The $20,000 Call

Heads-up lasted eight hands. I couldn't tell you what my cards were for most of them; mostly I missed flops and folded, missed flops and bluffed twice and took it down. The style of play changed dramatically once it got down to heads-up. I was playing very passively, but not necessarily because I was afraid of being reraised with a marginal hand (though, granted, that was part of it). I wanted to see flops. I'd been in crapshoot mode for the last six hours of play and I wanted to play poker - and so did he. I knew if I started raising he'd be playing back at me and we'd be getting our chips in on weighted coinflips. I'd been running on position, aggression and luck forever, and I was starved for what's at the heart of poker for me - information. Not just "how good is my hand against x number of random hands once you factor in fold equity and temperament," but three beautiful cards face up on the board. I wanted to have a hand I could actually play. Eight hands in I get one. I limp on the button with J8o and he checks. The flop comes T84 with two diamonds. He checks. I have second pair on a moderately connected board. No free cards, no fear. I have a hand and I'm betting it. I cut a stack of 5K chips away from my pile and push it into the pot. "Hundred" is all I can get out. He thinks for a little while. But not too long. "Let's make it three hundred," he says. Tank time. What makes the most sense? What's the story here? I've taken as many cheap cards as I can get heads-up so he has to think if I'm on a draw I'm going to check behind. Think it through. People do the things they do for a reason. People don't do the things they don't do for a reason. Would he checkraise me here with top pair? I don't think so. Top pair is strong but too vulnerable and he gets no information if I check behind. It's too hard for him to get away from top pair if a scare card falls on the turn and I raise him. I decide top pair is out because he's too good a player not to bet it. So no ten. If I'm wrong I'm wrong but I've made my decision. What can he slowplay here? Two pair, maybe. If he has a set he's going to win and that's how it is. But I think with either of those he'd wait for the turn and hope no draws came in, then checkraise me all-in. Maybe he has an eight. He could have an eight. I'd make that play with an eight. But if he does odds are my eight is better. K8 or A8 he's probably raising me before the flop, gentleman's game be damned. If I put him on an eight I have to call. Bluffs. I've showed bluffs to him and he could want payback. But I think he knows I'm likely to be betting a real hand here and he's seen me make tough calls before. My head starts to hurt a little. Look at the board again. Concentrate. T84, two diamonds. I've ruled out top pair. He could semi-bluff here with a lot of hands, though. J9. 79. Any two diamonds. I don't think he has top pair. I'm ruling it out. If I'm wrong I'm wrong. I can beat almost anything else. I look at the stacks. He's put half his chips into the pot. A light goes off in my head. He's committed. I'm not. If I just fold here and let him take the pot I'm still chipleader, by about 200K. But I don't want to fold for the simple reason that I think my hand is good. If I reraise him what he has left, the pot's laying him 3:1 - if he's semi-bluffing he's got odds to call with his draw. He can't lay it down. I can't lay it down either, yet. But if I'm right and he's on the semi-bluff I know his chips are going in on the turn no matter what. If I call his bet now and fold on the turn we're about even in chips. I can get away from the hand and he can't. "Call," I say. He nods, like I've told him something. Which I have. The turn is a black six. He pushes all-in. I know it's coming. If he has 79 I'm drawing dead. If he's caught a two-to-five-outer, them's the breaks - I still have outs against a lot of those anyway. The dealer counts down the bet. If I call and lose I still have chips left, though he'll have me outchipped about three to one. But I've come back from worse than that. I'm not afraid of losing the hand. If I call and win I'm the champion and I've made an extra $20K. Twenty thousand dollars riding on one hand and one read. What fucking planet am I on, anyway? I start doing some math. The six is likely to help only one of the possible draws I've given him, barring the kicker-pairing possibility. If he's on any other draw I'm still good. The pot's laying me three-to-one. I thought I was good on the flop. If I thought that then the odds are I'm still good here. He's pushing no matter what hits the turn. "All right, I call." "Good call," he says, flipping up ace-trey of diamonds. We shake hands again and I wish him good luck. Eleven outs. He's one in four to cripple me. I'll take those odds. River's a blank. The river is a blank. It's over. I just made a twenty-thousand-dollar call with second pair. Unbelievably unreal. So unreal that I have no idea what to do with myself. Change100 hugs me hard enough to stress-fracture a couple of ribs. What the fuck do I do now? I wander back over to the table. Everybody's looking at me. Why is everybody looking at me? Did I do something? The director's saying something over the PA. It sounds like the wah-wah speak from the Charlie Brown cartoons. I'm gobsmacked. I turn around, my eyes falling on... ... my wife. My wife is at home, what is she doing here? I'm double-gobsmacked. I look again. No, definitely her. She drove out to the casino. She's been sweating me from a safe distance for a couple of hours, not wanting to spook me. I can't fucking believe she's there. I love her. I know she loves me. And I know one more thing: I know her well enough to know that she didn't drive all this way unless she believed I was going to win. She believed. I know a lot of you bloggers married well. Above our station, we like to say. I hope you all won't take offense when I say this: I flat-out won that race. I was lucky long before I won this thing. Lucky at cards and love; nobody gets that. But then, this. So I guess there's hope for everyone.


Blogger Huge Junk said...

Congratulations on your big win.

(and the poker tournament as well)

1/23/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger biggestron said...

Great writeup Ryan. You made me feel like it was me that had just pulled off a big win and spun around to see what's even more important than a silly little game.

1/23/2006 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger StudioGlyphic said...

I think this is your best post ever. Nice job.

1/23/2006 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger JasonSpaceman said...

I've been unable to read my fellow bloggers much while working the WPO - but Iggy and the G-Vegas boys told me about your win and I had to take the time to come and check out what you had to say.

Congratulations on a job well done - you make us all proud, and you've paved the way for many big blogger things to come.

Can I get an interview? ;-)

1/24/2006 01:32:00 AM  
Blogger Absinthe said...

You could get an interview, sure, but I dunno how much good it would do you. Unless Conde Nast is planning to launch Poker Blogger Living Monthly. Then maybe I could talk to you about...


...nope, I still got nothin'.

1/24/2006 03:10:00 AM  
Blogger peacecorn said...

Terrific post! Sincerely!

1/24/2006 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger Garthmeister J. said...

Fantastic write-up. Just a great walk through of a pivotal hand, and the thought processes involved.

1/24/2006 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Shelly said...

Great hand, and a happy ending on all counts! :) Yay!

1/24/2006 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Pokerwolf said...

Thanks for putting poker in perspective, Ryan. It's important to be reminded that there are other victories aside from poker tournaments in life that need to be recognized and celebrated.

Well done.

On both counts.

1/24/2006 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Dr Fro said...

Everything about that post excellence. Good poker and great perspective. Thanks.

1/24/2006 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Otis said...

...holy cow, what a post. Dude, you were the talk of Tunica Saturday night. The envy was strong, but the pride was stronger. Well done, sir. I think it may be time to start talking about this Murderers Row vs. G-Vegas thing again (can you stake me?)

1/24/2006 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Joaquin "The Rooster" Ochoa said...

You are correct, you won way before you sat at any poker table by getting the supportive wife. Does she get that NEW BMW? I mean a new IPOD, too?

1/24/2006 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Absinthe said...

The wife got a new car in October and a new iPod for Christmas. What's more, the two work together quite niftily - can control the iPod via the steering wheel, etc.

I drive a ten-year-old Mitsubishi with pieces falling off. But she's away at Sundance for the next few days so I get to drive the swanky new car.

1/24/2006 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Joaquin "The Rooster" Ochoa said...


1/24/2006 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger helixx said...

ryan, we're all immensely proud of the win. your posts have always been fantastic but this one was a really excellent snapshot into your thinking.

"my pocket was a clowncar of catnip mice" still takes the cake though..

1/25/2006 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Incredible post man. THAT's what poker bloggers should be striving for (it always helps to have a $120,000 win to blog about!), not Felicia's poorly thought-out list.

We're not worthy! We're not worthy!


1/27/2006 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger High Plains Drifter said...

If the poker blogger world ever starts up a Hall of Fame, this post should be a first-ballot inductee.

1/29/2006 02:00:00 AM  
Blogger SirFWALGMan said...

Great job. Excellent post. Good thought process.

2/03/2006 02:23:00 PM  

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