Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Interesting Hands In Bristol (poker post)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

I had a great time at the UKIPT Bristol tournament this weekend. It was just really fun; Bristol is a great city, everyone around was good-tempered and lovely, lots of likable players were in town for the game, and I was involved in some really interesting poker hands.

  As I usually do, I tweeted a few updates. But two things were just too big for the small space allowed there: an incredible clash of monster hands with James Dempsey (who’d given me a lift to Bristol in his amazing James Bond car, for which I remain grateful, despite the hand that follows), and my exit from the tournament. Both of those situations defied one-line summary. Tweeting “I lost with quads” or “I got it all in with a pair of nines” is misleading in its brevity, as there is a lot of other key information that changes the landscape.

  I promised the extended version, and here it is. Very extended. If you’re not a poker fan, I do NOT recommend you read on. But if you play the game, I think you’ll find these coups quite interesting.

1) Quads

If you lose a hand with quads, people will just say “Unlucky – no getting away from that.”

  Actually, that’s not necessarily true. It’s worth thinking about every losing hand, to see if chips could have been saved, even if only for 30 seconds.

  A little while into day one, a young chap raised to 450 (blinds 100-200), James “Flushy” Dempsey called, there was another caller and I flat called from the big blind with two red jacks. (No need to make the pot huge out of position, I thought – especially since I’d already made that mistake once with a pair of tens).
  The flop came K Q J, all clubs. Trips! But hardly unassailable trips, on that kind of board.

  I checked, the original raiser checked, Dempsey bet 1200, next guy folded, I called and the original raiser folded. So now I’m heads up with James.
  Turn: jack of spades. Quads! OK, now I’m confident. I checked and Dempsey irritatingly checked behind. So, I chucked out a bet in a sort of “Well, if you don’t want it…” kind of way (which obviously goes as an early river bet, since the turn action is complete).

  Betting or checking in the dark is nearly always a dumb thing to do, as it gives unnecessary extra information and the situation might change massively - but it’s not easy to get paid with quads, either, especially by a player of Dempsey’s quality. My hand couldn’t go behind, it was too massive, and what I didn’t want was him being chased away by a scare card. So, I bet early, making my action just as the river card came over.

  River: ten of clubs. Ah yes; of course there was a universe where my hand could go behind, just an extremely unlikely one. And here it was: a possible straight flush.
  Flushy now raises to 11,000. Or it might have been 10,000. And I had a long think.

  The one or two less experienced players on my table (it was a very tough table) were a bit shocked by this think, as were others who heard about it. They believe, understandably, that quads can never be folded.

  But what could he have? James Dempsey is an excellent poker player, and I think he credits me with a clue myself; he would never raise with a full house here and expect me to call with worse. He really should have a straight flush.

  The problem was, the dark(ish) river bet. Dempsey knows that I would not make that bet if I had the ace of clubs myself, therefore he can represent it. His hand is absolutely polarized here: he has the straight flush, or he’s bluffing.

  But if he’s bluffing, he’s taken a very specific line: had a brave (some would say reckless) go at nicking it off three players on the flop when the original raiser checks in disappointment, then (despite being just heads-up now) given up on the turn – and then seized a late-breaking opportunity to bluff again when the absolute scare card comes on the river. It’s a pretty weird play. Then again, it would rarely be said of Flushy that he never bluffs.

  Eventually I called, with this possibility in mind, and of course he had the ace of clubs for the royal flush. I knew even as I called that he has it significantly more than 50% of the time; he’s bluffing more than 0% of the time, but it’s a low percentage. Therefore, as I tweeted: “I just made a bad call with quads – and that’s not something I can say every day.”

2) The rogue element

Despite this sick match-up of hands with Flushy on day one, which took me down to 7,000 in chips, I recovered to make day two and got my chips up to a strong 100,000 by mid-afternoon.

  What’s interesting (I think) is that I was basically knocked out by a player who didn’t actually get a single one of my chips – nor, I think, did he have any real idea that he was key to my demise. Funny how it can be like that, sometimes; someone can get your chips, due to the actions of a third party who affected the action like the beat of a butterfly’s wings altering the universe.

  It came down to two key hands. I’d suffered a bad beat against an all-in player and my stack was around 75,000. With blinds at 400-800, I found 88 in the small blind and an Irish guy raised to 1700. The Persian gentleman on my immediate right, who had a stack of about 35,000 called. I was going to be out of position on the hand, but I felt like I liked the situation. I decided to take a flop with them.

  It came 2-3-3. This was a good flop for me, and I elected to check-raise. So, I checked and the Irishman bet 3500. The Persian called. Pretty sure I was in front, I raised to 15,000. Bizarrely, they both called. Okay: I was done with the hand. I had evidently misread the situation; I wasn’t sure what the Irishman had (and, despite his quick call of my raise, I strongly suspected two overcards) but the Persian guy absolutely must have a big pair. There was just no way he could flat call 15,000 out of a 35,000 stack against two opponents without a huge hand.

  So, although the turn brought another 3 to give me a full house, I’d lost interest and checked. The Irishman now bet out, around 20,000. To my absolute astonishment, the Persian folded. How was this possible? What on earth could he have, to call for nearly half his stack, against two players, then fold immediately on a blank turn? We’ll never know.

  Unfortunately, I still had to fold myself. When the Irishman made his 20,000 bet, he had the same information I did: that this Persian player waiting behind him had already cold-called nearly half his chips, indicating a huge hand. It was no longer possible for the Irish kid to have AK or AQ, as it would be just too crazy to bet into the (basically unfoldable) Persian hand with no pair. So he must be the one with the aces or kings. I folded, and the Irish guy triumphantly showed KTo.

  I must say, I feel that his play was very inadvisable – not because of my action, but because it was absolutely impossible to predict that the Persian would fold for the bet. For a tournament of this kind, it was far too high-octane a bluff. Basically, people never fold in that spot. Nevertheless, it got through. When I folded and the bluff was shown, the Persian snapped at me – something like “I couldn’t call with you behind me” – which makes me think he had no idea that it was his own previous cold-calling that made it impossible for me to continue in the hand. Not because of him, but because of what the Irishman was supposed to think about him.

  Not long after, I had a stack of 52,000 when I found a pair of nines on the button. The action passed round to our Persian friend, who (with blinds of 500-1000) made a relatively large raise to 4200. He only had 20,000 left and I wanted them all; remembering the strange late fold he’d made previously, I figured it was best to just call here and let him bet again on the flop. So I called.

  Now the small blind raised up to 13,000. The Persian chap (as I had feared he would if I three-bet myself) folded.

  Thing was, I was happy enough with the small blind’s raise because it seemed very likely I had the best hand here. It’s pretty standard to make a squeezy three-bet in this spot anyway, and the small blind had witnessed the previous action – he hadn’t seen my cards in the 88 hand so could chalk me down for a big failed bluff, and he’d seen the Persian character make a massive call-fold. So, he can raise in this spot with an absolutely vast range of hands. Any two cards, really. It would be stupid to pass a pair of nines. So I stuck in the four-bet; can’t remember the amount, but enough to commit my stack (something like 35,000) and when the SB declared all in I had to call. But hello! He had a pair of aces. Must be nice.

  His hand held up and I was out.

  So, that was how I was effectively knocked out of the tournament by a player who didn’t actually get any of my chips. All my actions were determined by the Persian manoeuvres, despite losing (in both pots) to other opponents completely.

  And the funny thing is, I don’t regret sticking it in with the pair of nines. They happened to be losing, but, all factors considered, it would have been a bad fold (and a weak call). The quads however… that should have been quite an easy fold.

  Just goes to show: when you read a one-line summary of a hand online (“He had this, she had that, this happened”), it can seem very easy to say “Ooh, bad call” or “Wow, unlucky!” – but there is almost always more to it, a secret narrative that tells a completely different story.

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Add Comment


Joe Wong at 2:06 am on November 12th, 2012

Great post! As someone who lives outside of the UK and has only just discovered Only Connect, I have missed a lot of your columns and posts about your poker experiences.

I must say it is very interesting to read, coming from someone who barely knows Texas Hold ‘Em, and I never realized the amount of thought that goes into each play. The quads were easier to follow for me, as it was a bit more straight forward but I enjoyed both stories!

Thanks for the post.

Philip Adderley at 2:11 am on November 12th, 2012

great insight Vicky - thanks for sharing this, lucid & informative, I have learnt from this.

Nik Stylianou at 3:26 am on November 12th, 2012

Erm…what was the name of this persian chap and u don’t happen to know his online monicker do u? Just casually enquiring…..dum de dum

sketchseven at 4:42 am on November 12th, 2012

Fascinating blog. The hand against Dempsey especially; not often you make a crying call with quads.

Ben B at 12:14 pm on November 12th, 2012

Need more of these from you Victoria. I miss your little poker blogs.

Camel at 1:53 pm on November 12th, 2012

To be honest I hate all 3 of your play in the 88 v KT v ?? hand.

I think you have a perfect set mining position and that’s all. Why was your flop raise so big? As far as I can see you are betting about Even money you have the best hand. You are not going to get a better hand to fold. And you are also opening the door for someone to make a play on you. (Are you calling if the Irish guy folds and the Persian shoves? I assume so?)

The only way the the Irish guy’s play is justifiable is he has history with the Persian and knows he isn’t capable of playing a big pair in this way. I mean he *knows* you haven’t got AA, KK or QQ, doesn’t he?

The less said about the Persian’s play the better.

The 99 hand is just unlucky. Harvey Nicholls wasn’t in the small blind was he?

Victoria Coren at 2:20 pm on November 12th, 2012

Hi Camel. Fair point, I can see why you hate everyone’s play in the 88 pot!

Here’s my answer though: yes I have a set-mining hand, hence taking the flop. On the flop, though, I just had a very strong sense of having the best hand. The orig raiser seemed to be making a knee-jerk c-bet and the Persian’s call felt weak and hopeful. I felt suddenly sure my eights were good (which they were, of course!) and wanted to win the pot before one of them could spike their overcards. The size of the raise… well, there’s about 16 and a half thousand in the pot and I’m raising 11,000 - pretty big I guess, but less than the pot, and I wanted to make it an amount that if the orig raiser folds (as I expect) my Persian friend would know he can’t really shove on me. You might say: why not LET him shove, if you know he has a worse hand, but I’ve only got eights and he can easily hit a bigger pair or some kind of runner-runner flush or wheel. I just thought I had the best hand and wanted to take down the decent-sized pot in the middle.

I’ve regretted before in hands, not trusting my gut and sticking with the first read - the Irish guy and I had more chips, so obv if I’d stuck it back up him when the Persian folded, I’d have won the pot. But there SEEMED to be so much new information, when he was happy to bet the turn despite a shortish-stacked guy cold calling the 15,000 and waiting behind him. (Obv the information was: this is a kamikaze kind of guy and I want to be in the pot with him! But too late…)

Camel at 2:43 pm on November 12th, 2012

I think in this case you have to include the call + the raise in the amount you are staking to win the pot (because you are never simply calling, are you? It’s raise or fold)

So you are betting 15k, to win about, what, 11k?

You are OOP to a big stack with a marginal hand if he calls.

Just doesn’t look very appetising to me!

PS. You need to put a “preview post” button on your blog!

palladian at 8:16 pm on November 14th, 2012

With the quads hand, what was your chip stack at that point, and what was its relative position in the tournament at the time as well as in relation to your starting stack?

If I’m reading correctly you had only committed 1650 before the river but then chose to call the 10/11,000 bet from Flushy. I presume that must have dented your position considerably at that stage - though maybe not.

Some thoughts on why you chose that showdown at that stage in the tournament would be instructive.

Victoria Coren at 1:09 am on November 15th, 2012

Hi Palladian. No you’re not reading quite correctly, you’re missing out my river bet - so I’ve put in about 5100 so far and it’s 6500 or so more to call.

palladian at 2:17 am on November 16th, 2012

OK I’m missing something - has been known! But point still stands - where did the action on that hand fit within an overall tournament strategy at such an early stage?

On the general principle “You can’t win it on day one, but you can lose it” I’m still sensing that the final call was more of a reckless bodice ripper than a Janeite colloquy. Of course I might be wrong again!

Victoria Coren

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