In the last tournament I played ($340 buy-in) there were only a few hands where physical tells and mannerisms played a significant role in how the hands went down. I’ll spend a couple posts talking about some of the more interesting hands.
This hand came up just a few hands before I got knocked out. We were down to the final 18 players on the final two tables. Average chip stack was 140,000. I had about 70,000. Blinds were at 3,000-6,000 and the ante was 500, so every round cost 13,500, which made my M only 5.2. That’s getting into the desperation territory, so I was looking for a good spot to either make a well-calculated move, or else get an actual hand.
I had a tight image, because I basically hadn’t played a hand in the 30 minutes or so since we’d been reseated for the final two tables. The few hands leading up to this hand, there had been this Texan guy raising a few hands in a row. Within the last couple rounds, he’d raised it up preflop really large, like 5-6 times the blind; he’d done this several times. Once he’d reraised someone’s raise all-in and the opponent folded. Every time he’d done this, he’d shown us his cards: he’d had KK twice, he had AK another time, he had AQ suited another time. He didn’t want to play post-flop at all, even though he had a decent stack: he just wanted the pot over with and didn’t want to have to make tough decisions.
So I’d been studying this guy’s mannerisms when he had those good hands. He’d make big raises, and after he raised he’d make direct eye contact with the person whose turn it was to act next. This is a pretty typical tell when a bad player holds a strong hand; they aren’t afraid to interact with their opponent. And I don’t mean ‘interact’ just verbally; I mean this type of player is more likely to stare at the person next to act, or glance at them repeatedly, or give facial expressions of various sorts. In this guy’s case, he was also the type to crack lame jokes and try to be friendly. In these kinds of situations, and with these kinds of players, the appearance of strength, 9 times out of 10, means actual strength.
In this particular hand, the Texan was under-the-gun and I was third to act. I looked down at 67 of diamonds. The Texan guy raised it, but he raised it very small (for him), just a typical 3x the big blind. Right away, I thought he was weak, because I knew he didn’t like to play post-flop. I thought it was very likely that because he’d been winning so many pots, he thought he was now the aggressor at the table and wanted to keep up that momentum.
But I still wasn’t in a great position, with several people still to act behind me. Plus it was possible the Texan actually had gotten another hand this time and wanted action on it this time. Maybe he’d picked up another big hand and had told himself he shouldn’t raise so much this time.
It was folded to me and I studied the Texan. Unlike the other times he had hands pre-flop, he didn’t look at me this time as I debated my move. He was looking at a player two to my left, and wouldn’t look at me at all, not even for a split second. Plus he was quiet. All of this made it quite obvious to me he didn’t have a hand.
As I was paused, I saw the old man immediately to my left put his chip over his hole cards. This is almost always a sign of weakness–a player with a raising hand does not typically give any indication that he is interested in playing a hand.
The final bit of information: I saw two players behind me staring at me expectantly–this is also a sign with mediocre players that they are not very strong. If they were very strong, they usually will not look at you in any forceful way. And these two guys I’d already pegged for predictable players and so I felt fairly confident that they weren’t strong here.
This was enough information for me. I felt confident that 4 of the players beside myself were weak. Of course there were 4 more players unaccounted for, but my stack was getting low, and there was about 30,000 in the middle of the table for me to take down. I might run into a hand, but with the information I’d gathered I felt good about taking that chance in that spot. I pushed all-in and everyone folded around to the Texan. He gave a little speech about having JQ or something and then folded pretty quickly.
You have to make moves sometimes in a tournament. It’s inevitable. That might have been a move I would have made against tough players, too, independent of reads. But I like to look for these spots where with a little tiny bit more information a play can go from being borderline/break-even to being pretty much mandatory.