Anyone who has played poker for some time knows how fickle Lady Luck can be. You look at your cards, you try not to give any sign of the incredible joy you feel bathing like wave after wave of the ocean. With a straight face, or with everything you can handle, you set your trap. We all know how this story ends. . . with you staring in total disbelief. How could it all go so horribly wrong? How could you set every trap, every card played? Enter every bad poker cliche, every scene from any movie that has taken place in a bar after losing the big hand.
As an avid poker player (draw, stud, hi-low, Omaha, hold ’em, Caribbean – whatever, I’ve played it) I have played tens of thousands of hands and had my parts of the highs and lows. Given that the poker player is generally synonymous with “glutton for punishment” and “repeatedly hit in the stomach”, it should come as no surprise that bad beats stick with us longer than high ones. How many pocket aces hands do you clearly remember? Now how many of those hands were there when his pocket aces were beaten on the river? Check and mate.
We carry our bad beat stories and I am no exception. One of my favorite bad beat stories to share with other players while trading sob stories stuck with me because it was a bad beat that did two things. That bad beat kept me from my first $ 100 day (this was when I was just playing little kitchen games or dollar tables online), and it left a sour note on an otherwise breakthrough day in my game.
My nemesis that day was one of my best friends, Tom “Lucky Draw” Shover. We were head to head at an all or nothing board game for $ 50, which was a huge jackpot for a college student looking to get the $ 5 entry fee each week.
He bet a lot before the flop, and somehow I knew, for the first time in my career as a poker player, he knew what his cards were. He had the QK of clubs. I had a pair of two. Usually I wouldn’t play such a pair, but heads up, and knowing their cards, I called. The flop came QQ-2. Did you ever try to keep your face straight? He hit his hand hugely and I had him caught. I decided to hurry quickly, to make it look like a bluff. Tom looked at me like I was crazy and then called. Indeed, he had the club QK and I had a full house. The glory of victory, the stunned look on his face, the king in turn.
Yes, the king on the turn. Just like that, I kept one on the entire deck, and it didn’t come. The biggest breakthrough in my young career ended in failure, proving once again that Tom’s nickname was so well deserved, and that the $ 100 day, that initial benchmark, would have to wait another day.