Deuces wild & degenerate nerd heaven

"I love your Open Face videos," said seat 2, as I ordered a glass of Chardonnay and folded ace-king in middle position, "But I like your brother's chess videos even more." We were playing the 120 + 50 rebuy deuces wild tournament at the EPT Grand Final, and despite the buy-in, it was a tough crowd.

I entered the event bursting with confidence, having learned a lot from bubbling the EPT London Deuces Wild tournament: you must create a fun atmosphere, in which people may believe you open or three-bet hands that don't contain deuces in them.

I rarely drink in MTTs, but in Deuces Wild, I threw my discipline to the side. People may even think that I'd play a hand like AK or even JTs.

My strategy caught on, and on breaks people high tailed to the bar to drink and discuss the math of this bizarre game. Fedor Holz asked me to explain why ace-deuce was the best deuce, and if so, was it much better than king-deuce? "I know, but want to know if you know," the reigning World Champ of Online Poker told me. Yep, I was pretty much in degenerate nerd heaven.


In one key hand, I crushed my opponent all in preflop with J2, both spades, over Q2, of two different colors, and mocked my charming foe for playing an offsuit deuce. Later I discovered he was a math whiz who could instantly calculate turn semi-bluff equity within half a percent. But not as sharp at detecting American sarcasm, he was baffled, "aren't they all suited?"

Seat 2 busted, and was off to running simulations for his friend still in the tournament. 32o is around a 70% favorite over AA, Ming and Peter revealed to me.

This is a microcosm of the modern poker world. You offer someone a nugget of advice (i.e- drink wine and behave like a giant troll in Deuces Wild) and in return they offer you something, like the equity calculations of the worse deuce vs. the best deuce. If you're not part of the conversation, it's harder to grow as a player.

The next day, I played in the Second Best Hold'em (also 120+50 rebuys), and had an even better time, albeit stone sober for this one. Second Best Hold'em is a lot of fun because there are so many combinations of nutty hands, like 62o-32o and 54-43o. Many of these hands chop with each other (as long as they don't pair). Multiway pots in Second Best Hold'em are quite tricky indeed and may make the game problematic. Heads-up pots are fascinating though.

I giggled when this happened:

Big bet poker talent may be measured in how quickly you can figure out how to bluff in a game you never played before.

My main adversary, Christian Berg of Sweden, picked up on the nuances of getting or repping the secnd best hand quickly. I was surprised to hear that he wasn't a professional player. "I had a feeling it was going to be me and you heads-up," he told me, as I ended up three-handed with him and Alexander Denisov of Russia. Though Denisov wasn't actually there. He was multi-tabling the 5K hyperturbo and blinding off while three-handed for a glorious silver spade.

Christian and I were both aware that Alexander was shallow in the 5k, and could return at any moment.

Blind vs blind Christian opened and I called with 83o at a little under 30 big blinds deep. I can consider getting it in preflop but thought it was better to call. As chipleader, I thought he'd be barreling often to pressure me, since it made sense for me to wait for the button to blind out.

The flop was Q♥T♥7♥, and I had the 8♥. He bet, I called. The turn was a jack and he barreled to set up a river jam. The river was an interesting card, an offsuit five. He emptied the clip after a lot of thought. Calling seems OK, because he is probably going to turn his 5x hands into bluffs and he also has 7x and other bluffs that he's three-barreling. I also thought he'd check some value on the turn to trick me, especially combos without a heart. Despite this analysis, his timing gave me a bad feeling. I finally called and he turned over 6h2x to eliminate me and go on to win.


He's all wet, anyway

There was one thing I didn't consider on the river. By folding I could comeback and win the trophy, or come second best for the cool story (put that into an ICM calculator). Instead, I was just third.

When I flew back from Monaco to Philadelphia, I ran into Eric Siedel in the airport. I had come straight from a night out, and asked was what was in the non-descript white box he was carrying on. I knew the moment after the question slipped out. He smiled slyly, wondering if I was trolling him. Nope, I'm just looking for inspiration (and trophies), which as Monaco reminded me, can come when you least expect it.


With Traci Szymanski along the French Riviera

Jennifer Shahade is the Mind Sports Ambassador for PokerStars. Find out about the 2nd PokerStars Isle of Man Chess International (October 3-11) by clicking here.

Jennifer Shahade
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