Old Dog’s New Tricks

I sat down at a $1-2 no-limit game and dropped my last 200 bucks in chips on the table. It was the last of my bankroll and if I lost it all, I wouldn’t even have enough cash for a bus ride home, but I figured if I started losing, I would walk away before I got broke.
There was an ancient-looking man sitting to my right who looked to have over 5,000 in chips. He must have been sitting there a long time to amass that stack at such a low limit table. From the looks of him, he’d been there since the beginning of time. He moved slowly but played loose, carefully counting his chips before each bet. I was at the table for three hands and he’d won them all by forcing the other guys to fold. It looked to me like he was bluffing and just using his huge chip stack to push everyone else around.

A few hands later, Ancient raised from middle position and I looked down at pocket 9s. I called and everyone else folded. The flop came Ace, King, Jack and Ancient carefully slid out a bet of about half the pot. I had a feeling he was bluffing but with three overcards on the board, I folded without much thought or regret.

I folded the next few hands and Ancient kept betting at every pot, forcing everyone to fold. He didn’t show any of his cards, but I knew he couldn’t have it every time. He raised before the flop on every hand and when he was called, he just kept betting until the other players’ gave up on the pots.

It was the last of my bankroll and if I lost it all, I wouldn’t even have enough cash for a bus ride home,

Then Ancient limped in under the gun. My first thought was that he had a monster, either pocket Aces or Kings. I looked down at pocket 4s. I called hoping to flop a set and crack his monster pair. Everyone else folded to the big blind who checked. The flop came down King, 7, 4 with two spades. The big blind checked and Ancient checked behind him.

I could hear Mike Caro, the Mad Genius himself, yelling in my head, “When a frequent bluffer checks to you, do not bet.” I didn’t heed the advice. I had a set, put Ancient on a big pocket pair, possibly Aces and there was a possible flush draw on the board, so I had to put some money in the pot. I bet about three-quarters of the pot and the big blind folded.

Ancient took his time. He pulled out a stack of chips equal to my bet, and then lined up a raise, which amounted to about half my remaining stack. He pushed the chips out slow and sure. I immediately tossed out my entire stack and prayed he had Aces. He called instantly and showed pocket Kings for a bigger three-of-a-kind.

Neither the flop nor the river gave me my only out, the last remaining four in the deck, and I was busted. I left the table as Ancient slowly raked in my chips, the last of all the money I had to my name. I’d failed to save anything for a bus ticket, so I had to resort to an old trick and hitchhike home.