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The Best Hand I've Played in Years

The Big Picture: The Best Hand I've Played in Years
By Loki Luchs of

As a semi-pro, who has intensely studied every aspect of poker, I occasionally find myself in a situation where every aspect of the game falls into place. Like tumblers on a lock, the major aspects of the game can come together to form a mind-boggling scenario that most average players can't understand. Psychology, statistics, pot-odds, tells, and aggression came together the other night to achieve one of the best played hands in my time.

I found myself in a ridiculously loose limit game at one of my local haunts. Players know me there as a solid player and I often get respect from my plays. I was in the big blind with a J/2 off-suit. The player to my left, who was under the gun, raised. To my surprise, there were 8 callers! I was getting 17:1 on my money (8 players calling 2 bets + my BB that was already in the pot) to see a flop with my J/2! Well, I can't turn down pot-odds, so I called.

The flop came 8, 3, 2 rainbow. SB Checks, I check, UTG bets the last of her money all in. SB folds. 6 callers to me. While this isn't a great flop, it gives me some outs. If I find two pair, it'll probably be good with the wide arrangement of cards. Trips would certainly put me way ahead, so I still have five cards that can help me and I doubt any of them are counterfit. Pot odds are telling me that I'm getting 24:1 on my money to call here. This is a no-brainer call.


The turn is a 6. I check, Seat 5 bets. 5 callers to me. I put seat five on an eight at best. Probably more accurately, a six. He's miserable to see all of the callers. It gets to me. I'm still looking for 5 cards to make two pair or better. Even if my opponent has two pair, mine will (likely) be higher. Now, my odds and statistics have changed a little. I can't just call off the original pot odds, because I'm now FORCED to play the river against the all-in UTG. Still, to win the full pot I'm getting 17:1. To win just the side pot, though, I'm getting 5:1. I don't put any of my opponents on anything, because they're not raising with this many players to narrow the field against re-draws. I call.

The river is a 5. With no flushes possible, the nuts is the straight. I'm against 5 players for the side pot and another player that is all-in who I must face in a show down. Here's where seeing the whole picture pays off:

- Against 6 total opponents, my pair of deuces is not ahead. There is virtually no way that they will hold up under a showdown with all opponents.

- My opponents are not in the blinds. They know I could be on ANY two cards. (They are, in fact, right.) Being out of the blinds, it seems unlikely that any of them has a 4, while it seems likely that I do.

- I have not made an aggressive play during this hand. I have called down every bet. A sudden bet when I've been silent will seem consistent with hitting a miracle river.

- They know that I will HAVE to show down with the all-in player. It is unlikely that I would bluff here without a real hand. I am a well known solid player, so they respect my bets.

- None of them has a strong enough hand to raise with. One player has enough to bet once with, but he is a smart enough player to fold one pair against 5 opponents, especially with 4 of those opponents behind him.

- My bet is not to win the whole pot, but the 6 bets in the side pot. If I encounter a raise, it is most likely from a real four and I don't pay that opponent off. It is likely that most other hands will fold at this point.

- If I survive the side pot, I stand to make real money. My all-in opponent has one of 2 hands: either they raised UTG with a big pocket pair, or they raised with A/K or A/Q. These are hands that I CAN beat! If I can get heads-up with the all-in player, she is the only player I feel confident that I can showdown against.

I bet. With a groan, player five grimaces and mucks his cards. Reluctantly, the other 5 players also fold their cards. I proudly roll over my J/2 to the angry and belligerent players at the end of the table. UTG rolls her eyes and shakes her head. She flashes A/K suited and mucks. While my opponents will surely remember this insanity in future events (probably paying me off more liberally than they have in the past), it's only because they lack the depth to see the big picture.


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