Or how I won and lost four thousand euros in fifteen minutes
A Short Story by Andrew Laurie
In Part 1: After a successful night of poker action, our hero finds himself seated next to the former World Champion Chris Moneymaker in a short handed pot limit Omaha cash game. By sitting down, has he just made the biggest mistake of his poker career?
Stacking my chips neatly, I determined to play cautiously for the first few hands, sizing up the opponents. The three businessmen were indeed a poker pro’s dream. Loose pre flop, calling almost any bet, they became deeply respectful on the flop and turn, and the Champion took down a succession of pots with carefully executed flop or turn bets. The moment any of them showed any resistance, he simply backed down and moved on to the next pot.
At first, I couldn’t understand why the businessmen were in the game, but listening to Moneymaker’s endless patter, it quickly became apparent what the deal was. Moneymaker was an immensely funny, charming and witty man, and these businessmen were effectively paying to spend an hour or two in the company of a former World Champion. Plus from time to time, he would allow them to win a pot. A moment they would tell their grandchildren about in years to come.
An evening with Moneymaker might be enough for the businessmen. But it was not enough for me. I was made of sterner stuff and I wanted their money. I wanted the Champ’s money too, while I was at it. So, reads duly made on all players, I decided it was time to start entering the game. For real.
The problem I faced of course was not the businessman. It was the Champ sitting directly to my left. Never had position been such a bind to me. Three times I opened with decent hands. Three times the Champ re-raised me. The businessman duly folded, and I followed, either on the flop or turn.
With my fourth good hand of the evening, I spotted an opportunity. This time, my hand was not just good, it was great. Two Aces, a King, a Queen, two hearts, two spades. Pretty much the best hand you can get in PLO. And I was ready to set a trap.
First to act, I pulled a single chip from my stack, placing it hesitantly in front of me. The Champ clearly mis-read my call, exactly as I’d intended.
‘Is that a call son?’ he asked. When I nodded, he threw a handful of chips into the middle of the table, announced ‘I raise,’ and sat back looking smug.
Normally at this point, I would have expected the businessmen to get out of the way, but to my surprise both the small and the big blind called the Champ’s raise. Now was my chance.
‘I re-raise,’ I announced. My only concern with this move was that it was a bit transparent, or so I thought. From the Champ’s reaction, though, apparently not.
Leaning back in his chair, Moneymaker fixed a stare on me.
‘You willing to play for stacks, boy?’ he said. Gathering a bundle of chips in his hand, he threw them into the middle of the table.’
‘Re-raise. Pot’ said the American forcefully. Clearly he was not a man accustomed to being played with.
The continuation was better than I could have hoped. To my delight both businessman called. What on earth could they have? I did not know, but I was certain of one thing. At this precise moment I had the best hand.
Hardly able to contain my excitement now, I pushed three quarters of my stack into the middle.
‘Re re raise. Pot’ I said emphatically. I was committed now to this hand. All my money was going in whatever, and the Champ knew it.
Moneymaker looked at me, paused, and sighed. ‘I have to give it to you son, you’ve got some balls. I’m gonna stand out of the way on this one.’ With that, he threw his cards into the middle resignedly. Now it was me against the two businessmen. And I knew I could take them both.
I forget now how and when all the money went in the middle. I have a dim recollection that the big blind actually re-raised again. In any event, that detail hardly matters. What does matter is that we had a 4000 euro pot in the middle of the table. Best of all, some of the dead money was the Champ’s, and I had forced him out with my re-raise. I had outplayed the World Champion.
It was time now to turn the cards over. Many casinos don’t do this until all the cards have been dealt, but in Croatia it’s regarded as a matter of honour to turn the cards over as quickly as you can. Not wanting to be accused of slow rolling, I proudly turned over my double suited Aces. I knew from the faces of my foes that I was well ahead before they revealed their cards.
With a sigh, businessman one turned over a Jack and three small cards. ‘Guess I’m hoping for a low flop,’ he said.
Businessman two turned slightly red at this point. ‘Unfortunately I was hoping for the same thing,’ he said, revealing a hand of Jack, Seven, Four, Three – the very same hand as Businessman one!
‘What are the chances of that?’ I thought to myself. ‘I must really be in good shape here.’ I was very careful though not to gloat. No one likes a bad winner.
With the flop, my prospects became even better. First card a nine. Second card a nine. Third card a King. Now I had two pair, aces up. Barring some bizarre runner runner, the 4000 Euros in the middle was mine.
The two businessmen looked dejected. Moneymaker was also looking worried, realising that two of his best customers might be about to leave. Then…. Thunder, Lightning, the earth fell beneath my feet.
Turn a Jack. Both businessman now had two pair. Same as me. But my Aces were ahead of their Jacks. Moneymaker said what I was thinking.
‘Just need to avoid the case Jack, boy.’
Indeed, I thought to myself. Must make me about a 98% favourite.
The dealer burnt and then dealt the final card. Pause. Deal. Jack!!!
The table went wild. Even the dealer jumped to his feet. I’d just been truly hammered by the baddest of bad beats. The only losing card in the pack had done for me.
I could hardly breath as the noise and excitement overwhelmed me. I reached out for my remaining chips, but they were all gone. Even the 200 euros I started with. I had been well and truly Moneymakered.
Rising unsteadily to my feet, I began to make the slow, lonely awful journey back to my room. Before I’d taken ten paces, though, I felt an arm round my shoulder. It was the Champ.
‘Hey, pal. You played that hand great. Don’t be discouraged. You outplayed me. And you outplayed those businessman too. Hang in there, boy. Keep the faith and you’ll do good.’
‘Thanks Chris,’ I replied, ‘Finding my voice for the first time. That means a lot to me.’
Moneymaker shook my hand. ‘You took it like a man there,’ he said. ‘It’s been good playing you. Come back any time. We’ll play again.’
I smiled. ‘Maybe not this weekend, Chris,’ I said. ‘But I will be back.’
And I will, Mr Moneymaker, I will be back. Do your chips have my name on them? I don’t know, but I’m sure as anything going to find out.