Classic Story: Can’t Put Him on a Hand

Whenever we get a lot of new visitors at Thinking Poker, and probably a lot of people who haven’t read my more monolithic trip reports (understandable), I reprint select stories that are buried in much longer narratives but that I consider among my best. This article is part of that series, so apologies to those who have already seen it. If you have suggestions for other stories that deserve to be reprinted with their own dedicated post, please leave a comment!

Excerpted from my WSOP 2006 Trip Report:

As we are taking our seats on Day 1, there is a lot of commotion, and someone saying he needs two seats. I immediately think of US Airways’ controversial policy requiring overweight passengers to purchase two seats, but it turns out the gentleman who will be sitting two seats to my right is William, a twenty-something missing one arm and almost completely unable to use the other, who plays with his feet and needs the second seat to balance himself. One at a time, he pins his cards to the table with his big toe, slides them up a little wooden ramp, and looks them. He’s adept enough with his toes to take individual chips out of a stack and then push them into the pot. He has an assistant who stacks his chips for him when he wins a pot. Apparently he made it into the money last year, and obviously he is popular with the press, so there are a couple of cameras taping him as he gets set up. Maybe I will be on TV after all!

William has busy feet and is getting involved in a lot of pots almost immediately. I wanted to feel the table out a little before getting involved, but I get dealt some solid hands and have to play them. This results in my butting heads with William a few times. He backs down pretty quickly each time, but I can feel him getting frustrated, which is all the more reason for me to get involved with him, since it means he will not be playing his best.

As it turns out, I end up winning a big pot against him with absolutely nothing. A little background: one of the first hands I played, I raised AQ from early position and Will called out of his BB. Flop was rags and gave me a flush draw. Check, check. Turn blanks, he checks, I bet like half pot, he says “I think you have AQ, but that still beats AJ” and throws it away. We play a few more pots in between, with me raising his limps a couple times, and I can feel the frustration pouring off of him. He’s also had two pot-sized river bluffs snapped off by other players.

He limps for 50 and says “I’ll try to induce a raise”. I say “I’ll oblige” and make it 200 with KQo. He thinks and calls, saying “I induced the raise, so I guess I have to call it.” Flop J77, check check. Turn J, he checks, I bet 200, he check-raises to 1000. I just can’t think of any hand he would play this way. I don’t think he has 88+, 66- is counterfeited, and if he had a boat he wouldn’t be check-raising me so hard, he clearly doesn’t want a call. So I think for like a minute and call. River is a 5, and he toes three pink chips worth 500 each and nudges them into the pot with the tip of his toenails. I think again, really hesitant to call off so much of my stack, but I just can’t put him on a hand. I’m tempted to raise him, but that would cost me even more, and I start thinking maybe K-high is good. Why would he bet an A on the river? He’s got to think he’s good but he can’t expect a worse hand to call. He must have a hand with no showdown value at all. So after like two minutes I call him and wait for him to show. He rolls T8s for a busted gutshot. When I turned my cards over and took the pot, he got pretty agitated.

It actually worked out very well for me in terms of my image at the table, because based on the comments people made when I showed down, I could determine how well they understood the game. Some people were just floored that I had put so much money in the pot with such a weak hand and couldn’t see past that. A few players seemed to understand why I played it the way I did. But everyone seemed to decide right then that they weren’t going to try to bluff me, and that would make life very easy for me over the next few hours.

I was thankful the cameras weren’t around when I won my big pot against William, because I’d rather not be the guy taking all the chips from the disabled kid who’s playing to win money for the Foundation he started to help others with disabilities. But I am not getting off that easy. The reporters come over to check in with William, and when they ask how he is doing, he says, “Don’t ask.” Then he swivels in his seat, points his naked toe at me, and says, “This is the guy who did it to me.” He’s kidding, kind of, but we both know that he is really getting me back for calling his bluff.

About a half hour into this level, he is down to just 1500 chips, and goes all in. Everyone folds to me and I look down at a pair of Jacks. I call him, and immediately the cameras come rushing over to witness his fate. My hand holds up, and I eliminate him from the tournament. He continues to rib me for the cameras, asking how it feels to crush a crippled kid’s dreams, and all I can do is laugh. He’s mostly just frustrated with himself because he knows he hasn’t played his best, and he is ultimately a good sport about it. He signs a picture for me (he has better “handwriting” with his toes than I do with my fingers), gives me a hug (which involves him awkwardly flopping his body into me- I don’t do a lot to return the hug because I’m afraid to break him), and wishes me luck.

More Classic Stories:

Little Old Lady Owns Me at 2/5 NL
The Grasshopper and the Baboon
Don’t Make Your Girlfriend Watch You Play Poker

3 thoughts on “Classic Story: Can’t Put Him on a Hand

  1. Going through your archives again, been some time.
    I discovered and rediscovered some gems, thx again!

    Also congrats on the finish in the ME.

    Regards from the Netherlands

  2. I love the play on words with the title, “can’t put him on a hand”. Great story, and the kid is noble and you want to peg him as the hero that’s fighting for all the disabled kids out there…but a NL tournament is not the place for nobility. The poker table is a battle field and you must seek, destroy and conquer. My heart goes out to William, but if I had been sitting at that table, I would have done the exact same thing. Set him up with the jab until he gets frustrated and loses focus, then go for the knock out with the overhand right.

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