Deep in the HORSE****

Carbon Poker $200 Guarantee HORSE Freeroll (1,000 chips)

Karina Jett’s mention of a weekly HORSE tournament at the MGM Grand during the Tulalip Poker Pro Challenge last weekend got my juices flowing for some mixed-game action this week, and since there’s nothing in town I turned online for my fix.

I took my first pot in the second hand, with A5 as UTG3. I made the first raise, to 40, getting calls from BB and UTG. The flop was an unpromising Q7Q, which got checked, as did the Q turn. I had a very beatable full house with the 5 river and called a bet by the BB who just had 8J.

I lost my gain on the next hand when 2A failed to connect with 458 and make a straight by the river, then had to fold 22 post-flop after calling a raise. 55 on the fourth hand didn’t pan out, either. By the time I folded my first hand pre-flop (49 on the BB), I was down to 850 chips.

The next hand was the first of Omaha Hi-Lo and I had what for me was an interesting 2967. I had two pair on the 7A9 flop, but never got all of the pieces needed to connect a straight and folded after the river.

On BTN with 575K and down to 730 chips, I called a raise to 60 from UTG1 with two other callers ahead of me and BB calling, as well. The 86A flop gave me the best high hand possible and I opened with a bet after action was checked to me, with only BB calling. Q on the turn and 9 on the river didn’t change anything; I bet the turn and BB bet the river, calling when I raised him. I scooped the pot with my flush for the high and somehow managed to with the low with nothing lower than a five. That put me up to 1,285

Another sort of oddball hand was next: 4552. All eight players at the table saw the 35A flop and I’d made the wheel straight along with the lowest possible hand and potential for quad or a full house redraws. Two players dropped out in the post-flop betting that went up to 120 chips from each player, then the Q came on the turn. Bidding went up to 240 this time, with one player dropping out, then the same happened after a 9 on the river. No flush possibilities, no full houses, the wheel was the best possible straight. Only one of the other three players had the straight; we chopped the money for the high and low pots; about 1,600 apiece.

My next hand was 99TT as HJ. The pot was raised by UTG, then CO, then SB, and I called each time. I started the hand with 2,215 chips; only two of the other players had more than the 1,000 starting stack, and there were a couple of players who were seriously short, which was to my advantage in this hand. The flop was 2Q4, nowhere in my range and not the right color for my only potential flush. Action checked through to UTG, who made the first post-flop bet, then it was raised again by the smallest of the stacks in CO, re-raised by SB, and raised again by UTG. CO was all-in after calling the last raise. Four players made it to the river, with everyone all-in except for me. The turn and river were J and K, so there wasn’t a low. I took the side pots for a total of 1,585 chips with my king-high straight, the smallest stack on the table had an ace-high straight and took the main pot but since he’d started with just 215 chips, it was only 1,530. Two players were knocked out.

We switched to Razz on the next hand and I folded my first three deals. On the fourth hand I got 534 and called a completion to 50 as fifth to act. Three players went to fourth street, one showing 5Q and the other with A3. Everyone checked. There weren’t any more bets until seventh street, by which time my promising hand had turned less lovely with a 9-7-5-4-3 low. Not exactly a winner. The other players had 5-Q-7-5 and A-3-J-8 exposed. The latter of those players opened with a 100 bet and I called; the other player folded, and lo and behold I was the winner because the other guy had two pairs in his hand, making the jack the top end of his low.

I went as far as fifth street on the next hand, but that was the last of Razz for the moment. I started Seven Card Stud with 3,210 chips but didn’t play a single hand through to seventh street and was down to 2,820 by the time we started Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo. I had a slight chip advantage over two other players over 2,500 chips, and the rest of the table was under 1,000, with antes at 15, bring-in at 30, and limits of 150/300.

My first hand was A39 and I decided to try for the low. It was cheap, I just needed to call the bring-in to see 8 on fourth street. The other players in the hand were showing 73, 34, 3Q, and Q7, and a couple of those gave me pause on the low. I decided to bet at it and managed to cut the field down to just two other players, one who was nearly equal to me in chips and the other who’d begun with fewer than 400. The next card for me was 7. My larger opponent was now showing 736 and the smaller had 345. Things looked even worse now. I picked up a J and 2 on the last two streets and called bets of 300 on each. Perseverance paid off, this time, my 8-7-3-2-A low bested anything the other two hands had and I took half the main and side pots for 1,582 (a net gain of only about 270 chips, though, since a lot of them were mine). The larger of the two stacks actually lost some ground, with a portion of their chips going to the small stack in the main pot.

I folded two more hands then played a J9Q hand to seventh street. Action on the hand was cautious, everyone was checking through, and with nothing better than a pair of nines and J-9-7-6-3 for a low, I folded to a bet at the end. Ditto for a hand with just a pair of visible twos and unpromising low possibilities that I folded to a bet on sixth street heads-up. Then it was back to hold’em, with 2,507 in the bank.

Several hands in, I min-raised to 400 UTG with A2 getting calls from HJ and SB. The flop gave me the flush draw with 5T6, but I checked it after the SB and HJ pass on the opportunity to bet, as well. Q on the turn got a pass from everyone and so did the 4 river. I had nothing but that was still the best hand: SB had 9J for the lower flush and an up and down straight draw; 89 gave HJ a double-gutter straight draw. My ace-high was worth 2,000 chips.

I lost some of that as BB with Q4 in a battle of blinds that began with a 738 flop. I called a post-flop bet of 200 from SB, then when the K on the turn slowed him down, I bet 400 and got called. We both checked the 4 on the river (my only connection to the board) and he turned over 7J to win 800 of my chips.

I raised to 400 from HJ a few hands later with 33 and was rewarded on the 39A flop. I checked it, then bet 400 after the 9 showed up on the turn. My sole caller folded and I was back up to 3,307 chips.

Another heart-suited ace (A8) on my next hand and I raised to 400 from UTG2, getting calls from UTG and UTG1. All three of us checked through the 6J5 flop, but I bet into the J turn and UTG1 folded. UTG and I both checked the 4 on the river, and fortunately my kicker was slightly better than his 7A so I won the 2,300 pot.

The next hand started with 4,807 chips and KQ but it was ugly. I called a raise from BB to see the 762 flop, called another bet of 200 post-flop, and even called a 400 bet after the 5 turn. Why? I don’t know. I folded to a 400 bet on the 9 river and my opponent showed AA. What was I thinking? Down 1,000 chips.

QK on the next hand did me okay when I bet the 26K turn and got the only other player in the hand to fold. Then we were back to Omaha Hi-Lo.

I was BB at 125/250/25 with K569. UTG raised to 500, getting calls from UTG2, SB and myself. The flop came out K5T and I was hooked. I bet 250 and the other three called. The same thing happened on the 4 turn. K on the river gave me the second-best full house, with no now possible, and I bet it again. This time only SB called, showing 832J for a flush but not beating me.

A couple hands later gave me 6KAK, which looked pretty good for a high. I raised to 500 from BTN, getting called by both blinds and HJ. The flop wasn’t exactly what I was looking for but everyone checked it and the 9 turn. 3 on the river didn’t seem to be anyone’s favorite, either, and with no possible low, when the cards turned over, my two pair was the best hand, escaping defeat with a 15% chance on the river. Everyone else had straight draws or full house draws by the river; the only three cards that kept me from losing were the other threes. That hand put me up to 9,657.

The next hand I started with a commanding leadoff more than 7,000 chips over my nearest competitor at the table. One of the players was all-in for just a portion of the ante. My cards were 8A63 and I called the 250 big blind from CO along with everyone but UTG. The K7T flop gave me an inside straight draw. UTG2 bet 250, which I called, then BTN raised to 500. SB, UTG2, and I all called and saw J on the turn. I still had the straight draw—although it didn’t look as nice with the possibility of the high straight—and a flush draw. Everyone checked it through, so I didn’t need to make a decision at that point. The river card was 9. SB and UTG2 checked to me, I bet 500, BTN raised to 732, and SB and UTG2 folded. BTN may have misread his hand; he had Q74Q for just a pair of queens but he might have thought he had a straight. The stack that had started out with 10 chips in the ante had 99KQ and did have the king-high straight to take the main pot, but that was only 80 chips. No low again and my ten-high straight won the side pot of 5,069, knocking out the player in BTN.

With over 13,000 chips, I had more than six times my nearest tablemate, and there were a couple of players with fewer chips than the combined big blind and ante of 275. The BB on the next hand was all-in for less than his blind. I had JK72 and could easily afford to call the unraised blind to see the 49K flop. SB and UTG1 checked to me, I bet 250, and was called by BTN and UTG1. The 8 made my flush I bet 500, getting a call only from UTG1, who may have been chasing a low, because my bet at J on the river made him fold. My only opponent at showdown was the all-in player, who only had two pair. I took both pots with my flush and was over 15,000.

Things went much the same on the next hand. I had K744. None of the remaining five players at my table had more than 1,070 chips. UTG called the 250 blind (even though there was nobody to post it in full), I raised to 500, and UTG called, putting us heads-up for the side pot (the main had only 240 chips). The flop gave me some hope for my flush, with 5JT. UTG and I checked it and a 3 hit the turn. UTG bet 500, which I called, then the 9 on the river made my flush. No low, and unless he had the A and another diamond or Q8, I was going to take this pot. He threw his last 70 chips into the pot and I called. He must have been going for the low or a straight with the 4K32. The other all-in player had a great flop with two pair but it didn’t improve from there. They were both knocked out, and I had 16,544.

We were down to five at the table on the next hand, which was even freakier. The dealer button was dead, I was UTG, and the players after me had 1025 (UTG1), 1021 (HJ), 740 (CO), and 1,026 (BB) respectively. My hand was a lowly 4223, so naturally my first action was to raise to 500. UTG1 raised to 750, HJ called, CO wisely stayed out of the hand, and BB shoved all-in. I called the extra 426 and UTG1 and HJ came along for the ride. The J62 flop gave me some great straight possibilities and even put the potential for a straight flush in play. I already had a set of deuces, so full houses were in the cards (so to speak). I bet 250, which put UTG1 and HJ all-in for less to call. All the hands were flipped and everyone was seriously behind. UTG1 had Q7QJ, HJ was holding T29T, and BB had J5K7. The nail went into everyone’s coffins with the turn’s A. The A on the river that made my full house was unneeded. Three players went out, I was up to 19,600, and the game switched back to Razz.

After the drama of the Omaha segment, I was mostly quiet in Razz, never going beyond fifth street and dropping about 1,000 chips in antes and bets. I was still the chip leader moving into Seven Card Stud and the table had been filled back up, but only one player had more than 10,000 chips and several were very short. I was dealt 964 as first to act and called the bring-in of 100 against a visible 2. None of the other players called, and I got J on fourth street, against the bring-in’s J. We both checked, and I was dealt 2 for fifth street. I bet 800, which more than covered the bring-in’s stack and he folded.

My next hand was a little less of a bluff. I started off with TJQ. Second-to-act called the bring-in, and I completed to 300. The bring-in (showing 2) called, and second-to-act (8) came along. Fourth street paired my ten with T. Both the other players checked to me and I bet 400. This time, only the bring-in called. I got T on fifth street and for some reason I can’t comprehend I checked it through; bring-in got 9. With 5 for me and 6 for him on sixth street, my 800 bet stopped the hand and I was up over 20,000 chips and in the top five of the game with a thousand players left.

I got cocky and played a hand out much farther than I should have. Where can something like 4AQJ646 go? What did I think I was drawing to? Anyway, it cost me about 3,000 chips. I lost another 1,600 looking for a third seven with pocket 77. Two pair wasn’t good enough for the high in the first hand of Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, costing me about 1,700 more.

I’d lost the table lead by the time we were several hands into Stud 8. I got 45K as last-to-act. Bring-in was the table chip leader, showing 6. Second-to-act, one of the other larger stacks (A) called the bring-in and I joined. 2A got a Q on fourth street and bet 500. I called with my measly 6, thinking maybe I’d be looking at a low or possibly a straight. Bring-in got my 5. With a 3 on fourth street, 2A pushed the idea of a club draw with a bet of 1,000, but he couldn’t shake my paired 5 or whatever bring-in had with 2. 2A picked up the last of my fives with 5 on sixth street, I got one of his clubs up—7—making an open-ended straight draw, and BI open-paired with 6. 2A tried to shake us off with another 1,000 bet but we both stayed. My down seventh street was 4, making a rather anemic two pair. Fortunately, neither of the other players bet at the hand, and when we showed, 2A had started out great with a pair of aces, but nothing else had paired, and the sixes were all BI had, so my fours and fives took the whole 8,155 pot.

I stopped betting on the next hand when there were two fives showing in the other guy’s hand by fourth street. He got another on fifth and apparently knew that if he bet at the pot I was just going to fold. We got to seventh street and he showed his quads (the fourth on second street).

A couple hands later we were back to Hold’em and I was dealt AA as BTN. Is there any better position? Blinds were up to 300/600/60. I started off with about 18,000, there were a couple other stacks over 15,000, then the others were about 5,000 or less. UTG2 called the blind after folds from UTG and UTG1. I raised to 1,200 and it was a heads-up raising battle between me and UTG2 until we’d pegged at 2,400 pre-flop. The Q55 flop could have given him a better hand, but since he’d started with less than a third of my chip stack, I was willing to see things through to the river. He opened post-flop with 600 and I raised to 1,200 but he just called, and a 4 hit on the turn. He started betting again, I re-raised to 2,400, and he went all-in, showing 76 for an open-ended straight draw and a club flush draw. The 6 river card prevented either possibility and he was out. I had about 25,000 chips for the next hand.

I folder the next three hands, then played 7K to the turn before folding. I made a big mistake playing 76 from the SB hitting middle pair on a 67T flop and hoping it was best through several rounds of betting all the way to showdown when a AT won. That shaved off 4,000 chips or so, and I folded my last couple of Hold’em hands.

6333 should have been folded pre-flop, not played to the turn. I took another couple hands (like A7KJ to the flop but no further. With blinds at 400/800/80, though, aborted stabs at the pot were costing big, and I was getting down below 4,000 chips by the time the Omaha 8 segment was over.

In Razz, my second hand was a deceptive A3K and I made a full bet of 1,000 instead of posting the bring-in. Two players called (showing 7 and 6, respectively) and I picked up 2 on fourth street, with A and 9 for my opponents. They checked it to me and I bet 1,000, with both of them calling. Fifth street paired me with 3, putting 5 and 4 on the other two hands. I was down to fumes. I put my last 1,346 chips in play and got called by both of the other players. Amazingly enough, even though I was paired again on seventh street, and my low was a stunning K-8-3-2-A, both of the other player had worse luck on their draws, with one player actually having a pair and a set by the end. It gave me a much-needed shot.

I made another big pot in Razz with 5JA against a visible 7. I just kept betting and ended up with a 7-5-4-3-2 against a much larger stack that had 8-7-6-3-A. That pot put me back up over 20,000.

Three of us got to showdown in the next hand. I had three cards under 7 to start with, ending up holding 8-6-5-2-A against T-7-6-4-3 and 9-8-6-2-A.

We switched over to Seven Card Stud and I took my third pot in a row, besting sixes and fives with tens and sevens, and pushing over 32,000. Then I blew out most of it going to the mats with a pair of visible kings against a guy with one king showing and another below, who had the top three pairs in his hand before he was done. Lost some more with two low pairs that were beat by aces and fives. That cost me 12,000 chips in one hand.

A bet after a pair of visible aces picked up a small pot, then I somehow managed to win a three-way showdown with just a pair of jacks.

Nines and sixes scooped the 25,200 pot in the first hand of Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, then I lost a chunk calling to get a straight to fill out but losing to aces and nines.

My next-to-last hand started off beautifully, with 96T and only J showing on third street. Could I get a straight flush? By the time A came on sixth street, I was just hoping for any other diamond—only three diamonds were visible in the hands of the three other players—but the best I could do was another ace on seventh street. That wasn’t good enough. Aces and sevens took 35,000 chips in the two side pots, with no lows, the main pot of 28,000 was scooped with a six-high straight.

That left me with just under 5,000 chips. I was all-in by fifth street, but a pair of fours bookended by a king and a jack left me beat by a pair of sevens and without a low to my name.

It didn’t get me to the money—the Carbon Poker free rolls only pay the top 20 finishers—but I was in the top 5% of the entries, which beats my best previous showing of 178th.

103 hands, 106 minutes. 120th of 2,757 entries.