At first glance poker, and particularly Texas Hold’em, can be an intimidating game to learn. It’s not as simple and obvious as numerous other games offered in the casino. You can’t just bet red or black and let the croupier handle the rest. You need to understand the rules and structure of the game, and if inexperienced, your table mates will more likely get annoyed then come to your rescue. Once you become acquainted, though, poker usually moves fluidly, any subsequent embarrassing moments likely resulting from a misplayed hand. And do I have one for you.

Back in September I attended a WPT event at the Borgata and was also given entry to the WPT Monster Invitational—a six-player event stacked with pros that awarded an $85,000 prize package to the winner. A line-up comprised of well-known professionals, Phil ‘The Unabomber’ Laak, by far the most entertaining of the contingent, sat on my right.

If you’ve played ever with Phil, you’ll know he’s a sticky player who’s very difficult to bluff unless putting him under severe risk, a very hard task to pull off in a free roll tournament. In one of the first hands at the table, Phil called a raise from Vanessa Selbst in the small blind and I also called in the big-blind with seven-four suited.

I was ready to check-raise and get my entire stack in the middle after the flop came down jack-six-five with two of my suit. But when I checked Vanessa checked behind, bringing another five on the turn.

Phil then made a small bet and, after I called, Vanessa folded. The river was a total brick (the 2 of spades) and Phil checked to me. It occurred to me at that moment that I’d completely misplayed my hand. I could’ve led out on the flop.

If I was raised I could’ve shoved with a strong draw and had some fold equity. I could’ve raised Phil’s bet on the turn, and credibly represented having trip fives. I know what you’re thinking: lots of could haves.

When it came to the river, I decided that trying to bluff Phil Laak was a bad idea and instead checked behind with seven high.

“I missed” Phil said, as he tabled nine high.

“I’m the worst” I said, “but you’re good”.

“Oh my God” Vanessa blurted out using a tone that inferred she’d never look at me in the same light again.

“I thought he’d call,” I mumbled as the table stifled their laughter, Phil dragging the pot as I looked on in total and utter bemusement.

Embarrassing moments happen to everyone at the table, especially when learning the game. Have you had a moment like this where you wish you could hide under the table and out of sight? Unfortunately it’s all part of the learning experience and will make you, in the long run, a much better player.


If you’re new poker and want to learn how to play Texas Hold’em, this short video could be perfect for you. Let us know what you think of the article and the video in the comments box below.

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