Have you seen the movie The Cincinnati Kid? It’s available on video, and excellent candidate for rental by those who like movies about poker. It’s great, that is, except the climactic scene, in which The Kid (Steve McQueen) plays five-card stud against Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson).
And if you haven’t seen this classic, don’t read any further till you rent the video, unless you don’t mind my giving away the ending.
The final hand produces aces full of 10s against a queen-high straight flush. This scene exemplifies how Hollywood envisions Sbobet88 poker. They think that unless one monumental hand gets crushed by an even better hand, audiences won’t be moved. This is the same thinking that believes that audiences aren’t satisfied with a simple shootout anymore. No, James Bond has to face down the villains with rocket launchers against guided missiles. And the same thinking that has to blow up entire buildings to kill one bad guy because audiences would say ho hum to the hero just clapping the cuffs on the supervillain.
But let’s not even consider that. Let’s just talk about the math and how the Kid reacted to the “bad beat.”
Not only was the hand played badly, but its occurrence was so unlikely as to stagger the imagination. The odds against getting a particular straight flush in five-card stud are 2,598,959 to 1. That is, in the deck of 52, there are 2,598,960 possible hands. Only one of them is a queen-high straight flush in diamonds.
Given that one hand is that particular straight flush, the odds that the other hand will be specifically aces full of tens are 127,827 to 1 against. (One of the tens is in the straight flush.)
The odds that both of these hands will appear in one deal of two-handed five-card are 332,220,508,619 to 1 against. That’s over 300 billion to 1!
Okay, let’s be charitable. Let’s say the scene would have been just as dramatic with any full house being beat by any straight flush. The odds against this happening are “only” 45,102,784 to 1.
Don’t you think the Cincinnati Kid would be suspicious if he had a full house beat by a straight flush in a two-handed five-card stud game? Let’s put this in perspective. If the Kid and Lancey Howard played 50 hands of stud an hour, eight hours a day, five days a week–let’s give them a break, weekends off, plus one extra day per year–this situation should come up once in about 433 years.
By the way, it’s considerably less likely than that. Most of the time, the two hands wouldn’t be played to the end. Most of the time the player with the pairs or three of a kind would bet his hand properly, and the other player with two or three cards to a straight flush would fold. Say the deck has been shuffled, randomly, such that this deal aces full of tens and a queen-high straight flush in diamonds will be dealt. The Kid has an ace on the board and one in the hole. Howard has an eight of diamonds up and queen of diamonds in the hole. The Kid bets $100 and Howard wisely folds. Gee. Now we gotta wait another 433 years.
Others have suggested that those two hands look like a setup, and I’m sure knowledgeable poker players who see the movie agree. But that, too, is really farfetched. Not just mathematically, either. Any poker player who had aces full beat by a straight flush would be sure he had been cold-decked. He wouldn’t sit still for it for a minute. And therein lie two more points of implausibility.
First, why didn’t the Cincinnati Kid start screaming foul when he got beat? If you got beat like that, would you just walk away shaking your head, muttering to yourself, “Well, them’s breaks”? I doubt it. The epiphanal line of the move is Lancey’s final remark, “Gets down to what it’s all about, doesn’t it? Making the wrong move at the right time.” Oh yeah. Now that he hears that, the Cincinnati Kid can be satisfied and walk away understanding everything.
Second, assuming Howard and Lady Fingers (the dealer) were in cahoots and had cheated the Kid, do you think they’d do it that way? Nah. They’d know that no one would ever “go for it.” Likely they’d give the Kid three of a kind, and have Howard fill up two pair on the last card. Or, probably they wouldn’t even go that strong. They’d give the Kid something like three sevens, and Howard a pair of nines, one of them in the hole, and have him catch the third nine on the last card.
When I first saw this movie, by the way, I thought that totally unbelievable climactic scene was a Hollywood fiction. But in the book on which the movie is based, The Cincinnati Kid, by Richard Jessup, published in the early ’60s, that last situation is exactly the same. Same two hands. And that I don’t understand. Except for that scene, the book is one of the best fictional treatments of poker and the life of a hustler I have ever read. All the rest of it rings true.
I heartily recommend the book to you. You can probably find it in your public library. Just at the end pretend that it’s three sevens being beat by three nines.