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Grand Slam

A bunch of my neighbors and I get together for a $175 buy-in poker tournament on the first Sunday of every month. There are usually about 18 of us playing (the top five get paid) and I get along really well with everyone - well, almost everyone. There's one player - my next-door neighbor, Mike - with whom I have an ongoing rivalry.

One Sunday, a while back, I couldn't refrain from egging Mike on a bit. Before the tourney even started, I asked him if he'd like to make a little side bet: if I finished higher, he'd have to pay me an extra $1,000, and vice versa. Mike, who rarely turns down a challenge, agreed.

As a good neighbor, I made sure to retrieve a couple of cocktails for Mike before the tournament began (hey, it was the least I could do). Then I got off to a pretty good start myself, doubling up early and maintaining the second-highest chip stack going into the final table of six. Unfortunately, the drinks did nothing to phase Mike; in fact, he was the chip leader.

On the second hand of the final table, I picked up A-10 on the button and threw out a healthy raise. Mike, next to act in the small blind position, called, and the big blind folded. The flop came 4-4-A, giving me top two pair. Mike checked. Thinking it unlikely that Mike had a four, I tossed out a value bet, which he called. The turn brought another four, improving my hand to a fours-over-aces full house. I knew the chances of Mike holding the fourth four were basically slim to none, so I raised all-in.

With a sly grin, Mike called and flipped over pocket deuces. I quickly laid down my better full house, making Mike cringe; I was on the verge of severely crippling him and assuming the chip leader position. Considering him to be drawing dead, I began collecting the chips. Then the dealer flipped the river card: the final four. The card's horrible significance didn't dawn on me immediately. But then it hit me hard - we BOTH had quad fours with an ace kicker. Mike had hit runner-runner quads to split a pot that would've nearly knocked him out of the tournament!

As I tried to forget about the injustice that had just befallen me, I looked down to find AH-KH on the very next hand. I put out a sizable raise, which, once again, was called by Mike. The flop came 7H-9H-2H. I impressed myself by not jumping up from my seat and doing a little dance. Then I decided to slow play my ace-high flush and checked, trying to trap Mike. After thinking about it for a minute, Mike muttered the words I was dying to hear: "All-in."

Almost before he could finish the phrase, I called and euphorically flipped over my flush. "Nuts!" I happily proclaimed. With a look of despair, Mike turned over his lesser flush, 10H-JH. The turn produced a blank. Again I reached toward the middle of the table to collect my chips and again something otherworldly happened. This time, the dealer flipped over the eight of hearts, which provided Mike with an improbable - not to mention devastating - straight flush!

The impact of the beat nearly knocked me off my chair. In a complete daze, I somehow managed to write out a check for a cool $1,000 and threw it on the table. Then, without so much as a backward glance, I made my way home.

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