My first thought after putting the ultimate cooler on a nice gentleman across the table was (sarcastically), “I wonder if Hendon Mob will include this in my results.” After all, it is now my first and only five figure poker-related score. Despite a decent amount of four figure scores online & live, by the time I started playing high enough stakes to regularly compete for larger prize pools, Black Friday was just around the corner.
That said, I certainly didn’t refuse my portion of the bad beat jackpot. When fun things like this happen (and when reflecting on important areas in my life) I like to look back and ‘connect the dots’. What exactly had to happen to lead me to be in the exact moment in space & time where I’d be in a certain chair at a certain table to be dealt the QT from my button straddle??
On Monday March 10, 2014, those dots started with a desire to finish a project that I had started only 8 months prior: an open letter to Governor John Kasich urging him to consider the revenue Ohio would bank if he’d lead the charge to legalize cannabis & to legalize online poker. Not to mention that it’s no ones right (certainly not governments) to forbid Ohioans (or anyone) from these things in the first place.
While I usually have other plans on Mondays, this day was different. I closed down my favorite breakfast/office spot, and then moved on to another, vehemently working toward my goal of making a clear & logical case to the Governor.
After proudly finishing the piece, I still didn’t get into my regular routine, instead choosing to enjoy the fabulous weather with my dog. 90 minutes later, we returned from the dogpark and both of us were exhausted. Feeling like I wouldn’t be much use if I tried to get back to work at this point, I again decided to skip my routine and instead to head to my athletic club.
An hour later, I exited the club refreshed & relaxed. The problem now, however, was that I’d lost any motivation I had to work and instead felt like playing poker. I called Hollywood Casino & put my name on all of the lists. However, when I left my athletic club, instead of driving directly to the casino (~15 minutes), I was delayed when I ran into a mentor of mine and ended up chatting with him for a while.
Finally arriving at the casino nearly an hour after calling to put my name on the lists, I took my seat at the only game available: $1/$2 no-limit. However, I didn’t play a hand. Instead, I finished up a call with a friend / business partner, missing a few orbits before finally sitting down to play.
Just a few orbits into play, a good friend on my direct right made a comment about missing his opportunity to straddle from the button (this kind of straddle was just recently instituted by Hollywood Casino.) Not having remotely thought of this myself prior to his comment, upon hearing it I instantly decide that I wanted to straddle from my button, which was the very next hand. So innocently enough, I tossed out a red $5 chip, representing a straddle raise to $4. The small blind folded, the big blind (BB) called, and only one other player in middle position called. I looked down at the QT and with already having $4 invested via my straddle, I raised to $15. Both players called.
Flop J99 [Pot $45 Effective Stacks $250]
I’ve flopped an open-ended straight draw but the board is paired and I don’t want to bet/fold but I really don’t like bet/calling off with 125 BBs behind. I decide to check in position and to bet most turn cards if the action is again checked to me.
Turn J99A [Pot $45 Effective Stacks $250]
I’ve turned a flush draw. Amazingly enough, despite knowing my exact two hole cards (“queen of clubs, ten of clubs, queen of clubs, ten of clubs”) my brain does not register that my flush draw is also a royal flush draw. This is a major mistake and I’m ashamed that it nearly cost me thousands of dollars. Now that my hand had improved to a straight draw + flush draw, I again chose not to bet, knowing I’d be inclined to call off should I be check-raised.
River J99AK [Pot $45 Effective Stacks $250]
I’ve made a flush. Or at least that’s what my (small) brain thought at the time. Both players check to me for the third time, and I decide to go for “max value” by betting $50 into a pot of $45.
The big blind player calls (wee, we are going to win something with our flush!) but then the middle position player, who’d checked three times and just a moment ago looked quite upset, moves all-in for $250 total. In my experience in low-limit poker, players who look upset one moment and then put all of their money in the pot the next, are rarely bluffing (boo, our flush is no good!)
All of these thoughts occurred in just a few milliseconds, and by the time my natural instinct to re-check my hole cards was complete, I’d registered that I had in fact made the nut royal flush. After just a moment, I put my stack out to cover the all-in player, and the big blind laughingly folded, later stating, “I had nothing.” (sidenote: I love when people call me with “nothing”.)
Most people with a big hand in this situation would likely table their cards instantly, excited about the big pot they are about to win. But not middle-position player, LeBron (names have been changed to protect the identities of players).
Instead, LeBron just sat still, again looking upset, doing anything but tabling his hand. To break the tension, I lobbed some friendly needling his way, asking “show me two nines one time, buddy.”
LeBron’s face instantly lit up light a Christmas tree, his eyes as big as eggs and his mouth wide open as he turned his hand over: 99.
The poker gods had heard the prayers of every $1/$2 player in the history of poker and in return had sent a one-in-a-thousand shot our way. My royal flush had trumped LeBron’s four nines and we had hit the bad beat jackpot!
For those of you who enjoy statistics as much as me, here are a few fun ones showing just how unlikely we were to hit the jackpot, even after all of the dots that needed to connect to lead me to be in the exact seat that lead to the jackpot win.
(Thanks Cardplayer.com for the awesome poker odds calculator!)
Before the flop, we are a slight underdog versus pocket nines. Given our
ego positional advantage, we can make up for this deficit and we can profitably raise with hands like this.
On the flop, we checked to ensure we’d see a turn card and potentially outdraw a hand like trip nines or top pair. Little did we know that we would win the hand just one tenth of one percent of the time, or 1:1000.
The turn card was one of only 2 cards in the deck that could keep our hand alive, increasing our chances of winning to a meager 2.27%, needing the king of clubs out of the 44 remaining possible cards (and only the king of clubs) to win .
Sometimes long shots come in, even those as long as 999:1. The key is to be on the winning side.