Saturday, March 20, 2010

Vengeance is mine, saith Jesus

Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
--Romans 12:19, King James Version

Warning: Contains spoilers.

Last night's "Poker After Dark," a cash game, contained what was for me one of the most emotionally satisfying hands of televised poker I've ever seen. You can watch it here.

The background is crucial. At the beginning of the first installment Monday, everybody wanted to play the 7-2 bounty game: if you win a hand with 7-2 in the hole, everybody else pays you $500. Chris Ferguson was the only holdout, so it was not on. Mike Matusow was outraged at this refusal. He harped on it repeatedly, calling Ferguson the biggest nit of all time, and so on. His haranguing was so intense and prolonged that it became seriously uncomfortable for me to watch. It was way, way beyond a friendly needle between colleagues. Ferguson politely explained a couple of times that he wasn't comfortable with the game because he had never played it and hadn't had a chance to think through what strategic adjustments might be called for. He even tried a compromise, agreeing to play if they would lower the bounty amount to $200. The others thought that smaller amount would not make it worthwhile. After these responses failed to shut Matusow up, Ferguson just sat there and took the verbal abuse without replying further.

But then on Friday's show, he got his chance to stick it to Matusow. Matusow open-raised with A-8. Ferguson reraised with 7-2. Matusow called. Ferguson then proceeded to bet every street with complete air. Finally, Matusow was faced with a $12,000 bet on the river, holding top and bottom pair. But, as Ali Nejad explained in his voiceover commentary, the only hand in Ferguson's typical pre-flop reraising range that Matusow could now beat was A-K. (You might add K-K to that, though with that hand and an ace on the flop it seems less likely that Ferguson would continue to fire both the turn and river after being called.) A-A and Q-Q would have made sets; any hand with a jack in it would all have made a straight; A-Q and A-10 would have a higher two pair.

Matusow goes into the tank and is obviously having an agonizing decision:

Finally, though, he reluctantly folds.

Ferguson shows the bluff and, to stick the needle in a little further, says, "I really like this 7-2 game."

He is visibly pleased with himself:

The other players find considerable humor in the situation:

Well, all except one, that is:

After that, Matusow, who has, as usual, been chatting up a storm, becomes noticeably more quiet for the rest of the show.

I love, love, love this. On the most basic level, Ferguson takes advantage of his tight reputation to pull a fast one and win a pot that he could not otherwise take. But it's patently obvious that he chose this particular situation because of the specific cards he held, the specific opponent he was facing, and the history of what had transpired earlier in the filming day.

He could have justifiably gotten angry at Matusow's relentless taunting--which really was over the top. Ferguson's IQ is probably, oh, I dunno, about 200 points higher than Matusow's, and he has just as great an edge in verbal fluency, should he choose to get into a war of words. But he didn't. He held his tongue, and instead waited for his chance to reply in the language of poker, which proved to be far more eloquent and effective than any verbal retort he could have contrived.

I'd like to think that I would handle the situation the same way--don't try to sink to the needler's level and get into a pissing contest. Instead, keep quiet and just outplay him. After all, taking his money is ultimately a lot more satisfying than getting the most clever rejoinder in could ever be. If you happen to get a chance to rub his face in your win a bit, well, that's icing on the cake.

Nh, wp, sir!


The Blue Knave said...

I thought it was a magnificent and redemptive moment.

Anonymous said...

I, too, watched this episode and was greatly amused by this exchange. The other thing that happened was that it appeared that Mikey the Mouth DIDN'T recover from that "bad beat" for the remainder of this series of shows. Of course, this week, they've "drawn cards" to rearrange the seating and it would be terrific if Chris gets to sit in the seat following Mikey.