Folding Quads

FOLDING QUADS

I was recently in an online pot-limit Omaha (“PLO”) game and saw something I’ve never personally witnessed in over 35 years of serious poker. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

To be completely honest, this was actually a 1/2 5-card PLO game—PLO players correctly believe once you’ve broken through the two-card barrier, the sky’s the limit.

There was no fanfare at the start. The cutoff (CO) player limped in for 2, the small blind (SB) completed for one more chip, and the big blind (BB) checked. A quiet day at the office.

With 6 in the pot, the flop was Kd-Ac-As. Given the lack of preflop raises, certainly nobody should have smashed this flop. That suspicion was confirmed when the flop checked all the way around.

The turn was interesting enough—the Kc—making the board Kd-Ac-As-Kc. SB checked, and BB bet full pot; 6. CO folded, and SB called. “C’mon folks,” I thought, “Neither of you has anything—let’s get this one put to bed and get onto the next hand.” The players had started 150 effective—nothing insane was going to happen on this hand.

The river, with 18 in the pot, was the 7c—the board was done at Kd-Ac-As-Kc-7c. SB checked, BB bet half pot, 9. Now suddenly the SB woke up and check/raised to 35. Wait, what?

The drama was just getting underway. The BB now made it 90. What I said about no insanity? Yeah, forget about that.

SB paused. Paused a bit longer. Then did one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen at a poker table…

They chatted, “Show?” Then they folded. This online poker platform allows you to reveal one or more cards when the hand is over. After SB had folded, ending the hand, they showed two kings.

That’s right, sports fans—the SB had just folded the quads that they turned.

The BB was very gracious, and showed the two remaining aces—indeed, they had flopped quads. But the BB was also confused:

“Wait. What just happened? Did you fold quads?”

I thought for a second, then laughed with joy. I chatted, “There’s nothing you can do when somebody plays really good poker.” The SB had just put on a master class in intelligent disciplined poker, and I was proud to be there for it.

WAIT. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

Here’s what happened. On the river, SB very reasonably believed he had the winner—quad kings is a pretty good poker hand, even in 5-card PLO. He check-raised BB, looking forward to collecting from BB’s club flush or aces full of 7’s.

But BB didn’t call and pay off. He re-raised.

Now SB had to review the bidding, as the bridge players say. Remember, this is PLO, so two of each player’s cards must be used. A singleton ace does not a full house make. And SB was looking at all the kings that weren’t on the board. There were only two full houses that BB could be holding: aces full of sevens, or sevens full of aces. The BB could not have aces full of kings.

Neither aces full of sevens nor sevens full of aces justifies a re-raise with that board. One of the most obvious two-card combos SB could be holding is AK. That would give him the nuts, since it would block both possible quads. He could be tied, but he couldn’t be beaten.

So any marginally competent PLO player would know not to re-raise with either aces full of sevens or sevens full of aces. In fact, either of those hands should be folded to a check-raise.

SB studies on that, and realizes there’s a near-zero chance BB has a full house. Which leaves only one, chilling option.

BB is looking at the other two aces.

WHAT A STAR

Most poker players in SB’s shoes would call (if not shove), then reveal their cards and whine when shown the quad aces. This SB did neither—they figured out they were beaten with near certainty, but appreciated the unique nature of the situation. So they asked BB to show, and then revealed the hand they were folding.

I was humbled by that play—it was as good poker as you get to see.

CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING

I try to make most of these articles educational on some level, while providing entertainment on the way. I hope I delivered on the entertainment, but let’s look for a lesson too.

In this case, the lesson is clear: context is everything.

You hear people say, “I couldn’t fold; I had <hand x>.” Maybe it’s top pair, maybe it’s ace-king. Maybe it’s a set (it’s often a set). But the truth of the matter is you always can fold a hand. Your hand is only as good as how it ranks compared to the hands it’s against. Unlike video poker, our game is not one of absolutes.

The hero of this hand—and indeed, he’s a hero—wisely and correctly surveyed the world around him, and realized his hand, while the second nuts, was almost certainly no good. Then he acted on that information.

Maybe it wasn’t easy to fold quads, but he did it beautifully, with panache.

What a star.


Lee Jones has been in the poker industry for over 30 years. He writes at the Global Poker blog, plays poker every chance he gets, and coaches poker. He has never folded quads. Yet. You can contact him at www.leejones.com.