Bullington: Shuffle Up and Deal

By: Bruce Bullington, GreensboroSports.com staff writer

I am a firm believer that poker is a sport. While it’s not an athletic contest, it can be a pretty intense competition and the spoils usually go to the better, more prepared players. In that vein, I’ve decided to whip up some columns discussing the local poker scene and some strategy discussion.

The poker scene in Greensboro is pretty good and it’s hard to not play for any length of time and not come across some pretty interesting characters. I play in a tournament that’s held once a week in an apartment complex in western Greensboro. The stakes aren’t very big. A $30 buy-in gets you 2500 in starting chips and you can rebuy for the first hour if you go broke. While this isn’t the Bellagio, the game is taken seriously and most of the players could be fairly called poker fans. They watch all the shows, play online, read books and argue strategy. We play with casino-quality cards and chips on real poker tables with software that manages the tournament and a light spread of food.

This past week was pretty wild, with 14 players playing at two tables. After five rebuys and the rake, the players were playing for a $325 prize pool. While I know of even local players would couldn’t be bothered to compete for such a meager sum, the money really mattered to most all who played, especially those that invested in multiple buy-ins (one player bought in three times and would have lost money even if she finished 2nd). I got off to a nice start, more than doubling up when, holding pocket fives, all the money went in on a KK52 board against KJ. My hand held up and I was off to the races.

An interesting hand came up after the break that caused some discussion. Danny, a dreadful player who had come into a big stack by flopping a straight when another player flopped a set of jacks, limped in for 100, Todd, the small blind completed and I looked down and saw AK of spades. In the poker community, how to play AK in no-limit will garner quite a few arguments. I have always been a big advocate of raising and re-raising with it before the flop. Others say that it’s only a drawing hand and should be played slower. I had not seen Danny ever fold to a standard re-raise after having entered a pot, so I pretty much ruled out raising since my fold equity was around zilch and when he called Todd would like his pot odds and could possibly call with anything reasonable, and there I am playing a big pot out of position to a terrible player with a hand that’s going to miss the flop 66% of the time. Given all of this, I decide to simply check my option and see the flop. Since I am somewhat known for always raising AK before the flop I thought if a flop hit me hard I could get paid off by disguising my hand. The flop came T-8-5 with two spades, a very powerful flop for me. I have 9 outs to the nuts and, unless I’m reverse-dominated or someone flopped a set or two pair, I have two overcards. I’m a favorite to win against a single pair or worse. I’m thinking I’m going to play this hand fast, but Todd, about as weak-passive a player as they come, leads out. He bet 150 into a 300 chip pot, and now I’m getting 4-1 on a call when I think I’m about 50-50 to win, so I decide to just call. Now Danny, who has not raised even when he has the nuts, announces raise for the first time all night. He’s pretty ignorant about things like pot-size and pricing in draws, so I thought he was either going to overbet or underbet. He did the latter, only raising the minimum to 300. Todd calls the 150 and now the pot has 1050 in it and, while I’m not nuts about two passive players showing a lot of strength, I love getting 7-1 on my call and building this nice pot. I call the additional 150. The turn card is a brick, and Todd and I both check to Danny, who bets 300. Todd calls, and now that pot has 1800 in it. Even if neither of my overcards are good, my flush draw alone is 4-1 to come home which more-than-justifies the call. The river card is the beautiful 3 of spades. While I am certainly pleased to have made the nuts, I know this is going to be a scare card and I’m out of position to the biggest sucker at the table. I can’t check hoping to trap because he might just knock the table behind and, even if he does bet, his hand probably isn’t strong enough to call a check-raise from me. I bet 700, which was 1/3 of the pot. Danny hems and haws and finally mucks, muttering that the river killed him. This is really shocking to me, since I had put him on at least a ten and thought that wild horses couldn’t make him drop top pair. Todd mucks as well and while I’m never unhappy dragging a 2000 chip pot, I was second-guessing myself about not playing it fast after the flop and potentially breaking a bad player who had a lot of chips.

It all worked out, as I pulled off my twice-yearly win. The field in our particular game has gotten pretty strong and there just isn’t enough dead money in the game for someone who plays as tight as I do to win regularly.

If you have some good poker (local poker) stories or have some thoughts on strategy, write me at bruce@greensborohockey.com and we’ll share some of your contributions right here. Good luck at the tables.


4 thoughts on “Bullington: Shuffle Up and Deal

  1. I just hope that you don’t end up being on TV during Sweeps Week as the Police Department “discovers” that their are illegal activities going on in Greensboro. I was dining at a restaurant on Lawndale the night the GPD raided the “big” poker game. TV crews surrounded the place like there was a major king pin being arrested.

    Their mistake was selling booze and getting greedy by opening the game to outsiders.

  2. Thats why he said the game is in an apartment complex in western greensboro when the game is really in an underground tornado shelter/turture chamber in downtown Phafftown! It’s about time yall got some poker on GS.com. I don’t know or care if people think poker is sport. I enjoy playing at above mentioned game as well as online and that is all that matters to me. Some people play simply for fun while others take the game very serious, just like any other sport. Some people make a living at it, just like any other sport. To be good at it you must work hard and get a lot of practice, just like any other sport. if it isn’t a sport why is it on ESPN about 50 percent of the time?

  3. I agree with Marshall. Poker is a great game and it is great to see poker coverage here. Is greensboro sports going to host a game in the near the future? I think that would be really cool. Andy, Don, Jim and the rest. I say bring it on! Maybe we could play a tournament with the money raised going to charity or some high school’s athletic department. What do you guys think? Who is with me? I’m ALL IN!

  4. While a Texas Hold’em Tournament to benefit some needy organization would be a great idea, such tournaments are frowned upon by the government and law enforcement. The reason for this is because there is a great amount of ignorance among these folks about poker. They chose to lump poker in with other games of chance when in fact, poker is a game of skill. Sure, there is an element of luck involved but in what sport is this not the case. In any baseball game, a routine ground ball can hit a pebble, take a bad bounce and change the outcome of the game. You never hear that baseball is not a game of skill but luck can change a baseball game’s outcome.
    Currently, the game of poker is under attack from those who oppose the game for political reasons. Those who love the game aren’t letting these unfair policies go unanswered. The game now has an advocatcy group, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA). I am a member of this group as is the author of this article. I encourage others to visit their website, http://www.pokerplayersalliance.org to learn more about what this group is doing to protect our rights in Washington. Even if you don’t play poker, you should be concerned about what is taking place here. Letting the government strip away our rights, one by one, especailly in the name of “national security” is en vogue these days. Once many of the rights we enjoy today are gone, it will be extremely hard to EVER get them back. Let your voices be heard!

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