Sometimes, it takes a while for something to sink in. When I wrote this article a week ago, I felt it was important to talk about the big news about the World Series of Poker heading to CBS. Dissecting that news took up all the space for the week.
But I felt compelled to go back this week to April 23rd, which is a little bit out of the normal seven-day window for this column.
We just couldn’t allow the strange and wonderful tale of what Troy Clogston did in a recent Texas tournament that was streamed live for all the internet-going world to see. It is one of the most amazing feats of second sight that anyone has ever witnessed during a real money poker game.
Predicting a Win
There are tales throughout sorts history of athletes predicting what they were going to do before they actually went out and did it. In this day and age, with press everywhere all the time, such feats have lost that special quality.
When athletes are always making bold statements, they’re bound to get it right once in a while. But the ones who combined their self-confidence with eerie precision are the ones that really stand out.
Moses Malone once predicted how the Philadelphia 76ers would roll through the NBA Playoffs in the exact number of games it took to complete the feat.
But what Clogston did at the final table in the Lone Star Poker Series is simply hard to fathom because of the practically insurmountable odds against it happening.
It was such an amazing moment that it pretty much overshadowed the fact that he didn’t actually win the tournament (he finished third, while the winner’s purse of $9,447 would eventually go to Pedro Rios).
There is little doubt that it will live on the annals of the game, in part because it was captured live, and also because it’s difficult to imagine anyone ever matching this feat.
Troy Tells the Table
Let’s set the scene. With seven players remaining in the tournament, Clogston—who is a kind of journeyman type of player without many big wins on his record—bet into a hand with a pair of jacks.
Don Iyengar, hanging on for dear life with the short stack at the table, decided to go all-in with an off-suited ace-jack. Clogston made the call to set up the race.
That’s when things started to get a little weird. As some friendly crosstalk between some members of the table about the hand transpired, Clogston made an idle comment about the likelihood of the flop being eight-nine-ten.
The dealer turned over the cards and the eight of spades, nine of hearts, and ten of clubs were revealed.
At this point, Clogston’s accurate prediction—while impressive—could be somewhat understood. You could write it off as him merely trying to say to Iyengar, who was behind based on the hole cards, that there could be a flop that would muddy up the waters a bit.
It was a nice bit of sportsmanship on his part, and you could see where his mind was. So, the prediction was somewhat understandable at that point.
The fact that the cards came out exactly in sequence after he said it was certainly a bit spooky. But if it had ended there, chances are we would not likely be talking about Troy Clogston at this point in this column. Needless to say, it didn’t end there.
For His Next Poker Trick
After the flop, much of the table was still sort of unaware of Clogston’s somewhat impressive call. As they were sort of telling each other about it and the dealer was waiting for the hubbub to die down, Clogston blurted out “four of spades” as a prediction for the next card.
Lo and behold, that’s the card that showed up on the turn.
Again, because of the crosstalk, there was still some confusion at the table about what was going on. But some of the others heard it and told the remaining players who didn’t yet know about it. The fact that Clogston had called the card to the exact rank and suit was next-level sorcery.
Once the whole table was clued into what Clogston had accomplished, they of course had to ask him what was coming next. He spit out “two of hearts.” Everyone stood at attention to see what was next.
This, to me, is the truly amazing thing about his predictions. While the flop was something that was connected to both his and Iynegar’s hands, the four of spades and two of hearts are indeed completely random.
A more predictable prediction, so to speak, would have been to guess a seven or queen to complete the straight for both players, a jack to give him a set, or an ace to give Iynegar top pair.
At that point, the table erupted. Most of the players had to take a little bit of a walk just to drink in the enormity of what they witnessed. Clogston sat with a sort of bemused luck on his face, as if he couldn’t quite believe it either.
What Are the Chances?
In case you’re wondering, the amount of possible unique five-card combinations in a 52-card deck are 2,598,960. Now, Clogston saw his and Iynegar’s hold cards, so that technically narrows it down to a 48-card deck.
And he didn’t call the exact suits of the three flop cards, which also narrows the odds a little.
Still, by our math, he had just a 1 in 1,980 chance of picking the correct cards in on the turn and the river. And when you figure in getting the rank right of the three flop cards, that jumps up to around 1 in 126,720 or about a .0000078914 chance.
Clogston has enjoyed his time in the limelight according to a PokerNews article this week, including viral fame, selfie requests, and, as he jokingly put it, his “15 seconds of fame.”
There’s no word on whether or not he’s chucking the whole professional poker player thing for a career as a psychic. We know we’d pay 99 cents a minute to hear what he has to say.
In the meantime, try to guess the community cards the next time you play Texas Hold’em. Barring that, just shuffle a deck of 52 really well and see if you come anywhere close to guessing the first five cards off the top.
Chances are, it will give you a greater appreciation of Troy Clogston calling his shot with an accuracy that would have impressed even “The Babe” himself.