My friend Houston Curtis from Los Angeles has some true Hollywood poker tales. This story begins in a private room in a swank nightclub where a bunch of A-list stars were playing in a $100 to $200 blind no-limit Hold ’em game. Unfortunately, these stars are so big that they do not want their names dropped. I can say that this hand came up last year, and that there was almost $1 million on the table when the hand came down.
Houston — who produced my “Million Dollar Poker System” DVDs, and also produces the “Ultimate Blackjack Tour” on CBS — opened for $1,000 with 5-5, and three players called, including the always colorful Casey Thompson. Thompson is a great character, who has made fortunes in business. He loves to have fun and on this particular night he had had too much to drink. I have played with Thompson in this drunken state before, and I lost money. (When someone has had too much to drink, you still have to avoid bad luck.) The night I played poker with Thompson — in Aruba in 2004 — he played $400 to $800 limit Hold ’em with his hand turned face up. Yep, you heard me right! He lost more than $100,000 that night, but somehow I lost as well — beating Thompson wasn’t hard, what with his hands turned face up, but I was unlucky against everyone else.
Back to the story: The flop came down 10-6-5, and Curtis bet out $5,000. Thompson called with his 10-2 and the turn was a 6. Now Curtis bet out a whopping $101,500 — all of his remaining chips — and Thompson called. The last card was a 10 — to make Thompson a higher full house with a 10-6-5-6-10 board — and Curtis nearly fell out of his chair.
Let’s take a closer look at this hand. I like Curtis’ raise with 5-5 preflop. I hate Thompson’s call with 10-2 preflop. After the 10-6-5 flop, I like Curtis’ $5,000 bet with trip 5s. Curtis usually bets a lot when he does bet, with or without a strong hand. This betting-often style yields huge pots when you do win a pot. I don’t mind Thompson’s $5,000 call on the flop. After all, Thompson did have top pair, and Curtis could have been bluffing; or Curtis could have had 9-9, 8-8, 7-7, A-6, A-5, or another pair smaller than Thompson’s 10s.
Another option for Thompson would have been to raise it up (say, $7,000 or $8,000 more) just to find out where he stood.
If Thompson did raise it up, then a Curtis reraise would almost certainly mean that Thompson was beat, and he could fold his hand.
The Curtis $101,500 bet on the turn was brilliant, but only because he was called. Curtis told me, “Normally I wouldn’t have bet it so hard, but Casey was drunk and I knew he was calling.”
So I give maximum credit to Curtis for “winning” the most money (although he did lose the pot). However, if you didn’t know that your opponent was calling, you would want to bet a lot less money; like, say, a $13,000 bet into the $14,000 pot. After all, you have a pretty unbeatable hand at this point, and why not lure your opponent into paying off a $13,000 bet, and perhaps a $35,000 bet on the end? Why risk scaring your opponent off with a huge over-bet? Of course, Thompson’s $101,500 call here was horrendous. Why would Curtis ever bluff a drunk Thompson? And if he did try it, why would Curtis risk $101,500 to win $14,000? It was an easy fold for Thompson.
Playing no-limit Hold ’em against someone who is drinking heavily is no bargain. First, the drinker is feeling looser and reading players better because his inhibitions are gone. Second, the drinker can really slow things down, and this can be unbearable for most of us. And finally, it is easy to give the drinker your chips — when you forget to give him credit for having a hand — and that’s when you can get hurt. For the past 10 years, I just get up and leave the table when a drinker sits down — period.
By the way, “Drunk Layne” Flack was the only player in the world I was afraid of in the past 20 years. “Sober Layne,” although tough as nails, has neither the great reads that “Drunk Layne” has nor the guts to move all-in when you put out a weak bet.
Playing no-limit Hold ’em with someone who is drinking can be:
A) a tough deal
D) all of the above