On the Pokerstars Big Game (season 1, week 2, ep. 3) there’s a hand where Daniel Negreanu has the nut straight on the turn, and the millionaire/amateur poker player Jason Calacanis turns a set and fills up on the river. Calacanis shows some common tells. For one, he’s super-talkative with a big hand. Also important are his immediate calls and bets, which give away a lot of info.
Slight history: Calacanis is obviously very much a beginner at the game. He has been throwing money around a bit willy nilly and weirdly. He’s thrown some bluffs out there, and even fired a three-barrel bluff at Andrew Robl with A high.
The hand starts with the action folding around to Calacanis, who’s on the button. He has
and raises. Negreanu’s in the small blind with
and calls. Doyle Brunson also calls in the big blind with J8. The flop comes:
giving Daniel the open-ended straight draw and a flush draw, and giving Calacanis the overpair with the gut-shot draw to the straight. Daniel bets out, Doyle folds, and Calacanis quickly calls.
This is very player dependent, but when an amateur player calls immediately like this, it gives you some valuable information. An immediate call means that the player has ruled out a raise as the best strategy, and done so very quickly. This can either mean the player is super-strong or has a vulnerable hand that nonetheless obviously deserves a call. In my experience, it is much more likely to mean a vulnerable hand. For example, in this case, any overpair would be obviously deserving of a call, but a high overpair (like TT to AA) would probably be worth considering a raise, if at least for a moment. A flopped set would be worthy of considering a raise, just because the board is very draw-heavy. If he had a flush draw, he would probably consider a raise.
In this case, the tell doesn’t mean as much as it could, because there was a good amount of time between when Negreanu bet and when Calacanis called, meaning if Calacanis did have a good hand, like a higher pair or a flopped set, he could have already worked out his strategy to call and been ready. (Also, of course this tell will not mean very much when you’re playing against very good players, because they will be able to work out their strategies much more quickly.) You’ll see a more quick version of this on the turn bet.
The turn puts out:
giving Negreanu the nut straight (with a flush redraw) and giving Calacanis a set. Negreanu bets out and again Calacanis calls immediately.
I think Calacanis’s immediate call here is very important, because I don’t think he often has a straight here. With a straight, and especially with two flush draws on the board, you would think Calacanis (and most players) would at least consider a raise here. If he didn’t raise, you would expect him to think about it a bit. And if Calacanis had an overpair, which is a likely hand to put him on with the action so far, you would think Calacanis would think for a moment about that before calling. In my opinion, this immediate call should have told Daniel that he was either up against a flush draw, or that he was up against a hand like two pair or a set. These are the only hands I think most recreational players call with immediately in a spot like this.
The river puts out:
filling up Calacanis with the second nuts, which might as well be the nuts in this situation. Daniel bets out almost pot, and Calacanis makes a big raise, and he makes the raise immediately.
This immediate raise is very important, too. When mediocre players make immediate raises, your alarm bells should go off. Unless they’re hyper aggressive and are constantly doing this type of thing, an immediate raise is usually going to mean a very good hand.
Calacanis now starts to talk a lot about the hand. He is really very loose and becomes super-talkative. When Daniel asks what the raise was, Calacanis even says the so-cliched ‘only 35 more’, which is just so stereotypically a sign of strength (de-emphasizing the importance of the bet-size) that probably Daniel can’t believe that the guy’s that fishy and must be pulling some kind of reverse tell, cause that’s not usually something you see above the $4-8 limit game. (And, to be perfectly fair, it is possible, by a long shot, that in fact Calacanis is capable of some reverse-reverse psychology here, but I think it’s much more likely he’s just a fish who talks when he’s got a big hand.)
And just notice how physically loose Calacanis is. He moves his head and arms around very loosely, and he pulls a lot of facial expressions. And he talks a lot of course.
Now all of these things scream strength, of course. The immediate raise and the physical and verbal tells. But Daniel’s dilemma is that he has a good hand, too. And Daniel thinks that Calacanis pretty much only has either a straight, a full-house, or a total bluff here. Daniel probably thinks it very unlikely Calacanis has a bluff here, although he does know the guy is capable of some weird things. But I think his main question is: would this guy do this with just a 6 (the smaller straight) in this spot. Is he that kind of fish?
Negreanu says “You don’t have a set, right? Cause you would have raised me with a set.” Calacanis says, “Yeahhh, I would have raised you with a set. I could have flopped the straight.”Negreanu says, “You could have flopped a straight, okay, I can beat that.”
Calacanis then follows that up with: “I could be on a flush draw, and be busted.” Then, “I could have quads.” Then, “I could have Aces and just be overplaying them.”
Then Negreanu says, “I was going to fold for sure, and now I’m thinking about calling you, so you’re doing a good job, if that’s what you want.”
Calacanis then says, “Sure. Now I’m going to be quiet and pretend that’s not what I want.” I wouldn’t spend too much time trying to interpret that statement. He’s just acting all weird and reverse-psychology-like because he has a big hand and feels comfortable saying any number of weird things to try to get a suspicious call. You see it a lot.
After a bunch more verbal ridiculousness, Daniel eventually calls and sees the bad news.
I’m not sure what information Daniel was hoping to get out of the guy, because I don’t think Daniel could have extracted more information than he got. The guy knows that Daniel has the nut straight and still has no problem talking about his hand.
I’m sure this is all very obvious to Daniel. He’s used to getting these tells from players. That’s why he interacts with them in this way. But I think Daniel’s problem is that he knows this guy is a huge fish, but doesn’t know exactly what kind. This is only the second episode of this show, so Daniel’s only played with the guy for a few hands at this point. Plus, there’s the fact that the one hand that Negreanu could put the guy on that makes sense that beats him: pocket 7′s, is just so damn unlikely. I really think that’s the crux of it; I’m sure Negreanu knows how to read the guy here, but the one hand that makes sense is just so unlikely. (Although I really wouldn’t discount entirely the possibility that Calacanis would call the flop with a set, trying to be tricky. Stranger things have happened.)
David Williams breaks down the hand after Daniel calls: “It made sense. Why he didn’t raise you on the flop. And on the turn he can’t raise you cause you could have a six. And then boom, he snap raises.” Although that could just be some hindsight-obviousness needling by Williams to Negreanu.
Note: after writing this, I realized that Daniel talked about the hand on the show afterwards. You can hear his own stated reasons for playing the hand this way at the Big Game website at this address: http://thebiggame.pokerstars.net/episodes/s1/w2/ Go to 40:03 into it to see Negreanu’s explanation. He admits to being displeased with his call.