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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Poker Stories: Know Your Opponent

This story, another in my occasional series of true poker stories, originally appeared on this blog on April 2, 2009.

The poker table was full of locals who all know each other, except one young guy. Late 20s, maybe 30. Not a top player, but doing okay, up a couple hundred from his $1k buy-in. A few hours into the session he gets into a hand with Pat, who beats him on the river by hitting a gutshot four for a straight.

The Guy (I never learned his name) looks up and says, "What a horrible play. I can't believe what a bad play that was." Pat smirks a little and shoots back, "You're talking about your bet on the river, right?" The Guy replies, "No, what you did. Horrible. You're a horrible player. I'd like to play you heads-up right now for $5,000." To which Pat immediately says, "OK, let's go." The Guy says, "I'm serious." Pat says, "So am I."

The Guy doesn't get it. You don't make a challenge like that unless you know who your opponent is.

The Pat I'm talking about here is Pat Walsh -- who was a guest on my Final Table poker radio show the week before, after he made the final table at the LA Poker Classic -- generally considered one of the best players in St. Louis, if not in the time zone. While he's a good tournament player, he has a reputation for absolutely crushing cash games, wherever he goes, which means some of the biggest games across the country. NO ONE in this town would ever play Pat heads-up. His reading skills are amazing, he has no fear, and you'll never stack him because he makes amazing laydowns, too. Pat also has about the coolest temperament I've ever seen anyone display. Nothing fazes this guy, certainly not a dare from some punk.

At this point, another player at the table starts to say to The Guy, "Do you know who you're talking to?" before Pat shoots him a look that means don't say another word. The table is silent.

Pat looks up and calls to the floor guy, "Jerry, can you come over here for a minute?" He has every intention of asking Jerry to let him play The Guy heads-up. All of us at the table would gladly get up from our chairs right now to let them use this table so we could watch Pat destroy him. But before Jerry gets to the table, Pat asks The Guy, "Where's your five grand?" as he motions to his own stack, which has about $7k in it (and I know Pat has lots more in his pocket if he needs it, plus a roomful of people who would back him for any amount).

The Guy only has $1200 on the table, but reaches into his pocket and pulls out $400 more before saying, "This is all I've got." Pat replies, "You don't have five thousand?" The Guy says no just as Jerry arrives at the table. Pat waves him off with "Never mind."

At that point, it must have sunk in. The Guy didn't say another word the whole night.