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.