So, there’s this very, very slow regular who I’ve played with a few times in the $100 tournament I occasionally play in. His name’s Nassir, he’s a middle-aged dude, and he’s as slow-acting as they come. I almost wrote about this guy a few posts ago, just because I’ve spent a lot of time examining his style, and also because I find him indicative of a certain type of player that I think it helps to understand.
So, about Nassir – he’s tricky, in somewhat obvious ways. He’s the kind of player that will make small bets when he’s drawing, to try to slow the other person down, which works pretty well against weak players. He’ll make medium-sized bluffs sometimes, but it’s usually pretty obvious to tell when he’s weak because he’ll only make very large bets when he’s got a good hand. He does all right for himself against weak competition, which is most of the field at this place, but he makes some very serious mistakes, and is very weak himself.
He is known for being very slow to act; pretty much anyone who plays with him gets pissed at him for this. He is regularly berated both by the dealers and by the regular players. I constantly call the clock on him, as do a few other people, and I’ll do this even when I’m not in the hand. A lot of people think this is pretty rude of me, but I think it’s justified in his case, because he will spend like a minute thinking on some small pot within the first level of blinds.
He’ll usually respond to this passive-aggressively, and take up the full minute of time purposefully, but I think all-in-all calling the clock on him is a good long-term strategy to get him to stop his behavior, because someone can only take being hated for so long. And I go out of my way to tell him it’s nothing personal, which it really isn’t, but he still understandably takes it personally. I’ll sometimes even call the clock on myself just to be playful and try to show him and others that I’m still having fun with the situation and that I’m not actually angry.
It took me a while to come to the conclusion that he was taking a lot of time purposefully to mess with people and gain information. At first I just thought he was clueless and/or showboating, but after a while I began to suspect he was using the excessive time to get reads on people. Here’s how I think he was using this to his advantage:
When he is in a pot with regulars, most of whom he could be pretty sure didn’t like him, it could be easy for him to tell based on their behavior what kind of hand they had. If he was in a pot with someone, and he took a long time, and the other player called the clock on him, or otherwise looked pissed off, he could assume they probably had a good hand. This is because players with good hands are more likely to allow themselves to show aggression or anger. Whereas bluffers are more likely to not want to piss anyone off and will just stay stoic and neutral.So if Nassir’s opponent looked neutral and didn’t say anything to him, he could more likely conclude that they were weak.
I also use this strategy sometimes, in important pots, when I think I can get a read on someone by how they act if I take a little while; typically, someone bluffing you will not call the clock on you or otherwise antagonize you.
I have called the clock on Nassir pretty much every hand I’ve been in with him, no matter if I’m bluffing or value betting. I’d played with him maybe a total of 5 times at this place, and I had yet to be involved in a substantial pot with him. I have bluffed him many times successfully, and it was the fact that he never called a significant bet of mine whenever I called the clock on him that made me suspect he might be using this strategy.
Now I may be giving him way too much credit for thinking at this level – that is entirely possible, and my results could be completely coincidental. But my decided-upon strategy was: if I got involved in a big pot with him, and if I had a super-strong hand, then I was not going to call the clock on him. I decided that strategy a few weeks ago, and last night I got a chance to implement it.
This is in the 3rd round of blinds in the tournament, and I get
under the gun. I’d been raising a lot lately, and I put in a good-sized raise. Nassir comes along for the ride, as does the big blind. I watch Nassir as the flop is dealt, and I see him look away slightly as the flop comes out. The big blind checks, and I wait a few seconds. Nassir doesn’t look at me as I take some time, and I’m watching him out of the corner of my eye. The flop is
[Kh] [Th] [5s]
I hit the set.
My read is that Nassir also hit the K or something else good, and this seems to me the perfect time to put my strategy in place. We are both sufficiently deep, but I have him covered a bit. I’d say the pot at this point is 3,000 and Nassir has 10,000. I bet about the size of the pot, a pretty big bet in this situation, trying to make it look like I don’t really want action.
Now Nassir takes about a minute, and I do not call the clock on him, which is unusual because, as I’ve stated, I have always called the clock on him pretty much immediately. He moves all-in, the big blind folds, and I call. I turn my K’s over and Nassir stands up, pretty disgusted, and tosses his hand into the muck after the turn is dealt, then he walks out.
Some other things about Nassir that I’ve noticed, and that I think apply to many “tricky” players. (I put it in quotes, because these tricky players usually are only tricky at the most basic level, and not truly tricky if you recognize their thought processes.) With a tricky player like this, who will go out of their way to take a long time, you’ll usually find that when they’re bluffing, they will bet quickly.
It’s your typical leak – acting weak when strong and strong when weak. It’s hard for most people to resist the natural inclination to bet rather quickly when they’re bluffing. In fact, it is usually the right move, assuming you’re playing weak players, because most people just aren’t paying attention and most people do assume that a quick bet means strength. I usually do take this tack with most players, betting rather quickly when I’m bluffing.
And a quick bet usually does mean strength. This topic, to be covered completely, would need more space, but suffice it to say that a “tricky” player who will take a long time when they are strong will usually act quickly when they are weak (not immediately, but within a few seconds, because they need time to consider their chances of a bluff being successful), whereas some players are more straight-forward and will just bet quickly when they are strong. A straight-up immediate bet, one right after a card comes, is rarely a bluff, unless it is a decent player who has decided that they are going to bet no matter what card comes.
Against strong players, you should be keeping your time consistent, waiting a set amount of time no matter the ease of your decision, to make sure you’re not giving information away. This is why you will see professional players taking a long time to act when they are playing each other, no matter what the “obvious” move is. Even when they may not actually be considering the correct move, they take this time, because they need to balance against the times when they really need to take that time.