A sanghoki piece of the rock


It was one of those nights where everything was on my side. My reads were on, the draws were coming in, and variance was giving me a neck massage. It was one of those nights where I felt smart, even if I was getting lucky. I was posting a decent win and thankful for it.

In fact, I was ready to call it a night and go home a modest winner.

The game was about to break and most of the money on the table sat in two sanghoki stacks. Gucci Rick had about $900 in front of him. I had exactly $1,003.

And the rock.

You’ve likely played with the rock before. If not, it’s an action-generating forced under-the-gun straddle by the holder of the rock–usually the amount of a straddle bound together by a rubber band. In this game, the rock was a metal ace of spades. It is thrown in the first pot of the night and then makes its way from player to player throughout the evening. In a short-handed game, the rock effectively moves the stakes up and makes the pots worth dragging.

Gucci Rick and I were having decent nights and more often than not, one of us had the rock. With the action tightening up at the end of the game, a tacit competition to hold the rock was underway.

As the first cards came out, someone called a misdeal. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention and looked at my single-card holding…a three of diamonds. I flashed it in a “good, I didn’t want this card anyway” move. Everyone looked at me like I was an idiot. There was no misdeal, despite what I had heard. I’d be keeping the exposed three of diamonds, which was going to make it exceedingly difficult to defend the rock.

Pride gets in my way sometimes. There was no earthy reason to play my hand, especially after I saw an offsuit five as its buddy. Yet, as I’d been running well all night, I thought I’d take a shot at Gucci Rick. He’s been winning big for the past five weeks and is getting a little saucy. Sure enough, he comes in for a raise and I decide I’m going to play against him.

Now, let’s take a break from the chronological order of things for a second and consider a simple rule in poker: Pride is no reason to play 53-off. As far as I know, that hand doesn’t even have a nickname. So, why?

Well, one good reason would be the 532 flop. That would be a great reason. Gucci Rick’s range in this hand is wide open, though, and it is equally as likely he would hold A4 as it is he would hold AA. I’d either be way ahead or rather behind. It’s a tough place to play and one I would have a hard time betting correctly. It is made a helluva lot easier, however, with another five comes on the turn.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mamacita.

The big question now becomes how to extract the most out of the hand. Being stone-cold nutty, I can pretty much do whatever I want. I can effectively walk out of the room with $2,000 if I find a way to get Rick in. However, I’m not entirely sure how to play the hand. Slowplay? Play it fast and see if he’ll raise me? Playing against The Gooch is not easy. He’s become a very good player and I know that if I show too much strength, he might be able to lay down.

What’s more, when I see that board, all I think about is how nice it would be to have an extra $2,000 in Vegas next week to toss around like a silly person. I’m rolled well-enough to enjoy the trip, but a couple extra little dimes might offer me a little more freedom to experiment.

Look at that board: 5325. And I’m holding the stone cold nuts. And The Gooch has been playing like actually has a hand. What would you do? Seriously…stop and comment right now and tell me how you would’ve played the hand knowing what you know about the hand. I’ll wait until you come back.

Back? Okay.

Now, what would you do if you knew the river? What if I told you what Gucci Rick was holding? What if the river was a queen?

And Gucci Rick was holding pocket fucking queens.

What if?

Well, in fact, that is exactly what the river was and exactly what Rick was holding.

You ever felt your stomach go to war with your spine? It’s a real treat. I’d say I felt like I’d just been hit by a car, but it’s wasn’t like that.

It was more like I’d almost been hit by a car.

See, I honestly thought it was the end of the night. I had $1,003 in my stack. With a $3 tip to the dealer, I’d be able to cash out for an even grand and save the bank any messy change-making. If I called and tried to showdown with The Gooch, especially with him knowing one of my cards, it could get messy for no good reason.

And so I mucked pre-flop.

As it happened, Rick played the hand to the turn with somebody else. I asked to rabbit hunt and we saw the queen. That’s when Rick revealed his hand and I reeled across the room with a certain relief that I still feel 48 hours later.

As I told G-Rob about the hand the next day, he made a pretty good observation. Not playing the hand made me walk away feeling like a genius. Had I played the hand, my spirit would’ve been broken. A donkey with a broken spirit is a sad thing to witness.

For once, results-oriented thinking doesn’t feel so bad.

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