By George “The Engineer” Epstein
There are literally millions of possible five-card hands you can make while playing poker. Hands like a royal straight flush and four-of-a-kind (quads) certainly are memorable. They are so rare, and naturally get our attention. Later, you may even want to tell others about it when you catch such a hand.
Even more memorable is a hand like the one I am about to describe to you – replete with suspense and intrigue. . .
Playing Texas hold’em, it’s not unusual to be dealt two horrible downcards such as:
They could hardly be much worse; normally you would muck these holecards without a second thought. But, in this case, you are in the Big Blind and there were no raises preflop. So you get to see the flop for free. Sure, it’s a poor hand – a terrible one in fact; but you never know what will fall on the flop and beyond. Poker is full of surprises. Four opponents and you see the flop:
You can hardly believe your eyes; you have caught a well-concealed full-house. A full-boat: Treys-full-of-fives! And, of course, you assume you have the Nuts. At this point, only fives-full could beat your hand. It is highly unlikely that an opponent has a pair of fives in the hole – especially since you have one in the hole. So now your goal is to build “your” pot as big as possible. What great fun that should be! You “lick your chops” in anticipation.
An early-position player opens the betting. Two other opponents call. On the Button, you decide to raise. As expected, the three opponents who have already “invested” a single bet, call your raise. The pot is growing very nicely; you are pleased. . .
Then, the dealer lays the turn card face-up on the board:
That really “ruffles your feathers.” Hopefully, you think to yourself, none of your opponents has a pair of Queens in the hole. On further thought, you realize that since no one raised preflop, you are quite confident that your treys-full-of-fives is well ahead. Again, the early-position comes out betting. Now a middle-position player quickly raises the pot. You ponder: “What could he have? Most likely he paired up, giving him top two-pair on the board?”
Even so, your full-house is way in the lead. But, once again, the thought occurs to you: “What if he does have pocket Queens?” Again, you dismiss the notion; after all, he did not raise preflop or on the flop. Furthermore, he is a rather loose-aggressive player. “At best, he has two-pair.” You relax. . .
Now the dealer slowly places the river card on the board:
All of a sudden, with that card on the board, you realize that you have lost the Nuts if an opponent has a third queen in the hole. Queens-full-of-treys would totally demolish your treys-full. If your opponent does have a Queen in the hole, you will have been rivered; and he wins the pot. He makes the bet. As you call his bet on the river, you can only pray. . .
Either way, this is certainly a hand you’ll never forget – a hand to remember.
George “The Engineer” Epstein is the author of The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!; Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision; and The Art of Bluffing. He has taught poker at the Claude Pepper Senior Center, at West L.A. College, and to elderly war veterans at the CalVet facility in the VA/West L.A. George created and organized the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group. He was awarded the Senior Citizen Volunteer-of-the-Year Award, in large part for his activities on behalf of senior citizens, and has been elected to the Seniors’ Poker Hall of Fame.