Bad beats and good hands

Los Angeles Times - - PUZZLES/HOROSCOPE - By Chad Hol­loway Hol­loway is a World Se­ries of Poker bracelet win­ner.

Play­ing in a tele­vised cash game against some of the best poker play­ers in the world has al­ways been a dream of mine. Ear­lier this year, I had the chance to do it when I was in­vited to the “Poker Night in Amer­ica” $25/$50 cash game at the Su­gar­House Casino in Philadelphia.

The min­i­mum buy-in was $5,000, and the lineup in­cluded heavy­weights such as 13-time World Se­ries of Poker bracelet win­ner Phil Hell­muth, online poker star Shaun Deeb, and Alec Torelli, who plays in some of the big­gest cash games in the world. I was out of my league, to say the least, but some­how I man­aged to hold my own. I even turned a nice profit over the course of two days, much of which came from sev­eral big hands.

One such hand took place within the first 30 min­utes of play, when Torelli, Dan Shak and Frank Olivieri (the owner of famed Philly cheeses­teak res­tau­rant Pat’s King of Steaks) each put in $100 pre­flop and I looked down at the K ♣♦K on the but­ton.

I raised to $400, only Olivieri and Torelli called, and the three of us took a flop of K ♥ 83 ♥♠ .

Af­ter my two op­po­nents checked, I bet $700, and Olivieri, who had flopped top pair with K ♠♠5 , called. Torelli, who had bought into the game for $20,000, then check­raised all in. I quickly called off for $5,550 to­tal with the nuts, and Olivieri wisely got out of the way. Torelli had also flopped a set, al­beit with the in­fe­rior 3 ♣♥3 .

There was more than $13,000 in the pot — by far the big­gest pot of my life — and I was a 91.11% fa­vorite to win.

“Wow, set over set. What a sick beat,” said Hell­muth, who then pointed out that Torelli could still win with run­ning hearts. In­deed, he needed ei­ther run­ning hearts or the case three to steal the pot from me.

Un­der­stand­ably, a lump rose in my throat when the A ♥ ap­peared on the turn, which dropped me to a 3-to-1 fa­vorite.

“I threw away two hearts, by the way,” Hell­muth added.

Would I re­ally lose the big­gest pot of my life to such a ter­ri­ble bad beat?

The dealer burned one last time and put out the 7 ♣ , a safe card, and just like that I had more than dou­bled my bankroll. The win re­lieved a lot of the pres­sure, gave me new­found con­fi­dence and helped me play my best poker. In short, it was a dream start to the game.

Poker play­ers al­ways re­call their bad beats, but it’s also im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the good hands and those rare times when ev­ery­thing goes your way. They’ll re­mind you just why you fell in love with poker in the first place. It truly is an Amer­i­can pas­time right up there with base­ball.

“Poker Night in Amer­ica” airs Mon­day nights on the CBS Sports Net­work. My episodes will air in the fall, so check your lo­cal list­ings.

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