‘High’ Stakes Poker
On the way home from Monte Carlo I decided to give up my airline ticket and pay for a one-way seat on Larry Flynt’s private jet. With one quick stop scheduled in Bangor, Maine, for fuel and pizza, it was to be pretty much a 12-hour straight shot to Vegas. Phil Ivey, Gus Hansen, Mike “the Mouth” Matusow and I were scheduled to play $400-$800 limit poker all the way home! So what’s not to like? We were flying high on Larry’s Gulfstream IV, playing high-stakes poker (so the time would pass more quickly), and perhaps I could win $50,000 on the flight home.
We hired a dealer to deal to us all the way home, and even before we were off the ground, the cards were in the air. Because Ivey had won both tournaments in Monte Carlo over the previous two nights (for $1.6 million), and because he wasn’t used to playing poker at such modest stakes (he’s used to limits of at least $2,000-$4,000), I thought he might be off his game a bit. He wasn’t. Gus wasn’t used to playing this limit either, so he figured to be playing way too loose, which he did do, but he barbecued Matusow and me anyway.
In fact, Gus made the game much bigger than $400-$800 with his super-loose and super-aggressive style, and after seven hours, Mike and I were losing more than $75,000 each. To have two players losing more than $75,000 apiece at any point during a $400-$800 game would normally be unthinkable. But then you have to factor in the “Gus effect.” When I hit a roughly $80,000 loser, my original first-class ticket home, with a bed, was looking pretty attractive.
By the way, Matusow was playing tough almost the whole way home. He had only a couple of five-minute lapses the entire way home. I felt I was playing well also, but you’ll have to ask Ivey and Hansen. Matusow would tell you I played badly (he always says people played poorly in retrospect). Nonetheless, Mike wound up losing $96,000, and I was lucky enough to cut my own loss to $18,000 or so.
We were playing a four-game “mixed-game” rotation, including Omaha eight or better, Hold ’em, deuce-to-seven triple draw, and Chinese poker. During the course of play, Ivey played one Hold ’em hand particularly well. He raised it up with A-10, and I called in the big blind with K-10. The flop was 10-6-5, and I bet out for $400. Ivey raised to $800, I reraised to $1,200, and Ivey called. I then bet $800 “in the dark” — before seeing what the next card was. When a seven hit on fourth street, Ivey called me. Now I waited to see the last card — I didn’t want to bet out in the dark into a potential four-card straight board like 10-6-5-7-8. But it was a jack. I bet out $800, and Ivey raised it to $1,600. I called, and Ivey took down a nice pot.
The hand was played about the way it should have been. I was unlucky to have the K-10 side of the hand, of course, but Ivey’s raise on the end was a superstar raise, especially if he was willing to fold his hand for a reraise from me. In fact, the jack on the end froze me from reraising if I happened to have a different two pair, since it would have been easy for me to put him on J-10. So he cannot get reraised unless I was super-powerful, in which case he would presumably have folded his hand. And I can call him if I have a ten with any kicker, which was likely in a four-handed game, especially with me in the big blind.
Next time I will ride the whole way in the jet, but I won’t underestimate Mr. Ivey!
Betting “In the dark” means:
A) betting without seeing what the next card is
B) betting when the lights are out
C) betting while wearing all black (like me!)
D) all of the above