Scotsmen, Chinese Food, & Flush Draws

Fri, 02/06/2006 - 8:25pm
So the European Tour (poker variety) has reached sunny Barcelona. It’s 8pm one balmy evening in late May and an assortment of the UK’s finest poker players are trotting across the Harbour to the Marina top floor Chinese Restaurant (well, there’s a limit to how much fish you can eat in one week).
We only have a 60 minute dinner break before we have to trek back to the Grand Casino for the €2000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event. So, we leave the mundane task of ordering the food to today’s lowest stack, which happens to be Tony Chessa with 18,000. As he switches between his Glaswegian version of English, Spanish and, Italian for some reason, he is being heckled by Nottingham Nick Gibson (from Reading) (left), who wants ‘something spicy’ and ‘some chicken’.
The others gathered around the round table are JP Kelly, Marc Goodwin, Paul Jackson and Simon Zach.   I guess Simon is the only one who can claim to have a job and could argue that he earned a legitimate living of some sort. However, there is probably the odd half million or so, wasting away not earning 5% interest in the group’s online poker or bank accounts.
Paul ‘Actionjack’ Jackson wasn’t actually in the main No Limit Hold’em event because he had just made it through to the final of the World Heads Up Championship, which was actually the main feature of the festival. We won’t dwell on my first round exit to a young German rookie too long at this point.
Anyhow, I guess JP (right) is the new kid on the block, and doesn’t quite understand that dinner rule no.1 (no talking about poker hands over dinner) actually means, that we don’t really want to talk about poker over dinner. Unless of course it includes some sort of amusing story preferably at the expense, or to the detriment, of one of the players present.
So, England’s brightest new talent brings up the subject of the final hand between Ash and Devilfish in their first round Heads Up match. As usual, Devilfish had claimed he was incredibly unlucky, but JP pointed out Ash was probably favourite when the money went in.
The flop (where all the money went into the pot) was 8s-4h-2h. Devilfish had pocket Queens (both black) and Ash held Ah-8h. Now I suppose to the beginners it may look like devilfish has the best hand because he has the biggest pair. However, Ash can win the pot with any one of 9 hearts. 3 Aces, 2 Eights or make a small straight.
One of the first lessons I try and teach my students is about counting ‘outs’. Don’t ask me why they are called ‘outs’ instead of ‘winners’ but that’s poker. In this case, Ash has 14 outs/winners, which at Hold’em will turn into a winning hand over 52% of the time.
Devilfish (left) however, does have a re-draw should Ash hit an 8 or an Ace. He can hit the Queen of Diamonds to make a set of Queens. Hitting a specific card like this (on either the turn or river) is slightly above 2%. If Ash makes the flush though this Queen is of little use, so Devilfish’s re-draw is useless two thirds of the time.
Ash also has an obscure chance of hitting a runner, runner straight, which is of a less than 1% magnitude, thus leaving Ash a 52.5% favourite.
So, although Devilfish’s pair of pocket Queens look like a favourite, they are in fact an underdog. Meanwhile, the spicy prawns have arrived and the curry is beef. Nick is calling Tony a ‘muppet’ and Mr.Cool (Marc Goodwin) is stirring things up as best he can. Fancy asking a Glaswegian to order in a Chinese restaurant in Barcelona! We can’t even understand him…  
However, in the real world (if playing professional poker can ever be equated to the real world), it really doesn’t matter how fascinating, or accurate, these percentages are. Both geezers are probably going to put all their chips in, whichever of the two hands they are holding.
Just in case anyone is interested, all of us fell along the wayside without making the final table, and ActionJack was runner-up in the World Heads Up Championship. Must have been a dodgy Chinese…