Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Gospel of the Deuce-Four comes to D.C. (and other stories)

Yesterday I had a lovely day spent with Cardgrrl. We took a long walk in the afternoon, exploring part of her neighborhood in Washington, D.C. She lives within a few blocks of such institutions as the National Cathedral, Fannie Mae headquarters, the Sidwell Friends school (where attend children of U.S. presidents, senators, etc.--because public schools are good enough for eveybody else's kids, but not theirs), the Department of Homeland Security, and American University.

In the evening we started with what her blog readers will have come to know as the "A league," a well-organized home-tournament series in the northern Virginia suburbs. This particular one was held in the basement of one of the members, with "Rehab" playing in the background on the television. (I certainly knew of the Hard Rock pool and its reputation, but I had no idea that there was a reality TV show about it, nor had I even heard of the "Tru" network that it's on. What a dumb show.)

Cardgrrl did great in the tourney, taking second. She would have won it, if not for a super-ugly three-outer on the river during heads-up play, when she had her lone opponent just barely covered, and was too crippled to recover as a result. Her surprising reaction to this beat was to tell the other player, "You suck," to which he responded, "Yes, I do." It appeared that this was neither intended nor taken as an actual put-down, the two of them having played together for a couple of years now. She assured me in private later that such banter is routine for the group and not taken seriously by anybody, but it was still an odd and highly uncomfortable moment for me, as an outside observer.*

I admit that I had some difficulty adapting to the home-game milieu, what with players casually reaching into each others' chips for change, endemic splashing of the pot, no attempt whatsoever to enforce any rule against discussing the hand in progress, ubiquitous card-flashing, rabbit-hunting after most hands (really, I don't understand why anybody cares what might have been, but that's something I've ranted about before, so won't repeat here), the dealer button signifying actual dealing by that player (while the small blind shuffles a second deck for efficiency), etc. But it was all organized in its own slightly chaotic way, perfectly friendly, and actually a lot of fun.

Since everybody else managed to go with the flow, I'm sure I could learn to adjust to that environment as well, given a few more experiences with it. After all, the casino poker rooms of Vegas, with their rules and procedures, were once foreign and uncomfortable to me, too. There's nothing particularly wrong with the home-style version. It's just that the standard casino ways of doing everything are now completely second nature to me, so encountering different and unfamiliar ways of doing things is, at least temporarily, at the edges of my personal comfort zone. The people, though, were warm and welcoming, and did their best to make the new guy feel part of the gang. That's certainly something one doesn't get in a typical Vegas poker room. I am humbled by and grateful for that reception. I expect to be playing with much of the same group Sunday, and I'm genuinely looking forward to it.

I made it to the final table but not the money, exiting the tournament in one of the worst ways possible: by mucking the winning hand accidentally when I was all-in. It was instantly placed onto the list of The Top Ten Most Stupid Mistakes I Have Ever Made While Playing Poker.

It happened because, as another example of the non-casino, home-game way of doing things, the small main pot was awarded first to a player who had been even more short-stacked than I was. Of course, standard procedure is to award the side pot first. I was eligible for that, and had the best of the three hands that were competing for it. But because of the reverse way that they did the showdown, once the fourth player--the only one with a stack shorter than mine--showed a better hand than mine, I assumed I had lost. Put another way, the flipped order of showdown caused me to confuse, for a few critical seconds, which pot was the side and which was the main, and by the time I realized my mistake, my cards were in the muck. Of course, I should have just turned them face-up anyway, as I have preached here any number of times. The size of that side pot was such that it merely would have taken me back to where I was in chips before the hand started, which wasn't great, but it was still in rather than out. The final outcome still most likely would have been me out of the money, but I would have at least had a fighting chance. Stupid, stupid, stupid me. Fortunately, the entry fee was only $25, so I didn't kick myself as hard as I would have if more money had been at stake. Still, it was an inexcusable lapse for one with my level of experience.

From there we went to what Cardgrrl refers to in her blog and tweets as the "Crime Scene Game," so designated because of the bloodbath she experienced the first time playing there after having started her blog. We started playing around 10:30 p.m. and stayed until 2:30 a.m.

Late in the session I was almost back to even after taking a long time to dig out of an early hole, when I found the 2s-4c in early position. I limped, as did several others. The flop was 3d-5d-7s, giving me an open-ended straight draw. I thought that flop likely missed all or nearly all of the other players, and I had acquired an image as the tightest player in the game (mostly because of an unbelievably long string of unplayable cards), so I thought a bet might take it down. I think I made it $10. It did reduce the field to one opponent--the guy who had built up the largest stack at the table, with some $800 in front of him. (Buy-in for this $1-2 NLHE game is capped at $300.)

The turn was the As, completing my straight. I bet $25. My opponent min-raised to $50. I popped it an additional $75 on top of that, and he called. The way he had been playing, I was pretty sure that (1) he would have raised on the flop to defend against the flush draw, and/or reraised me all-in on the turn, if he had 4-6 for a higher straight, and (2) he would only call my turn reraise with top two pair or a set. The river was the 8h, which changed nothing; this guy absolutely would not have played the hand this way with 6-9. I moved all-in for my last $125. He thought a while, called, and asked, "You got a straight?" Well, of course I do, sir--it's the deuce-four! The biggest pot of the night came my way. He did not show his hand.**

I snapped a picture of the result, though it appears that I had an ugly fingerprint or something on the cell-phone camera lens, resulting in a smudged appearance to the whole thing:

Cardgrrl, of course, had figured out what I was playing, but none of the other players knew about me or this blog or the 2-4. She told my unfortunate opponent that he was playing with a disadvantage, not knowing that about me. I explained to the table that the 2-4 is the most powerful hand in poker.

Cardgrrl sent out the following Tweet: "@pokergrump wins huge pot playing the 2-4. I still do not believe." It's true--she doesn't. She's a stubborn woman. (She also made a crack about how I was going to be "insufferable" after winning this monster pot with that hand. She may be right about that, though there's an argument to be made that I'm pretty damn insufferable at baseline anyway.)

Apparently one guy believed my preaching. Just a couple of hands later, while I was still stacking the chips, he played 2-4 (in crubs, no less!) after another guy had raised with A-4. The original raiser moved all-in on a flop of 2-2-4, and was insta-called by the brand-new convert to the Holy Order of the Deuce-Four, who was understandably quite pleased to learn of its magical properties:

Everybody at the table had a good laugh about it. Well, all but one. Can you guess who did not find it amusing? That's right: Mr. A-4.

So I have, like a good missionary, spread the Gospel of the Deuce-Four to the Washington, D.C. area poker world, where I am confident it will flourish, having found highly fertile soil.

*I just wouldn't make a very good "good ol' boy." It seems completely backwards to me to have a relationship in which insults are taken as part of the fun. If a stranger tells me that I suck at poker, I brush it off. His opinion is both uninformed and unimportant to me. If a close friend said the same words, it would be much harder to dismiss and far more hurtful. I just don't get the whole dynamic there. But I am apparently the oddball in that regard, as in so many others.

** I wrote the above before noticing, during proofreading, that the photograph shows one of his hole cards exposed: a four. I did not see this when it happened, being too busy with the pot, taking the picture, etc. If my conjecture about his holdings is correct, it means he had a set of fours. However, it seems unlikely, in retrospect, that he would then show one but not both of them. That makes me think that I gave him too much credit, and he actually had A-4. But I'll never know for sure now.


Justin said...

A-4 or pocket fours do seem most likely. A set is not possible since there was no 4 on the board that I can see. By the way, I am a believer in the deuce four

Rakewell said...

Justin: You're right, of course. I added that note too hastily as a last-second addition. Whichever he had, I'm very surprised that he called my rather large reraise on the turn and my all-in on the river. He was not a calling-station type by any means.

BWoP said...

There is another deuce-four convert! Guy to my left at the V won a huge pot with deuce-four against A-A.

Both times I bet / raised my crub flush draws, my opponents folded.

Still unclear which one is more powerful.

Couga said...

Never understood why one would not table their hole cards when AI in a tournament. I realize (hope) that there were not just the 3 players (2 all in and the one that had everyone covered) involved in the hand so there was still action. But when all the chips are in, at the end of the hand show'em. It's not like you are giving away useful information to anyone.

Maybe that is just me.

Rakewell said...

On further reflection, if he had specifically the Ad-4d (and I think the card in the photo is the 4d), that would explain his willingness to raise and call a reraise on the turn. He then would have top pair, a gutshot straight draw, and the nut flush draw. However, no starting hand that includes a 4 adequately explains his willingness to call another $125 on the river, when his presumed draws missed. The best hand he could possibly have had at that point (holding a 4) was, of course, 6-4, but he didn't have that or he would have won. Failing that, his best hand would have been A-4, for top pair with a weak kicker. I can't figure out why he would call such a large bet there with such a weak hand, when I had been showing strength on every street, when I had never shown down a bluff or weak hand, and I was the tightest player at the table. He just wasn't a bad enough player to explain that call. It still baffles me.

mattharris said...

I hope you ate at Cactus Cantina while you were in that area of DC. That's my favorite DC restaurant. Can't go wrong with the mesquite grilled menu.