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“The Strangest Hand” by Alan25main

July 25, 2018

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Curious about other poker formats? Ron G. Pittenger, known on Replay Poker as Alan25main, shares a personal story about the strangest hand he’s played. Read on to learn about Cincinnati poker and Ron’s experience with the game.

The strangest hand I ever played was in 1987. We were in the Elks lodge. The game was Cincinnati high-low split with a consecutive declaration. The fixed limit bets were $1-$2-$3-$4-$4-$4. A half-pot was usually between $40 and $80. It was a tough game.

Cincinnati was dealt with five cards in the hand and five common cards on the board, and a player could use his best five card hand from the whole ten cards. Following the Eastern convention, the house rules didn’t count a straight or a flush as a low, so the lowest low was 6-4-3-2-A of two or more suits but ANYTHING could win low if you were unopposed. The house rules did allow a “both” declarer to tie for the pot, so it was possible to win all of one half and a share of the other, or even a share of both halves if both ways were tied. 

The house’s one peculiar rule was the consecutive declaration. After the final bet was equalized, each surviving player declared high, low, or both verbally, in sequence beginning at the dealer’s left. This created some odd situations.

Just as an example, if you raised on the early streets, and found you arrived at the end with nothing but a bluff, you wanted to be one of the first two declarers. Whatever way the first guy went, you’d go opposite. Speculative players would go against the first guy rather than the “obviously strong” raiser. I stole a lot of half-pots that way. If you were really strong, you wanted to declare last so when everyone goes your way figuring you incorrectly, you can beat them and scoop the whole thing. I got lot of half-pots that way, too.

The players were Footie Valerie, Arthur DiGironemo, Ed Wilkins, Harold Seney, Carmen Magliolo, Franny Girouard, Ricky Gugliamo, and me. Sometimes, we’d play with a ninth guy, if another came but there wasn’t one that night. We usually started about 7:30 in the evening, and by 9 or 9:30, any casual new guys were usually gone.

Arthur was extremely tight, never showing strength unless he had the table crushed. He never lost much, but seldom won much, either. If he raised, we’d all quiet down and run away if we didn’t have a lock in one of the directions. He almost always went low. This evening, he had played four pots all evening and won them all. Arthur didn’t miss many; if he was in, he probably had a winner.

A while later, I was seated at the dealer’s right. I looked at my cards. Q-Q-Q-6-6, cold in my hand. Footie made the $1 bet. Arthur raised to $2. After some thought, I raised to $3. Everyone had called. Footie made it $4, capping the bets for that round. We all called.

The first up card was a Jack.

On the next bet, it went exactly the same, but in increments of $2 this time. I think one guy folded, all the rest of us called the $8. I’m still feeling really strong with my Queens full.

The next up card was a medium spot card. Again, the betting repeated with multiples of $3. Another guy dropped, the rest of us all called the $12.

Another medium spot card and the bets were now capped at $16.  Two more drops.

Still another medium spot card, with no pairs on board, not even two of a suit. Another capped round at $16. I’m still feeling proud of my Queens full of sixes. There’s not even an overcard to threaten me. Now, we were down to just the three of us, me, Footie, and Arthur. I’m figuring both of them for pat lows, leaving me all alone with the high half.

The final card was a small spot card that I thought would surely complete someone’s low hand, but wouldn’t mean anything to my high. Again, the bets were capped at $16, putting at least $320 in the pot. Now, it was time to declare.

“High,” announced Footie with his shark’s grin. He was sure he had a winner.

“High,” smiled Arthur right into him.

“Whoa!  Time out!” I cried. Footie might be fooling around, or figuring me for a pat 6-4 low, but Arthur wasn’t. Arthur thought he had the goods.

“Gentlemen, this is respect. I thought I had a good hand. I’m going to reverse and take the low half. Queens full goes low.” I showed the cards and mucked them.

“Aces full,” said Footie. 

“Four Jacks,” said Arthur. “You were supposed to go high, you rascal!” That was directed at me.

“I had to go low. Arthur. You’re too dependable not to respect.”

I was silently grateful Arthur hadn’t gone both, forcing me to go high.

By the way, this particular story is 100% true.”