Wisconsin ‘Homeboy’ Poker
Every holiday season, I head back with my family to Wisconsin (Madison and Milwaukee) to celebrate with my parents, my brothers and sisters and their families. We come from northern California, Minneapolis, New York, Austria and Italy. It is a special time for the Hellmuth family, and it has been our custom for more than 20 years. Along with my family tradition comes another tradition: The Wisconsin pot limit hold ’em home game with my friends. The blinds are $5-$5, and the buy-in is $1,000, with $500 re-buys. The game plays bigger than it sounds, and we allow $10, $20, $40 and $80 “straddles.”
A straddle is a voluntary blind that allows the person who places the extra blind to raise it up when the action comes back to him. A straddle makes no sense at all as a winning play. But it does promote extra action, and it also doubles the size of the game. Of course, when you’re losing a lot of money, doubling the size of the game can be useful. It may make you an even bigger loser, but it gives you a better chance to get even.
During the 2007 holidays, Mark Kroon, Jon Green, Paul Clements, “Concrete Larry” Michaels, Jon Ferraro, Tim Belstner, Gary Ebert, Pizza Jimmy, Craig “Spa man” Hueffner and myself had a jam-up poker game. One crazy hand came down like this: With the blinds at $5-$10, Clements put the $20 straddle on, Concrete Larry put the $40 straddle on it, five of us called $40. Concrete Larry then looked down at Q-Q, and raised it up $200. Ebert called under the gun with 9-7 off suit, and Clements called with As-3s.
The flop came down 9c-4s-2s. Clements checked, Concrete Larry fired out $600, Ebert called $600 in an instant and then Clements announced, “Raise it up!” Clements proceeded to make it $1,800 to go — a $1,200 raise. Concrete Larry — with $6,000 in chips — said, “I know that you’re on a draw, but the $1,200 raise is kinda weird.” Finally, after two full minutes of consideration, Concrete Larry folded his hand. Ebert, who had only $1,000 remaining, called for his last $1,000.
In this game, the cards aren’t turned up when we’re all-in, so we all watched the next two cards, which were Jd and 8h. At this point, Ebert confidently flipped his hand face up, and Clements said, “You win,” as he showed his monster straight-flush drawing hand, which was now reduced to ace-high. Concrete Larry went ballistic, saying a few things that I cannot repeat in this column and “Paul, you blasted me off the best hand and basically gave those chips to Gary!” To which Clements replied, “Don’t blame me, you’re the one who folded the best hand.”
Let’s take a closer look at this hand. First, the blinds and straddles were out of control, but in the best possible way (we were having a lot of fun). Concrete Larry was super-lucky when he found Q-Q in the big straddle, and I love his $200 pot-sized raise with it. Ebert’s $200 call with 9-7 was too loose, but after all, this was a jam-up game and Ebert was expecting more players to call the $200 raise. Clements’ $200 call was by the book. I love Concrete Larry’s $600 pot-sized bet on the flop, and I cannot criticize Ebert’s $600 call here with top pair.
Clements’ $1,200 raise was pretty sharp. If he raised it up $2,400 more, it would have been easier to put him on a drawing hand. But this “kinda weird” (Concrete Larry’s words) $1,200 raise smacked of strength — it made Clements look really strong. Concrete Larry’s fold on the flop was fine with me. Concrete Larry was either looking at a set (trips) or a big draw, and he had too many chips behind him to risk it all. On the other hand, if he knew that Clements was drawing, calling $1,200 would have worked well. If Concrete Larry had called, he could have made a huge bet on the turn after the Jd came off. As to Ebert’s call: It was a bit desperate, but he was in fine shape (46 percent or so) against Clements drawing hand. Also, Ebert’s actions in this hand illustrate the reason why I like the game so much.
I’d also like to wish all my readers a lucky 2008. Happy New Year!
Straddles can affect the size of the game by making it:
A) Much bigger!
B) Much smaller!
C) The same size.
D) All of the above.