A friend of mine told me I should have a dramatic hand to start the book with, to show an example of using tells in practice, and to get people’s attention. I thought it was a good idea. I have a bunch of notes of hands I’ve played from a long time ago, and I thought the hand I finally decided on was a good one. This is from a hand I played in 2005 in Albuquerque, NM. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. If anyone has any feedback on this hand, I’d love to hear it.
I’m in a $5-10 no-limit Hold’em game. There are eight players at the table. A loose, not-very-good regular named Tony is under-the-gun and raises to $40. I’m two to the right of the button and I look down at
Both Tony and I have around $2,400. I take a couple seconds, studying the people behind me out of the corner of my eye. I know them both pretty well.
The player to my immediate left has chips out as if to call. This is a defensive move that probably means he would like to call the $40, but that he does not plan on raising. If he was actually strong enough to raise, he wouldn’t give any indication of wanting to call, because he’d want his raise to be a surprise. The player on the button is holding his cards in one hand, slightly off the ground, in a pose that I know from experience means he’s going to muck. I’d probably raise in this situation about half the time. When I’m pretty sure the people behind are weak, like here, is when I’d prefer to do it.
I raise to $120. Everyone mucks over to Tony, who calls my raise immediately. His immediate call is meaningful; it tells me he does not have QQ, KK, or AA, because he would at least take a few seconds to consider a raise with those hands. It also tells me he has an obvious calling hand, and not just cheese, so I’m thinking hands like AK, AQ, good Broadway cards, 89 or 9T suited, or else a low pair. Something he wouldn’t even consider folding to me.
I’ve played with Tony a lot; he’s a very loose-aggressive player, and he usually does all right against most of the ABC-strategy regulars and tourists. He’s smart enough to make good folds when he realizes he’s beat, but he’s much too aggressive when he shouldn’t be. He’s a wealthy guy and not afraid of making big bluffs.
And I know him well enough that I understand most of his physical behavior and speech patterns. I know what it means when he gets quiet. I know what it means when he looks upset. I know what it means when he gets talkative.
The flop comes
After a couple of seconds, he checks to me and I bet $180. He calls immediately. This immediate call makes me feel quite confident he did not flop a set, a straight, or two pair, and that he doesn’t have the Jack or an overpair. With all of those hands, he would be vulnerable on such a draw-heavy board and would have at least taken time to consider a raise. An immediate call most probably means he’s either got a flush draw or a straight draw. The straight draw could be something like 9T, TJ, or QK. I’m leaning toward the straight draw because I think he’d usually be more aggressive with the flush draw, or at least think about raising.
The turn makes:
Tony stares at me for a few seconds, and then bets $400 into the $600 pot. When he bets, he does this thing that a lot of players do when they’re being defensive: he puts out his chips into the pot, and then places extra chips behind the betting line, almost as if to subtly imply he’s ready to call if I were to raise him. I wait a few seconds. He stays completely quiet. When he’s got a big hand, he often will talk to his opponent. It doesn’t mean that when he’s quiet he’s always bluffing, but it makes it more likely. Both his fundamental play and his tells lead me to believe I’m ahead, and he’s either on the flush or the straight draw (more likely the straight). I call.
A King comes on the river:
This is a very bad card if he was semi-bluffing the straight draw with KT or KQ, or if he was betting a King-high flush draw. After a few seconds, Tony bets out $900.
I sit there for about 30 seconds and weigh the possibilities. From his perspective, my hand is most probably TT, QQ, and not too much else, so it’s possible he could be value-betting a lone King.
Is it possible I’ve misread him up until now? Could he have played a set or a straight like that? Could he have JK? Logically, there’s very few legitimate hands he could have in his range, but in situations like this, when big bets go in, people are going to have the goods more often than you’d think.
Throughout all of this, Tony is completely quiet. Like I said, this doesn’t always mean he’s bluffing, but it does make it more likely. He’s also not looking towards me at all, except for an occasional fleeting glance. This is a more reliable indicator that he’s bluffing because, when he has a big hand, he’s more willing to give his opponent a little more direct eye contact.
As I’m thinking, Tony is riffling his chips with one hand. Trying to get a read, I stack up enough chips for a call, and I see his chip riffling slow down considerably, almost stopping completely. This is also a common tell. People respond to the anxiety of an impending call by “freezing in the headlights” and slowing down their breathing or hand movements.
All of these things are indicators that he’s bluffing, and I feel better about the call. I put in the money, and he mucks his hand. I don’t have to, but I show tens. Tony gets very angry. “That’s the worst call I’ve seen this week, sir.”
“Can’t believe it was good,” I say sheepishly, reinforcing my image to the rest of the table as a loose player who doesn’t like to fold.
I put this hand up on Twoplustwo to get some feedback on it. I played this hand largely based on reads, but I wanted to hear feedback from a fundamental strategy perspective. Here’s the link to that conversation, which is pretty educational. The gist of most people’s opinions is that, lacking a read, it would usually be a fold on the river. Even though there are very few legitimate hands in the villain’s range that beat me (JK for top two, a flopped straight, a flopped set, or KK for a rivered set), most people thought that most live players will show up with those hands in this situation on the river.
I tend to agree with that analysis, although against this specific opponent, I may have made that call without a read, just because I know he’s capable of that kind of bluff pretty regularly. Although it’s been a while since I played the hand and it’s hard to say what I would have done without a read. This is one reason I wanted to get feedback on the hand, because I don’t want to use a hand that was just good play from a fundamental perspective; I want to use a hand that shows the value of poker tells.
But enough people said that it would be a fold on the river that I feel better about using it. Also, there are several other poker tells involved, not just the ones on the river, so I think it’s a good hand to use, all things considered.