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07/05/2007 No. 24
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday May 7, 2007

I am haunted by a hand. It came up during the PartyPoker World Open, a televised no-limit hold 'em tournament with six-handed heats.

We were down to three players, and I had a decent chip lead. Mentally, I was already rearranging my diary for the final. And then, when the button made it 25,000 to go (from a total stack of 120,000), I decided to move all in with a three of clubs and five of spades. And he decided to call with AJ.

For eight torturous days, I have been replaying it in my head, throwing the 3-5 away and waiting for better cards. But I had found only one good starting hand all game, and gathered a chip lead from making moves exactly like this. Threehanded in a fast no-limit structure, you can make a big reraise with 3-5 to pick up vital chips, or throw it away because it's rubbish. You're a genius when the move goes right, and you kick yourself black and blue when it goes wrong.

Then I spoke to an agonised Barny Boatman, who was knocked out of the same tournament with K5 on a flop of K57. He had moved all in on the flop after a bet and a raise. This is another 50/50, really: in that spot, you can smell a set and fold (could be genius, could be a spineless waste of opportunity), or you can move all in (could be the perfect play, could be suicidal). There is much debate about whether tournament-ending hands hurt more if you played right and were outdrawn, or played wrong and blame yourself. But much of the time it is this debatable middle ground, where the wisdom of the play is defined only by the outcome. Drives you even crazier.

This week's Journal of Neuroscience reveals that gambling losses can actually cause physical pain. I hope they didn't waste too much time and money "finding that out".


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