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Cappelletti in Biloxi

by Michael Cappelletti |  Published: Mar 22, 2005


The sun was setting behind picturesque offshore-island palm trees as my taxi sped eastward from the Gulfport airport toward the Biloxi Grand Hotel and Casino, where more than a thousand bridge players were attending the Regional Contract Bridge Championships.

Every night after the evening sessions of bridge, hundreds of bridge players flocked to the many casino games and to the Grand's poker room. It recently was expanded to 24 tables and is always alive with action around-the-clock.

I was disappointed that the $15-$30 Omaha high-low (with a kill) game, which I had once described as being "one of the best games on this planet," is now spread only occasionally. Many of the higher-limit players now play at the no-limit hold'em table, perhaps due to the current no-limit hold'em craze on television. But my favorite game was $15-$30 limit hold'em "with a rock" – which is something like a kill.

The "rock" looks like a large chestnut, and if you win a pot (which is always large) containing the rock, you are forced to make a "live straddle" (a preflop raise) before your next big blind. Then, the winner of that new big pot gets the rock, and so on. Thus, the stakes do not double as they do in a kill pot, but the action certainly doubles.

While playing in the Grand's Friday morning $100 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament, which had more than 100 entrants, I was in the $200 big blind with Q-J offsuit. A player in early position raised to $400, the table chip leader called, and everyone else folded around to me. Although the small raise might have been a "screening raise" made with a very big hand, the price was right and I made the "dangerous" call. Note that Q-J is considered one of the most dangerous hands in hold'em, because you are often outkicked when you flop a pair.

The flop came K-10-6 offsuit, giving me an open-end draw to the nut straight. If my stack had been smaller, around $2,000, I might have tried going all in to grab the $1,300 pot. But since I had about $4,000, I could afford to play safely, so I just checked, awaiting further developments. The preflop raiser bet another petite $400, which was called by the chip leader. I called, also.

A beautiful 9 hit the table on the turn, giving me the nut straight. I thought a check was the proper play here since the bettor was on my left. He bet only $400. I was quite disappointed when the chip leader folded. What would you do in this situation with my hand?

Note that a small bettor is usually either "fishing" or "pikering." If he was fishing (perhaps with a set) and I raised a small or medium amount, he might come back at me. But if he was the "rueful rabbit" meek type of player, he might be betting the small amount in fear of facing a larger bet if he checked. If that were the case, he certainly would fold to a medium-size or larger raise. And if I just called, he probably would feign thought after the river card and check.

In either case, a small raise here seemed to be the most efficient play. So, I raised $500. He thought pensively and called. The river card was an 8, so I still had the nuts. He checked to me. How much would you bet here?

Using the same analysis, I bet $600, which he might call with a weak holding or raise if he had been trapping with a set. He thought briefly, and called with his pair of tens (hoping that I was bluffing). So, I probably milked the hand for all I could get. In tournament play, it is particularly important not to overbet these hands and end up with no payoff at all.

I managed to make it to the final table and finished ninth (for $360) when my pocket aces went down in a blaze of glory. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Grand Casino in Biloxi, and I probably will return there to attend the Southern Classic Poker Tournament, April 12-17. spades