Here's a nausea-inducing hand from a $1/3 NLHE session at Rivers on Saturday night. The kind of hand that has you saying "if only" for a week afterward. There are three villains in this hand, who we will call Larry, Moe and Curly ... because why not?
Larry was young inexperienced player who would frequently announce his hand with the size of his preflop raise. If he raised it up $30 or more, he had a huge pocket pair. If he raised smaller, it was two big cards or suited connectors. Moe was a super-aggressive bully with a big stack. Curly was a passive call machine.
I was dealt A♠-9♠ from mid-position. Starting the hand, I had ~$120 sitting in front of me, which is about
what Curly had. Larry had ~$200. Moe had a massive stack of ~$700,
covering all of us easily. Larry raised it up to $15 sitting early, which meant he had a good but not great hand. Curly called because that's what Curly does. I called because I was fairly certain I could outplay both of these guys with little effort. Moe came along too, however, which did put one dangerous player in the hand.
Flop came Q♠-J♥-4♠. Nut flush draw for me, which was nice. Larry led out for $15, which could have meant he didn't have much faith in his hand or that he just didn't understand good bet-sizing. Curly called because that's what Curly does. I called. Then Moe -- who was constantly inflating pots with bets and raises whether he had a hand or not -- bumped it up to $40. Larry thought for a half minute and then called. Curly called because that's what Curly does.
And then it was back to me. There was $198 in the pot. I had ~$90 back. The math was straining my brain. I know that heads-up against a player with something like an overpair, I'm around 40 percent to catch my flush and win the hand. Here it wasn't so simple, as it easily could be assumed that at least one player would have redraws against me to a full house, even if I hit my flush. And it wouldn't be too big a shocker if one of the other players was also holding two spades, eliminating two of my outs. So I was very unsure of just how good a flush draw I had. There was also the matter of my stack. If I called the raise, I'd only have ~$65 left, which, considering the pot size, I guessed might make me pot-committed, even if no spade came on the turn. Again, the math was a little hazy for me considering all the crazy little variables. Four-player hands can be very tricky to figure when you're in them.
Ultimately, I took a leap of faith and shoved all my chips in. It was only $50 more to the other players, each of whom already had $55 invested into a rapidly expanding pot, so it wasn't a move intended to get anyone to fold. I just wanted the pot as big as I could get it at this point. Moe called with his massive stack still back. Larry called. Curly called for the rest of his chips because that's what Curly does. The pot had ballooned to nearly $500.
Well, here we go ...
Turn came the J♦, pairing the board, which took a lot of wind out of my sails. The two players with stacks back both checked, allowing me to hold on to a little bit of hope.
River came the 6♥, leaving me with ace high. Both players checked again. The only thing left to do was see who was getting all of my money.
Moe flipped up A-Q, no spades -- top pair, top kicker. Larry flipped up K-Q, no spades -- top pair, second kicker. And good ol' Curly flipped up K-9, no spades. That's right, Curly got all his money in with an overcard and a gutshot straight draw because -- say it with me -- that's what Curly does.
We can debate how well I played the hand (and I'm certainly open to suggestions in the comments). Maybe I should have just shoved the flop after Larry's initial $15 bet, when I had actual fold equity, to see how good Larry and Moe felt about their top pairs. Or maybe I should have just folded after Moe raised and waited for a better spot.
Although, really, this spot ended up being pretty great. No one had a spade! I had my full range of outs and no one had any kind of real redraw against me. The pot odds I was getting were off the charts. If everyone had flipped their cards up before the turn and river were dealt, I would have felt absolutely wonderful about the way things had gone down.
Unfortunately, I still needed a spade to make the hand, and despite having about a 40 percent chance of getting one, it did not come. That one hand was basically a $600 swing for me.
No-limit poker: Not for the faint of heart.