In between writing columns on Holdem poker strategy and Stud strategy I sometimes daydream. I think about what poker heaven would be like. You ever do that? It’s an interesting exercise. My first thoughts about what poker heaven would be like didn’t match my eventual image of the place...
For example, you might think that poker heaven would be getting Aces every hand and always hitting the flop and never getting outdrawn. Or maybe your idea of heaven would be receiving random cards but also psychic ability, to peer into the minds of your opponents and see their cards, so you could make all the right moves to win their chips.
But after thinking about this for a while I realized that neither of these scenarios would be heavenly, not for eternity. If I won all the time then what would be the point? I wouldn’t be improving my game; there wouldn’t be any drama or suspense. I wouldn’t even have to think. I’d just win automatically. I bet that would get tedious as soon as it was apparent that it was automatic.
Same thing with the whole peeking into their brain idea. Sure, it would be neat to do for the first few times -- maybe for the first year or so in heaven. But if we’re talking about eternity, I’m sure it would get boring. There would be no fun to the game after awhile. Part of the fun of poker is figuring out my opponents’ cards.
That being said, I know that there is a poker heaven because I was there -- for a short while. It was at The Orleans in Las Vegas. It lasted for three hours. Here’s what happened.
I was in a $2/$5 blind $500 max buy-in no-limit holdem game. I started at about 11:30 PM, after most of the evening’s no-limit tourney players were knocked out. I played my typically tight and aggressive game but got no hands to speak of for the first two hours or so.
The game was relatively loose and passive. Six or seven players would often just call the Big Blind pre-flop. Four or five of the players never raised by more than the amount of the Big Blind, making it $10 to go. I just needed to be patient. And I was.
In heaven, patience is rewarded eventually with good cards. Sure enough, about two and a half hours into this game I was dealt Aces. I was in early position. My stack of $500 had been diminished to about $400.
I didn’t want to scare everyone away with a large raise. But I didn’t want to have everyone call, either, and that was a distinct possibility if I just flat-called with my rockets. So I raised to $15. I figured that would be enough to knock out most players, with a couple of folks still probably calling me.
Sure enough, the first player after me called. The next one folded. And then the Six seat, with a stack of about $200, raised to $40. This raiser was one of only three or so decent players at the table. The other players knew this. Even so, he got two callers.
In heaven, we get an opportunity to re-raise a re-raiser when we have Aces. And so I did, raising the raiser all in. He called instantly and everyone else folded. I turned over my cards. He didn’t (they only required both players to reveal their cards in situations like this in tournaments, not in live games).
In heaven, Aces generally hold up. They did here as well and I won about $250.
In my version of poker heaven the unexpected happens. It is an unpredictable place which keeps me on my toes and keeps my angelic blood flowing.
Sure enough, my very next hand was AA! I can honestly say that in my 1,000 or so hours of poker over the last few years I have never had AA dealt to me two hands in a row. But there they were.
We get a chance, in the heavenly land, to safely try out different ways of doing the same thing lest heaven become boring and dull. Sure enough, I had that opportunity.
I just smooth called the Big Blind. The player immediately after me, with a pretty small stack of about $60, raised to $10. The next player (who had just lost his stack to me) folded. The next player, with about $300, raised to $40. Everyone folded to me.
Heaven is a humorous place. So I laughed loudly. It was a bit weird. I said, maniacally, "I HAVE ACES AGAIN!!!" and raised all in, using both my hands to pile my chips in the center of the table. My thought was to goad the initial raiser into thinking I was just trying some weird bluff, since I'd just had Aces and couldn’t possibly have them again.
He stared me down, rechecked his down cards two or three times while he contemplated his move. Heaven's always got drama.
After a very long 30 seconds he said, "Call," and shoved in his chips while turning over his hand. I did the same. He had Ah Kh. The flop, turn and river didn’t help him at all. I won a monster pot just as I would expect in heaven.
Two hands in three hours. Two pairs of Aces back-to-back after a long wait. Two callers of all in bets when I had the best of it. Both times they held up. I used a little variety in how I played them and they turned out to be wonderfully dramatic hands.
I recognized how lucky I had been and how much fun the wins were. I probably could have capitalized on my good fortune and continued my rush for a while. But I was exhausted. In heaven, I get to sleep as much as I’d like. And so I did.~~
Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 42 years, since learning the game literally at his grandfather's knee. He's been playing seriously (and winning) in casinos, poker rooms, living rooms and kitchens all over the world, for the past 12 years. He started playing seriously in 1993 at the poker room in Foxwoods Resort Casino and he's been winning just about ever since. He's won No Limit Hold‘Em and 7-Card Stud tournaments in Connecticut, Massachusetts, California and Nevada.
He is the author of Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003) and articles in Card Player Magazine, Poker Player Magazine, Live Action Poker Magazine, Southwestern Poker Magazine, 5thStreet Magazine, and numerous online sites. He is under agreement for his next book, Winning Low Limit/No Limit Hold‘Em, due to be published by Kensington in early 2006.
He is by profession a union organizer and negotiator, representing broadcasters, health care workers and now teachers. He has two daughters, both of whom play poker.