I spent the last couple days studying footage of Guy Laliberte playing poker. I started out studying the One Drop $1 million buy-in tournament final table footage, with the goal of picking up significant patterns Guy might have in significant hands. There were quite a few hands where Guy had strong hands and obviously wanted action. The problem was that there was really only one significant bluff Guy made; the crazy, huge all-in bluff he made against Antonio on the flop. So although I had some guesses as to Guy’s likely behavioral tells, there just wasn’t statistically enough information for me to make any good conclusions. Even just one more significant bluff from Guy would have made me feel better about my ideas.
So read this post, and the next two about Laliberte, just keeping in mind that you’re accompanying me on a learning expedition, not a trip where I claim to know right from wrong.
(Note: in the videos in this post I use the time linking function in YouTube. That function may not work on some mobile devices.)
When I had watched the whole Final Table and discovered there wasn’t much to work with, I went back to some old footage of Guy from High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark, the PokerStars Big Game show, and some random tournament footage. All of that footage was from several years earlier, though, so I wasn’t really happy to have to do that, because people’s games (and table demeanor) can obviously change drastically in that time. Not to mention the One Drop was such an anomaly in terms of how huge it was and how serious you’d expect everyone to take it. Ideally I’d like to just see more hands from the One Drop. I’m told that there is more footage, and if it’s available in the future I will definitely seek it out and revisit my thoughts on Guy. It will also be interesting to see if my thoughts on him hold true in the as-yet-unseen footage.
I have a few ideas about Guy’s behavior, but first let me point out that I think Guy is (from what I have seen in the One Drop) hard to read. I think he’s got enough live, high-stakes experience at this point to where he’s not exhibiting any of the really obvious tells you’ll see amateurs make. I chose Guy because I thought he’d be a challenge. (If I had wanted an easier job, I would have chosen the One Drop entrant and billionaire David Einhorn. Check out his obvious fake worry and consternation when he has AA and is facing a pre-flop raise.)
Also, from a pure strategic perspective, I think Guy has improved a lot since those early crazy days where he was thrashing around online and on High Stakes Poker. While he’s still capable of being an unpredictable wild card (as that crazy hand against Antonio showed), from what I saw in the One Drop he played very tight-aggressive, logical poker. I think he’s a smart guy and has learned from his mistakes. As much grief as he gets on random poker forums for being a fish, it is quite likely he wins millions in the high-stakes home games he probably plays against much less-skilled businessmen. So although he can appear kind of fishy when compared with top pros, I think against a large section of the poker-playing population he is a big favorite.
Some Laliberte History
To start understanding Laliberte, you first have to have some history to see some of the crazy shit he’s capable of. Here’s a few hands that will give you a sense of his unpredictability, both in pure strategic terms and in his physical and verbal behavior.
Here’s a hand from a tournament against Tim Pham where Laliberte pushes all-in on the flop to Pham’s flop bet with AK high. It’s an interesting hand not from a strategic perspective, but just because Laliberte chooses to engage in some verbal shenanigans, telling Pham over and over that he has a big hand. He succeeds in getting Pham to lay down the best hand. This hand shows that Guy has balls when it comes to interacting with other people. He’s not the type of dude to just clam up when he’s bluffing or doesn’t want a call. Guy has some panache, you might say. He is, after all, a showman at heart.
Here’s another hand, this time from season 4 of High Stakes Poker, where Laliberte has A5 for a pair of Aces and a gutshot, and tries to make Doyle Brunson lay down the better hand with a huge raise on the turn. This was a much-talked about hand. Is his raise a bluff, a semi-bluff, or some sort of value bet? It could be defensible as a bluff if you consider that there’s very few hands that Doyle can have that he can call that raise with. But it’s a play that most professionals will not make, just because it is only going to get calls (for the most part) from hands that have you dominated. I think it shows how unpredictable, and dangerous, Guy can be.
One more weird one; in this one, also from HSP, Guy faces a turn bet from Jamie Gold on a 4-straight board. Guy has JJ for an overpair and decides to raise. Again, it’s a similar situation from the last hand; by making that raise, he’s pretty much ensured that he’s only going to get action from the straight. Of course, in this instance, Jamie Gold pays him off with a pair, but that is a very unlikely outcome to Guy’s raise, which is why you won’t see it often done by pros. Again, just another example of how Laliberte can be unpredictable.
The One Drop Footage
Let’s forget about that footage for a while. I saw some reliable patterns in Guy’s body language in that old footage, but the One Drop tournament is several years later. And Laliberte definitely is much better and determined to play his best. So let’s treat Laliberte like a new, improved player, with different habits.
Guy’s Big Bluff against Antonio
The most interesting hand that Guy played was by far the big bluff against Antonio on the flop. Guy checks to Antonio, Antonio bets, and Guy quickly makes a forward-motion with his hands, says “All-in” and leans back in his chair. In a few moments, though, he comes to rest in a very still position, staring steadily at Antonio, his arms crossed on the table. The first thing that struck me when watching this hand, before seeing the cards, was Guy’s stillness.
Aside from his initial movement when he announced all-in, he was basically unblinking and unmoving. Many players are still when in such spots, but often you’ll see some micro-level displays of movement; for instance, the eyes might be moving around, or fingers might be moving. In this case, Guy was completely still.
This changes a minute or so later, when Antonio talks to Guy and gets him to “break” a little bit. This is when Guy puts on his clown nose and smiles. However, even when Guy does this, he still comes to rest in a very still position, with his smile looking very fake and very frozen.
After Antonio folds, we find out what a crazy hand it was. Kind of stunning, really, considering how loose Laliberte’s pre-flop call of Antonio’s raise was, and how big a stack Laliberte was putting at risk. (After watching the entire final table, it is my theory that Laliberte’s plan going into the final table was to make one really crazy play when he saw a decent spot, in order to set up his image as being just as crazy and unpredictable as ever. He knew that everyone else at the table would know about his crazy bet a few minutes later, and it was his plan to play tight, ABC poker after this crazy move to cash in on his image. I base this primarily on the fact that Guy did absolutely nothing crazy the rest of the tournament.)
Of course, the stillness and stoicness could all be how Guy acts every time he makes a significant bet, so that was something I started to look for in the rest of the footage. Unfortunately, there were only a few hands to analyze in the One Drop footage, and none of them matched this same condition; there were no hands where Guy made a very significant bet post-flop with a strong hand. That would be the ideal comparison point (and hopefully if I ever get to see the earlier One Drop footage, I can compare), but lacking that, let’s compare to some other situations where Guy was strong. None are as significant as this, but they’ll have to do, and I still think there’s some information to be had.
Guy with Top Two Pair against Trickett
In this hand, Guy called Trickett’s raise, flopped top two pair with KQ, and raised Trickett’s flop bet. This is potentially a good point of comparison to the hand with Antonio. For one thing, the two players are across from each other, just like Guy and Antonio were. When players are side-by-side instead of across from each other, that is a very different situation; you won’t have the eye-contact kind of interaction you can have when players are directly across from each other. I just wish the raise amount was a little more significant, so it’d be a better comparison point.
While Guy makes the raise (his during-action tells, as I call them), his physical body language is full of quirkiness. As he prepares the chips, his hands and arms move around a lot. He has a lot more contemplative, uncertain-looking movements with the chips, which can be a tell in itself. Compare this uncertain movement of the chips with how he confidently and quickly pushed all-in against Antonio in the other hand.
When Guy pushes the chips in, he looks around the room, looks at Trickett a few times, his head moves around a bit. If you compare this to when he raised Antonio, even when he had that initial backward motion in his chair, his face stayed very stoic and still, even while he was moving around. In this situation, his face and body are much more physically loose in the few seconds during and immediately after his bet.
Soon after his bet, Laliberte settles into a more stoic pattern. He stares at Trickett as Trickett contemplates, in a superficially similar way to when he stared at Antonio while Antonio contemplated. But is he as still as he was in that hand? The camera doesn’t stay on him the whole time, but when it does cut back to him for a moment, we can see that his eyes go from looking at Trickett to looking to a couple places on the table. His eyes are not nearly as still and locked on Trickett as they were with Antonio. This isn’t as nearly as significant a bet, so it’s not a great comparison point, but it does hint maybe at Laliberte’s relaxation level, so it’s something to keep in mind.
Guy with QQ
In this hand (Guy’s bust-out hand), Trickett raises and Guy 3-bets to a significant amount with QQ. You can see some of the same feigned uncertainty and quirky movements of hands and face that Guy had when he raised with the KQ two-pair hand. For a while after he makes this raise, his body is still physically relaxed and fluid. Unfortunately, the camera cuts away from him to focus on Antonio, so we don’t get to watch too much of Guy. (If I directed poker television, I’d focus on the person who has acted much more than the person who is next to act; much more interesting from a behavioral standpoint.)
Guy with TT
In an earlier hand, Trickett raises pre-flop with KQ, and Guy calls with TT. On a 449 flop, Guy checks to Trickett, who also checks. On a 2 turn, Guy bets and Trickett folds. You can see some similarities with the two-pair hand and the QQ hand. Guy acts contemplative before betting and exhibits a lot of hand and eye movements.
Guy raising UTG with 45s
Let’s look at another little hand where Guy raised UTG with 45 suited. This is one of the only remaining spots in the tournament (that we know of from seeing his cards) where Guy got slightly out of line. Not a very significant hand, by any means, but the interesting thing here is how quickly he puts his chips into the pot. There is no time spent contemplating or playing around with the chips like he does in other spots where he’s strong.
Finally, let’s look at a comparison of facial expressions from Guy in spots where he was definitely wanting action and definitely not wanting action. These will all be in post-bet situations (in other words, after Guy has bet), because I think that is the most useful place to study facial expressions.
Some still shots from the hands mentioned above are shown below. I think the hands where Laliberte is strong are much more likely to have Laliberte putting on a slightly fearful or worried facial expression. Whereas in the hands where he’d be happy with a fold from his opponent, he is more likely to appear neutral, confident, and alert. The more significant the bet is, the more I think this comes into play. I wish we could have gotten one more good pot where Laliberte was bluffing.
All of this is far from conclusive, considering what a small sample size it was. It does allow me to make some predictions, though, that can be objectively proven or disproven.
For example, in this hand where Guy raises pre-flop, the action gets 3-way and Laliberte ends up folding an Ace-high flop, so we don’t get to see his cards. But the quickness with which he puts chips into the pot, combined with his confident demeanor, would lead me to believe he is raising with a weak hand here. I think if it were a quality hand like AQ or AK or a high pair, we’d see him act more like he did in the QQ hand. Obviously his range can still include some quality hands, but if my read is right, it eliminates high-value hands like AK, AQ, AJs, and probably around 99+.
Another example: in this hand where Guy raises under-the-gun, it gets 3-bet and 4-bet, and he folds, so we don’t get to see his cards. But again, the quickness with which he puts chips into the pot and his more confident expression would lead me to believe he didn’t have a good hand.
I will follow up this post with another one where I discuss some similar tendencies in Guy that I found in some older footage.
I’ll also discuss another aspect of Guy’s behavior that I just barely touched on; bet-timing. In short, I think Guy tends to bet more quickly when he’s vulnerable or bluffing as opposed to when he’s value-betting.