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Taking the bull by the horns? by Peter Costa

Taking the bull by the horns?In the last article, I promised to continue with what seems like a crazy style of playing poker. I also suggested that this play is NOT recommended. However, sometimes in poker, we are faced with having to make something happen when the cards have other ideas.

As poker players, we all go through days when everything goes wrong. No matter what we do, every big hand we get seems to cost us dearly. These days are very tough to handle. This was the case for me in the 2003 Aussie Millions. The AU$10K event began with 122 players and a first prize of just under AUD 400K. And as I was about to find out; it was going to be one of those days.

In order to explain why the 'crazy' poker came in to play; I need to give you a little background of how the tournament was running for me. This was a double-chance event (5K in chips to start and another 5K to be taken at anytime during the first two or was it three? levels). I started slowly but had built up to 7000K with just a few minutes to go to the end of the break and to taking the other 5K.

I don’t recall the blinds at this stage - but a situation arose in which there was a couple of limpers before the action had come to me. Finding Q-Q in late position - I decided on a fairly sizeable raise to protect my hand. To my surprise, the small blind (a young local lad) pondered his move. I sensed that he wanted to re-raise but eventually decided on a call. Having played with him a few times during the two weeks - I felt sure that it was a genuine thought of a re-raise, coupled with a genuine hand. It was obvious that Q-Q was the best hand - but what did he have?

All things considered at the time - it was easy to discount many of what could be described as possible hands. I felt sure that he would have gambled A-K with a re-raise. Also, any other A was not even an option. Any pair bar J-J was not really worth the obvious thought that he had of re-raising pre-flop. I therefore had made a full commitment that he held J-J. With having position and a better hand - I looked forward to any flop without a Jack. I was pleased with the board A-9-3. The fact that my opponent moved all-in did not deter me from calling. It also did deter another Jack from hitting the turn. I had to start all over again.

I took my second 5K with the hope of fighting my way back. And by the time we lost just over half the field, I was back up to10K and in with some chance. It was then that I was faced with two crucial back-to-back decisions.

With blinds of 300-600 and a running ante of 75, I decided to just call a 2,000 raise with JJ. The rag flop of Ten high looked perfect for my hand. But I was faced with tough decision as the initial raiser bet into me to set me all-in if I called. I reluctantly threw the Jacks face up as I mucked. The raiser smiled as he threw over QQ.

Although I was pleased to have escaped from the hand, losing 2,000 was not what I was looking for from JJ. However, the very next hand gave me a chance to recoup my losses or at least steal the blinds with TT. But just like the previous hand, I was faced with another bet of 2,000 from an early position raiser. I contemplated an all-in move. I think most times in this situation, it would have been the only choice. But for some reason, I decided against it and just called. Again, it was a baby flop and again the initial raiser bet to set me all-in.

I had to smile. Did he have me beat or was he taking advantage of my lay down from the last hand? Considering the circumstances, this was going to be even tougher to lay down. In truth, I don’t know why, but I did lay it down. This was a tough day. I doubted my decision to just call with TT as well as my decision to muck after the flop. I was on the verge of accepting defeat. I had tried everything but it just seemed that it was not my day. I gave a wry smile as I tossed the Tens face up. I think my opponent took pity by showing the two same Jacks that I had been dealt on the previous hand.

These two hands were a clear indication as to how badly I was running in this event. Down to just over 5K - there seemed little hope of a comeback. I then managed to win a small pot that took my stack to around 8,000. I don’t recall the hand but it was probably the most important hand of the day for me as it gave me the opportunity to at least make a meaningful re-raise. Or even perhaps, a steal or two. Having just called two raises with J-J and T-T - I had hoped that the other players might just let me get away with it.

With one eye on the clock, I knew that I only had a few hands to at least make the first move. If I had waited - the increase in blinds and ante’s would have belittled any re-raise from my small stack. It was time to gamble. But more importantly, I think it was time to tell the cards that I didn’t want to play their game anymore. If I was to get busted from this event - it would be under my terms. I somehow would have preferred to go out bluffing than to be dealt Q-Q and run into K-K. On this day - this was probably the most likely outcome.

I therefore decided to move all-in at the first opportunity. Luckily, the initial made a raise that looked a little weak. He showed A-T as he made what seemed to be an easy laydown. Then I did a crazy thing. The whole table had been showing hands all day. So I showed my 7-8 of hearts. I also re-raised all-in on the next hand with T-8 and again showed it. I didn’t plan to be doing this. Showing these hands was serving no purpose other than to provoke a call - I didn’t want a call! For the third hand in a row - I decided to move all-in again against a standard raise from George McKeever. George smiled and made some sort of comment that I must have a better hand this time. I was honest and assured him that I did. This was just pure fun now. And so I showed my K-5os to George. Well…it was the best hand of the three!.

This crazy play took my stack to well over 20K and to a comfort zone. Within 30 minutes, it grew to 80K. By the end of the first day I was chip leader with 180K.

I don’t know how important this crazy style of play was in helping me to win the event. But I do know that as poker players, we sometimes need to have our bit of fun. Especially when you have spent most of the day suffering while the cards were having theirs.

Until next time- play well, get lucky and enjoy life!

Peter “The Poet” Costa


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