A couple years back when we started playing a lot more of the underground games in G-Vegas, Eddie the Dealer dropped a new hand nickname on me. He called 9-7 "The Trooper." It was a loose reference, near as I could tell, to an Iron Maiden song of the same name. I can't say I ever played the hand any more or any less because of the nickname, but I embraced The Trooper as the hand's name and addressed it as such.
Just before I left to go to Monte Carlo, I got caught up in a Trooper hand that taught me a lot of things. Most importantly, it taught me why I'll never be a good no-limit cash game player.
It was a new-to-me game on my side of town. I'd heard tale of the game several times. Badblood and G-Rob had become regulars, but because I try to play only once or twice a week, The Berry Eyuh Patch didn't fit my schedule. However, since I was due to leave town and was going to miss my regular trip to the Gaelic game, I chose to ride along with G-Rob.
It was a rather uneventful night for me. I'd been up and down most of the evening and had once reloaded my $300 buy-in up to $500. G-Rob, however, had been crushing the main table all night long. His expert get-in-behind tricks had been working very well (more than making up for his losses when he got in ahead). As midnight passed, he was up more than a dime, but seemed to be
running out of steam physically. He was ready to go home.
As a rule, I try never to carpool to games. I like the freedom to stay or the freedom to leave. This night, though, I'd ridden with G-Rob. So, when he announced he was ready to go, I accepted it. We agreed we would leave on his button. I was getting pretty tired and was stuck about $250 anyway. Over the course of the next few hands, I somehow managed to win about $150 and was getting back up close to my buy-in. I decided to be happy with that.
And, so, it's two hands to go before we leave and I'm barely paying attention. I'm paying so little attention that all I remember is that I'm in late position and flop a set of fives on a Q5x board. The Magician, one of the stronger players in town, bet into me and I simply called behind. The turn was a blank, but put a flush draw out. The Magician bet into me again, and this time I jammed. The Magician thought long and hard. He's pretty much figured out I have a set or nothing. Getting 2-1 with his KQ, he called and doubled me up.
Now I'm sitting on $800+ (a modest $300 win) and feeling content with the night. That said, now I had some chips. Worse, the last thing I want to do is hit and run. There are a couple of hit-and-run artists in town and they are the subject of much disdain. Still, I had an obligation to go with G-Rob.
Sensing my discomfort, G-Rob said he'd wait around while I played for another orbit. It wasn't much, but it was at least a gesture of good faith on my part.
It wasn't much of an orbit. Not one worth writing about, anyway. Until...The Hand.
Here's the scene: A waitress has just delivered me an un-needed beer. The room is getting a bit rowdy. G-Rob is hovering over my right shoulder. It's noisy. I get dealt The Trooper in clubs. And for some reason I decide to play it for a raise. Looking back, I could've justified it in a number of ways. Still, why is not so important as the fact that I did and the hand was off and running.
I hadn't paid much attention to the action. In fact, I don't even know where I am in the action. All I know is that the flop comes down...
Q86 with two clubs (note: I don't remember which were clubs...but I know the queen was one of them and I did not have the OESFD).
Rhodes bet $60. The Magician, having topped his stack off to around $800, raised to $225 or $250. I have my $800 in front of me and Rhodes has me covered by just a little.
Even novice poker players know I'm in a great situation here. My opponents already have lots of money in the pot. One has pretty much indicated he's ready to go the whole way with it. I have 15 twice, making me a slight favorite over most hands, given that one of the two players isn't holding the higher flush draw. I know that if I'm going to play the hand, I have to put every chip I have in the middle...right now. For the 15 twice to be a good bet, I have to be able to get as much money in the pot as I can with two still to come.
Wait! Did somebody say higher flush draw? What's that screeching? Is that tire rubber I smell?
Let me take you back to a game a few weeks before. This particualr night, I'd borrowed my Tesla-Claws (my kid's pronounciation of his man parts) from my wife and had come to play. I held K9 of spades on a 678 (two spades) board. I got in a raising and re-raising battle with another player. It ended with us each getting about $400 in the middle. As we fought to see who could get his money in first, I figured him for a set or two pair. Once the money was in the middle, I flipped my hand and said, "I have a thousand outs twice."
Not so much. My opponent flipped up AJ of spades for the gutshot and the higher flush draw.
Epilogue: Ace-high wins the pot.
At the time of that hand, I told myself I wouldn't have played it any differently and that given the same situation, I would do the exact same thing.
So, here I am at The Berry Eyuh Patch and I'm faced with a somewhat similiar situation. Only this time, I have two people in the pot and instead of $400 to push, I have $800+.
Should it have made a difference? Well, no, of course not.
My head started to swim. Push or fold. Push or fold. You're thinking too long, dummy. Push or fucking fold!
I have very vague recollection of peeling up my cards and showing them to G-Rob and Mr. Warner. I could see them convulse as they saw my hand. I think there may have been a point that G-Rob actually tried to push my chips in the middle.
And then I couldn't think about anything but The Previous Hand and my opponent shrugging as he raked in $900 with ace-high.
And that's when I broke BadBlood Rule #1: Never look at your session profit when making a decision.
I looked down at my modest profit and thought, "hey, a win is a win." I looked around the room for my balls and remembered I'd left them on my wife's nightstand at home.
My cards fell into the muck and I started making plans to hate myself for the next two months.
I didn't want to watch, but you know I did. I have to think it's a lot like walking in on your wife with another man just as they are about to climax. You want to turn around and walk out, but something inside you makes you stay.
So, the board is Q86 with two clubs. Rhodes and The Magician end up getting it all-in.
Rhodes shows QQ for a set of queens.
The Magician shows 88 for a set of eights.
The turn bricked.
The river...was the ten of clubs.
Looking back, if I had pushed, Rhodes calls for sure. The Magician might have gotten away from his set of eights, but based on the way his night had been going, I suspect he would've called as well. The pot would've been around $2,400.
My reputation around these parts is pretty poor. It's pretty common knowledge I'm not a strong cash game player. As this story spreads, I don't figure my reptutation changes much.
It's been more than two weeks since that hand and I still haven't gotten it out of my system. Apart from with a few close friends, I haven't spoken about it much. I hadn't quite found the strength of ego to put it here.
However, I guess the first step in growing a pair is digging up the ego, throwing it out, and planting some seeds of Tesla-Claws.
It just goes to show, a thousand books, a solid understanding of theory, 500,000 hands, and many years of playing mean nothing if I can't grow a pair and put the theory into practice.