I spent Wednesday this week at Garden City, and for my decision the poker Gods did smile upon me. I was a bit concerned that my early arrival time would cause a problem, since Garden doesn't usually have more than a single 20/40 game going before 11am. But at 10:10 I walked in the door and beheld the site of the ages. Me, second up on the 20/40 list (not even listed as a call-in) and Neal sitting in seat 5 of the only game going. Not only that, but Ned approached me and asked if I'd play in the 30/60 if they started it. I didn't lie to the man, and told him that I'd sit in it only until I got a 20/40 seat. Lo and behold, as is the custom nowadays, a 30/60 game get's called down, forcing Magic and Frank to vacate their seats in the 20/40 game in an attempt to get it going (as an aside, this 30/60 game lasted for about an hour, finally dying after the one customer who was playing with the 3 props decided he'd had enough and they converted it to a 20/40). This is a coup for me though, as I get called into the 20/40 game and sit with the two racks of chips I'd pre-bought from the cage in the Jesus Seat and post immediately so as to make sure nobody tries to claim the seat.
Things are going about as usual, except for one thing. Neal is being quiet. He's been playing at Garden City more and more of late, and the thought is that he's trying to avoid the crew of guys that always seem to show up at Bay 101 30 minutes after he does. These guys wait for hours to play in his game and, upon getting seats, engage him in constant vulgar banter until he eventually leaves, at which point they also leave and his game breaks. These guys aren't here today, however. It's just me, and I'm only here by chance. Neal is still playing like 80% of his hands and betting every time the flop gives him any hope of making any sort of hand that has a name (for example "one pair"). The Garden City folk don't really know how to deal with this, and I'm particularly blessed that a couple of hyper-nits were sitting at the table as well. Eventually I played a hand where Neal limped and I raised ATo. Only the super nitty big blind called, so we went off 3-ways to a flop. To make a long story short I raised the turn with Ace-high on a paired board, getting the big blind to fold top pair. Neal, unfortunately, had bottom pair, not a straight draw (on a board of Q75 lots of hands can make "straight draws" for Neal) and dragged the pot, but the big blind couldn't really believe what had happened. I knocked him off the best hand in a pretty large pot, and all I had was ace high!
So after a few hours I'm up about a rack and it folds to Neal in the small blind. He chops selectively, but knows full well that I stopped falling for it a long, long time ago, and completes the small blind. I check with J4 of hearts, unaware of the awesomeness that is about to unfold.
665 with two hearts
Aiyah! A flush draw. Ready the cannons! Neal leads out and I raise. He 3-bets instantly and I 4-bet almost as fast. He 5-bets and I start to get concerned. I call time for a minute to gather my thoughts. On this flop Neal could have almost anything. Total air, two pair, trips, a flush draw, really just about any two cards. But his preflop call.....he doesn't have an Ace. Or a King. Actually he probably can't have any face cards whatsoever. Alright then, I just call the 5-bet.
665-K with still two hearts
Neal checks. In all my days playing with Neal I have never seen heads-up screw play (where by you put in the last bet on the flop, then check/raise your opponent on the turn). After only a second's pause I bet, figuring that either I have the best hand (very likely just from my preflop deduction) or have a ton of outs to make it. Neal just calls, basically eliminating the possibility of him having a pair.
I missed and have Jack high. To make things more interesting, Neal bets! I pause for a second, not for the reason one might think, but instead to contemplate a raise. There is of course still a small chance that Neal has an Ace or Queen high hand here, but the problem is that he won't fold it if I raise. He'll call for sure with either one, as once he bets on the river he is committed to showdown like 99.9% of the time. So I call. Neal declares "good call" and turns over....a deuce and seven, suited. Diamonds. Not hearts....diamonds. A small fist pump is in order, but I restrain myself and merely table my hand. The aforementioned nit (who folded top pair in the ATo hand) all but shrieks "You call with Jack high!" and there is a general murmur from the table.
The real question, however, is what I would have done with 9-high.