Boxing, Texas Hold' em, and the Coldcock
By Ted Sares
The other night I was playing in a Texas Hold ' em tournament and was taking a pretty good beating. I had lost most of the early rounds because my opponents were throwing wild shots and making (and winning) wild bets. It took some time to make the necessary adjustments. It was like fighting off the ropes landing an occasional counter or short inside uppercut but nothing big. I was taking two blows for every one I landed. Then, out off desperation, I started a rope-a dope strategy, dropping out early if my pocket cards were weak and playing only strong cards. Finally I started landing (and winning) more than I was receiving (and losing), gradually working myself to the center of the ring where I went from short to medium stack with my chips. I was coming back and making a solid fight of it. By then a few others had been blown away, and only five of us remained. All tough; all seasoned; all mean.
Finally, like a boxer waiting for his opportunity, I saw the opening I was waiting for all night. And like a boxer, I don't believe in the happenstance of luck. I believe luck is being prepared and ready when opportunity presents itself. That's exactly what happened here, or at least that's what I thought had happened.
After we touched gloves and the small and big blinds were put in, the cards were dealt. The initial bets were made, though two players dropped out leaving three to fight on. I was dealt the 4 and Aceof spades in the pocket and had a remote chance for a flush and decided to stay with that possibility being the main incentive. Moreover, with an Ace, you have take a peak at the flop, don't you? And that's when my "luck" changed.............for the better.
After the referee (er the dealer) confirmed that the pot was right, he dealt the flop in Vegas style flipping over three card all at once. It unveiled a 7, 6, and 8. I no longer had a chance for a flush, but with a 4, I now had a decent chance at a straight. if I got a 5 on the turn, I would have it and then take matters into my own hands. Lo and behold, I got it! So from that point forward, it was a different kind of fight with a different kind of fight plan. Now it was all about taking control and betting. And boy did I ever bet, "sucking" the others into a very generous pot....heck, the worse I could do would be to split it. It was like going into the 10th round with an insurmountable lead.......and even with a couple of knockdowns, the decision was in the bag. What a great feeling. The river card was another 6 that paired with one from the flop. It seemed inconsequential (I really wasn't even paying all that much attention since I had my sweet straight) so it was time to go for the kill......the knockout. I went all in with all my chips. But to my surprise, so did the remaining players. I was expecting it from the guy to my right who had been feinting and bluffing all night and I suspected he might have a straight going as well. But remember, even if he did, I was holding that sweet ace for back-up.
But it was the guy to my left that I should have been watching. Instead of quitting on the stool like Tyson against McBride, he stayed in. There was a 5, 7, 8, and a pair of 6's showing. I mean, how in the hell could I lose? Even of he had a set (three of a kind) of 6's, he was a goner.
Then, the moment of truth arrived. Time to turn over our cards. I looked to my right. To my pleasant surprise, all he had was a pair of Kings. He was bluffing and he got caught by my full-throttle offense, no defense style of play. I was Danny "Little Red" Lopez and he was Jose Torres. I had come the floor to beat him and he was done. I had knocked him out. It felt great.
As I was reaching for the monster pot that would now make me the tournament winner and pay for a month of premium cigars, I heard those tentative, albeit deadly and final, words from the guy to my left.............."just hold on there one minute........." Oh, oh, something was very wrong here.
I guess I had lost my focus in that last round and didn't see it coming. But he did. He flipped over his pocket cards and there they were. The knockout punch hit me squarely is the sweet point of my jaw and rendered me speechless, no small feat. He had the third 6 and another 8 which gave him a full boat (officially known as full house when you have three of a kind and two of a kind). He had three 6's and two 8's...............good enough to take me out in the last round of a fight I thought I had in the bag.
I got blind sided by a full boat. I was Gabe Ruelas and I got knocked out cold by Arturo Gatti's left hook! And that's just the way it happens. It's always the punch you didn't see coming that does it.
"The commonest mistake in history is underestimating your opponent; it happens at the poker table all the time." ~David Shoup
Ted Sares is a syndicated writer who can be reached at [email protected]