In poker, the cards are randomly dealt. We have no control over them. Sure, we can always hope – even pray – they will be good for us, but it’s just a matter of chance. Call it “luck.”
In a recent issue of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, veteran poker media personality Chad Holloway writes a fascinating column that caused me to think about the role of luck in poker.
The “Super High Roller Bowl VI” was held last fall in Las Vegas with a $300,000 buy-in. Twenty-one of the world’s best poker players competed for $6.3 million in prize money. The top winner would get $3,402,000. That’s the kind of money you can only usually dream of winning at the World Series of Poker or, if you’re lucky, in a free bet no deposit casino slot jackpot. Anyhow, each player received 300,000 in starting chips, and the blinds began at 500/1000 with a 1,000 big-blind ante.
In his column, Holloway described a hand early in the tournament in which action folded to poker champ Daniel Negreanu on the button. Holding Ah-Kd, a premium starting hand, he raised to 2,500. The big blind was the highly regarded poker pro, Michael Addamo with 8s-6c in the hole. Addamo decided to defend his big blind, putting in the additional chips to see the flop. It cost him 1,500 more chips in a pot of 5,000 – pot odds of 3.3-to-1. Could Addamo possibly expect that his 8-6 off-suit starting hand had better than 3.3-to-1 card odds against winning that pot? No way! My first thought was how could Addamo do that?
As it turned out, the flop was 5c-7h-9d, giving Addamo a 9-high straight. Can you imagine what the odds are against that kind of flop? Don’t try to figure it out, but we all know they are HUGE.
So, I asked myself why a smart, successful high-stakes poker player like Addamo would invest chips into such an extremely weak starting hand. The only answers I could imagine are:
- He thought Negreanu was trying to steal the blinds; and/or
- Starting with 300,000 in chips, it would only cost him 1,500 more chips to see the flop; and you never know what the flop will bring if you get lucky. Since there could not be any further raises before the flop, Addamo actually was on safe ground.
On that basis, you might say that Negreanu made a mistake by not going all-in with his premium starting hand. Or, perhaps, he wanted his lone remaining opponent to add to the pot for which his hand was a huge favorite.
Both Addamo and Negreanu made prudent decisions and played their hands well – considering all of the factors. But luck came full blast to Michael Addamo’s rescue, leaving him well ahead even after Negreanu’s hand improved after the flop. Tough luck for Daniel Negreanu… I guess we might say, “well, that’s poker!”
And then. . .
Addamo, first to act, wisely slow-played – hoping to build the pot – and checked to Negreanu whose hand did not improve on the flop, and also checked. The turn was the As, giving Negreanu top pair with a King kicker. This time, after Addamo (still slow-playing) again checked, Negreanu – thinking he was likely well in the lead with the cards on the board, open bet 3,500, with 8,500 already in the pot. This was a good spot for Addamo to check-raise to 36,000. Negreanu called. And then the river was the 5h, pairing the board, and giving Negreanu two-pair, Aces-up with a King kicker. Addamo moved all-in, putting Negreanu to the test.
Recognizing that Addamo does bluff, and considering the strength of his own hand, Negreanu called the bet – and moaned when Addamo turned up his straight to take that monster pot, eliminating Negreanu from the tournament. Having nearly doubled up his starting chips, Addamo subsequently won the tournament and took home the $3,402,000 top prize.