a tick for each (and 10p). 3 quid to the first to complete the set.

BaseMetal at 2:09 pm on January 24th, 2012

“Oh MARVELLOUS. I was getting the rubdown from a horoscope! Why didn’t they just go ahead and print it on sandpaper?”
If they did wouldn’t it spoil the best use for the Mail?

BaseMetal at 7:56 pm on January 24th, 2012

Don’t switch to writing horoscopes, you are using the wrong statistics. The author should get each one to appeal to as high a proportion of the pop. as possible without being too obvious. There are 12 signs but you would get more readers if, instead of twelve, each ‘scope appealed to 1 in 5 or so (roughly the same odds as an open ender with two cards to come).

To be honest I think it’s likely to be even better using odds of 1 in 2 but I liked showing off with the open-ender term. Ah, when have honesty and horoscopes ever been bed fellows anyway?

Ross F at 12:34 am on January 25th, 2012

“horoscopes are supposed to be written in an incredibly general way”
Quite, and so was this one.  To paraphrase, it said: “don’t be cocky/overconfident”

Rich M at 2:40 pm on January 25th, 2012

Great story! I always used to read your poker columns but it did seem that the word count was too restrictive.

I’ve got a question about Pips and Flushes: If you declare you’re playing your hand both ways, but I only pick one, do you automatically win the other half of the pot? Can you steal half the pot by playing utter rubbish uncontested (e.g. with a pips score of 0?!)

Because that’s how I interpreted the rules. But if I’m right, then I don’t understand why, in the Sweep’s story, Warren didn’t declare both. Even with AQ he seemed to be beating your pips score. And it seems worth banking the pips half as a sure thing, even if you haven’t outdrawn his flush. And it seems worth defending, in case you’ve missed entirely and try something sneaky…

But maybe I’ve misunderstood?

Victoria Coren at 6:04 pm on January 25th, 2012

Hi Rich. If you declare both ways, you must win or draw both ways in order to win the pot. (If you win one way and draw the other, you get three quarters of the pot.) And if there are side pots, the important thing to remember is that you must win or draw both ways in the MAIN POT.

  However, if you declare both ways and are LOSING one of the ways, you forfeit the entire pot. Your opponent will get it all, whatever their hand.

  That rule’s in place because, if it wasn’t, everyone would just declare both ways every time, and it would be no different from “Cards speak”.

peter b at 5:52 pm on January 27th, 2012

sounds like something from a Dirk Gently story. You’ve not been publicly upsetting astrologers have you?

Victoria Coren

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