The Sports Guy Still Ain’t The Poker Guy

Friday, August 18th, 2006, 1:34 pm

Apologies for my delayed lake report, featuring me GETTING CRIPPLED WHEN MY KINGS WERE BUSTED BY A (deleted) SIXTH-GRADER. But Bill Simmons finally posted a report of his World Series adventures and I must take up my pen like a sword. Well, my keyboard like a sword. “The keyboard is mightier than the sword.” It’s not as punchy, is it?

When Simmons wrote that he would be playing in the WSOP and talked a bit about his poker past, I posted a little something to show that, much as I enjoy reading his work, his poker knowledge had some canyonesque gaps. But that’s OK, nobody’s perfect. Not even me. How can I be perfect, after getting beat by a girl not even in junior-high? Not that I’m still seething or anything.

Unfortunately, Bill doesn’t give us much in his column. It is, alas, a bad beat story with a little atmosphere as introduction. After reading Pauly and Otis and the other boys and girls reporting from the World Series it was a bit quaint reading Simmons describe the barely-teen models and kitschy crap you can buy there.

I’ve also read about a million bad beat stories in my day (and I’ve written, let’s see…two million) and Simmons isn’t able to make his own rise above the depressingly ordinary. He does make a few odd statements before getting to his tale of woe. He says, “At the final table, no famous pros were left sitting.” Uh, I’d say Allen Cunningham is a pro, and a famous one at that. After all he did win the WSOP Player of the Year award last year, and won a bracelet this year as well. True, he doesn’t spend 90% of his time looking for cameras to toot his own horn in front of, but he’s certainly one of the best and most respected tournament pros on the planet.

Another statement Simmons makes is rather odd:

“See, everyone thinks they know how to play now. Before Mike McD broke onto the scene, Hold’em was an underground game, the forbidden door most gamblers were afraid to open.”

Does Bill realize that poker was played all over the world prior to Rounders coming out? His almost fetishistic devotion to that movie makes me wonder if he’s aware that it wasn’t a documentary. The World Series was decided by Hold’em for a quarter-century before Rounders was produced. People played it every day. Maybe not for the stakes that Brunson and Cloutier and Preston played during their road gambler days, but there was certainly nothing “forbidden” about it.

Let’s get to the hand where Simmons got bounced from the tournament, a sad tale where, according to Bill, he “played a hand perfectly and somehow lost a $20,000 pot.”

We’re two hours in, so I guess the blinds were, what? Would they have been 50-100? Or still 25-50? Let’s say 50-100, since Simmons doesn’t tell us. He does say that, “Even two weeks later, I remember every nuance — what everyone was wearing, all their faces, how my chips were stacked, everything.” But his description of the hand makes me wonder about that.

A loose, aggressive, trash-talking player who got under Bill’s skin (and who he nicknamed “Jeff George”) raised to $550. That’s a big raise. Bill calls, along with two other players.

Bill’s cards? K-10. Sooted.

Now, Bill doesn’t say if he called before the other two players called, or after. But even so, is K-10 really a hand you want to call a big raise with? Even with three other players in the pot? What are you hoping to flop? A king? A ten? What happens if you bet and get raised? Simmons said he was waiting to pick off the aggressive player. Is K-10 the hand you want to take to war with you?

The flop hits Simmons as good as he could hope for–K-10-6. Here the description gets a bit fuzzy. With four players calling $550 preflop that means the pot has at least $2200 in it, yes? Simmons describes the action this way:

“The flop? K-10-6. First guy called. Jeff came barreling in for another $1,200. Third guy folded.”

The first guy called? Called what? Did he mean the first player checked? I guess so, because Simmons says the aggressive player bet $1,200, which made the pot $3,400. Here is how Bill analyzed the situation:

And I knew four things: First, I had the best hand (nobody had trips, I could tell from the body language). Second, I needed to steal that $3,400 in the middle. Third, having played one big hand in two hours, everyone would know I meant business with an all-in wager. And fourth, with 20 grand in chips, Jeff George might be dumb enough to call me. Which he was. And you know what this nitwit had?

Nobody had trips, I could tell from the body language. I can imagine a conversation in the White House around 2002, Bush saying “Saddam has WMD’s, I can tell from the body language.” I think it’s reasonable for Simmons to think he has the best hand at the moment, but not so reasonable to think his tell-spotting skills are sharp enough to conclude there isn’t a set lurking out there.

I’m assuming that Simmons had a bit less than his original $10K at the start of his hand (he says he lost a $20K pot, so subtract the amount the other two players bet before they folded). So the pot stands at $3,400, he has about $8,500 left…is moving all-in the right move here? If you think you have the best hand, you want to make the chasers pay a bad price to chase, and hopefully pay you off. And if you get re-raised all-in and his body language is now telling you that he’s holding pocket tens, you can fold with three or four grand left and fight another day.

But Simmons goes all in, his opponent calls. And what did the “nitwit” have?


As I was reading I thought maybe the guy had something like pocket eights, made a strange call with two overcards on the board, and spiked an eight on the river. But I can’t see how calling here is in any way a “nitwit” move. He raised big with Ace-King, got called in three places, and flopped top pair. I know, you don’t want to go broke with TPTK. But this is the World Series of Poker. You need to get chips–a LOT of chips. This is not a tournament where you want to stagger around for eight days and get knocked out 200 players from the bubble. Get chips, or go home. A strategy that might greatly appeal to an aggressive Internet qualifier. He’d still have over $10K if he lost the hand. And he probably thought there was little chance someone would call a big raise like that with a hand like K-10.

As Bill says, after the flop he was about an 85% favorite. We don’t know what suits the cards on the flop were, but assuming he didn’t pick up a flush draw on the turn (Simmons doesn’t say so), when that queen fell on the turn Simmons was just a bit better than a 3-1 favorite to win the hand. Three aces, three queens, four jacks. Three-to-one is a nice position to be in, but hardly prohibitive. And a queen fell on the river, and Simmons was out.

I lost a nearly-identical hand in a live tournament I played in, so I feel his pain. Unlike Bill, I didn’t immediately rent a car and “flee Vegas like it was a crime scene.” Two weeks later, Bill still hasn’t come to grips with what happened:

“It’s one thing to get outplayed. It’s another to lose to a reckless idiot. But that’s poker in the 21st century: You need to be lucky. Period. I know Mike McD disagrees, but only because he’s trapped in a suddenly dated movie.”

This is childish. A “reckless idiot”? The guy raised with AK and called with top pair and top kicker! You want to see reckless idiots, play a $5 SNG at Party Poker.

Let’s not discount the importance of luck in poker. To be sure, to get deep in a tournament with nearly 9,000 players, you need to get lucky. You might need to win a few hands where you’re a 3-1 dog. But that was just one unlucky hand, Bill. Preflop you were a 2.5-1 underdog and you outflopped him. Had you held on to win the hand, that “nitwit” might have been justified in calling you a fish who catches cards.

The luck goes back and forth. We all get an equal share. And we all believe we got shortchanged. Mike McD would be very, very disappointed.

UPDATE: I go to a new bar, big outside bar, HUGE outside bar. It’s in a tony suburb, many elegant women with bare, tan shoulders and soft, straight hair. And in the middle of my second beer I realize that in my “analysis” of the hand Bill Simmons was knocked out on I made what can only be called a “boo-boo”. Mr. Simmons’ opponent would NOT have been helped by the three sixes left in the deck. I was talking to my buddy Rick at the bar, poker came up, I told him about this hand and he said, “The sixes wouldn’t help the guy with AK”. Now, I KNOW that. But, and this is important, that fact didn’t occur to me when I was writing the post. So, shit. I effed up, and for that I apologize. Having a blog means never having to say you’re sorry. But I’m sorry.

Thanks to the insomniac for pointing that out in the comments. Thanks to the rest of you for not writing “ignorant jackass” in the comments.

So I’m at the bar, I see a girl who looks so much like Isabelle Mercier that I’m nearly paralyzed (plus she wears those librarian glasses, against which I have NO defense) and all I can think about is how I fucked up this post. It is entirely possible that I will never have sexual intercourse ever again.

Permanent link to this post.

19 Responses to “The Sports Guy Still Ain’t The Poker Guy”

  1. JoeSpeaker Says:

    Oh Snap!

    I love he called (called!) with KTs to go after the aggressive guy. Very sound strategy.

    Wonder if Bill’s a table captain? With statements like these, I wouldn’t doubt it.

  2. insomniac Says:

    Very good article. I almost regret reading it, because I was planning on writing my own analysis but I have nothing to add that isn’t already here; so I’ll just link to it instead.

    My reaction to reading Simmons’ article was the same as yours. There’s an early raise of 5x the blind (unless they were already at 100-200, but doubtful) and someone to your right has cold called it, there are players yet to act to your left, and your K10s somehow looks good to you? Bill can sit at my table anytime.

    I just have one question with your commentary. After the Q on the turn, you list the three remaining sixes as being outs for “Jeff George.” I might be wrong, but I don’t see that. Another six would give JG Kings and Sixes w/ an Ace kicker. Simmons would still have the better hand with Kings and Tens.

  3. a-non Says:

    amen amen, a thousand time amen.

  4. Mean Gene Says:

    Yes, insomniac, you are freakin’ correct. The sixes would NOT have helped Simmons’ foe. In fact, I figured that out, but only at the bar around 10PM. Which drove me home early to post this amendement and comment. My head has a bone inside.

  5. Guru Says:

    “Thanks to the waves of qualifiers who didn’t have to front 10 grand, a different style of play emerged: overaggressive, cocksure, reckless.”

    Wow, exactly how in the hell does ESPN fronting Billy ten grand give him status over internet qualifiers? I cannot add anything to Gene’s brilliant analysis of his play, but Billy’s arrogance concerning all things poker, and particularly internet poker just slays me. Mr. Internet Poker might scratch his balls every time he flops a set in person, but to be good enough to win a satellite, he would also get skilled enough to know how to play K10 to a raise. Internet play will also teach you how to handle a table bully without taking it personal or assuming the bully is a donkey or ignoring the possibilities of the other players seated. Watching Rounders will teach you none of these things.

  6. Ken Says:

    There isn’t a reader who hasn’t screwed up a hand history. Those things are built to be misread. And Simmon’s wasn’t even up to those low standards.

    I do commiserate a bit with our fellow donk. I recall ranting a bit about ‘weekend’ players where I could profit during the week but the idiot then showed up to take my money. What I was really saying was my game wasn’t far enough along at the time to adjust to the situation. So, I have to cut our knowledge limited friend some slack and hope he’ll bring his loose ABC game to a table near all of us soon.

  7. SJ1919 Says:

    Balls-on accurate, Mean Gene.

    After reading the column, I wrote an e-mail to my poker buddy who likes Simmons and called him a whiny bitch.

  8. Mr. Parx Says:

    I also have no defense against those librarian glasses. I think I will go sabotage my wife’s contacts now.

    Fine post, as usual.

    Mr. P.

  9. TVBrain Says:

    Nobody has seen Rounders.

  10. Larry Says:

    Is there actually a tony suburb near Pittsburgh? I also find it hard to believe there are many “elegant” ladies in the greater Pittsburgh area.

  11. NFL Adam Says:

    The Dork had written a while ago that, now that Jackpot Jay is gone, nobody should be writing stories about bad beats. But what does he do?

    Good post. Appreciate the poker insight. I, however, was surprised that he didn’t talk about how strange it must be to have the WSOP at the Rio, instead of the Shoe. He could have even made a cute analogy where he said that playing the WSOP at the Rio was akin to the Red Sox playing the World Series at Camden Yards.

    It’s time for the Dork to stop writing about Las Vegas. He makes himself look like a huge douche in all of his Vegas column. If it’s not him and his idiot friends overwhelming blackjack dealers, it’s getting a bad beat by a fellow neophite who, like he, has no business playing in the WSOP.

  12. Marty Says:

    I was at the ballyard reading the Simmons column Friday night and the first thing I thought was “what a donkey.” Glad someone else ripped him for it.

  13. the wolf Says:

    Ignorant jackass!

    I am referring to Simmons, of course.

  14. David Says:

    Yes there are a lot of “elegant” ladies in Pittsburgh. I was there last weekend for the first time and the talent level absolutely blew away my town, Indianapolis. I might move there if I didn’t hate the Steelers so much.

  15. Snake the Jake Says:

    What does your parent’s basement smell like since you still live there? Is it lonliness?

  16. Mean Gene Says:

    Tsk, you call THAT an insult, Mr. Jake? Tsk indeed.

  17. donkeypuncher Says:

    What a horrible Simmons’ column. KTs? Gimme a break. No bad beat can begin with, I had KTs…

  18. dragonystic Says:

    “Nobody had trips, I could tell from the body language.”

    god i love poker

  19. Chilly Says:

    I should make one just for Bill “KT” Simmons. This one is close.*/product/235779246984334404

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