$500 Pendleton tournament – Immediate check-behind from aggressor raises red flags

Wildhorse Casino in Pendleton, Oregon

Wildhorse Casino in Pendleton

This past weekend I played in several tournaments at Wild Horse Casino in Pendleton, Oregon. I played a $200, a $300, and a $500 buy-in. I had some pretty bad luck, but I also did some stupid stuff that probably contributed to my lousy showing. For one thing, I had scheduled a 30-minute phone interview right in the middle of the $200 tournament, which caused me to be blinded and anted down from above an average stack to significantly below one. I should have just postponed the interview, which I could have done, but I don’t like to cancel on people when the scheduling is my fault. So that contributed to me not doing well in that one and also threw my mood off a bit for the $300 tournament the next day.

There was one very interesting hand from a poker tells perspective, where my read on an opponent helped me survive getting a full house beaten.

This hand is from the $500 tourney I played on Saturday in Pendleton. There were 350 players. At this point in the tourney blinds were at 200-400 and antes were 50. The table was super-loose, probably the loosest MTT table I’ve ever played at. There were two guys at the table who had randomly and luckily accumulated large stacks and were getting in every pot. Because of this dynamic, there wasn’t much room for playing unless you had a strong hand. I had stayed out of most pots because I was card dead.

The one player I really wanted to get into a pot with was one of these super-loose guys who was calling large raises pre-flop and putting in a lot of chips, either calling or betting, with marginal hands. He was wearing a Yankee cap so I’ll call him Yankee. He was probably 40.

Here’s an example of how bad he was playing: in one hand, when the blinds were only 150-300, he managed to lose something like 18K to an older Asian lady who was clearly betting a very strong hand. She raised pre-flop large, he called. The flop was 668 or something, she bet like 10K and he went all-in. She called and he had 77 and she had QQ. So this should give you an example of why I wanted to get a hand against this guy.

Despite this massive chip loss, Yankee guy was still sitting pretty healthy when our hand went down, probably around 20K or so. I had about 13K at this point in time.

Okay, so blinds are 200-400 with a 50 ante. So the pot is 1000 at this point. I get 66 in the hijack and it’s been folded around to me. Yankee is two seats behind me, on the button. I make it 1300. I make this raise a little larger than 3x here because I’ve noticed that Yankee will fold to larger than 3x the blind but usually calls super-wide with anything less than 3x, and I’d be quite happy getting through him and taking the pot at this point.

Yankee calls, and so does the big blind, who is the other super-loose player at the table. So this is a dream come true for me if I can flop my set, which is pretty much the only way I’m putting any more money in this pot.

Flop comes AJ6, with the Ace and 6 being clubs. So I hit my set, which is nice, and I’m knowing I’m going to get action from one of these guys. I bet about 1500, hoping it looks to Yankee like a “I missed but have to continuation bet” kind of bet. He raises to about 4K. Big blind folds.

Now at this point, with only about 7K behind if I were to call his raise, most people would just shove it in, and that wouldn’t be a bad play. Call me greedy, though, but I wanted to double up through him. I knew that if he just had a single A or J and was raising me, which was possible, if I shoved, he was just going to fold. Some people might say to shove to shut out the flush draw, but if he has a flush draw, he’s calling me anyway, I had no doubt. So I decided to just call, because I felt quite sure that he’d put more money in on the turn if I showed weakness here, and I wanted to make sure I got it all in, which I felt quite confident I could do with this guy. Against a better player I’d shove, because my call would be more worrying to a good player than a raise, but this guy was not good.

So I call. The turn is another Jack, making it AJ6J. At this point I was prepared to get it all in. I check, and here’s the interesting part: he checks immediately behind me. 

An immediate check in this situation, with the history of this hand, is extremely worrying. Let’s break down the kinds of hands he would do this with. Let’s say he has a decent Ace in this spot, after I’ve shown weakness calling and checking the turn, he has to at least consider for a few seconds the possibility of betting this turn. At least consider it, even if he decides to play it safe and check. Same if he just has a Jack; with trips, he’s going to consider a value-bet there for a few seconds, even if he does decide to play it safe and check. And finally, same with a flush draw bluff; if he was semi-bluffing the flop with a flush draw, he’s going to consider the chances of being able to get me off the hand by betting the turn.

Virtually the only hand that he (or most people) would check behind immediately here is AJ. In my book I write that an immediate bet, call, or check can be very polarizing, meaning that they’re going to have either a weak, vulnerable hand or extremely strong hands. One of the things I’ve started noticing more lately is how this dynamic is especially meaningful depending on who the aggressor is. It’s not something I wrote about in the book, but it’s something I’ve put more thought into lately. Basically, an immediate check behind wouldn’t mean much in this spot if I had been the aggressor and he had just been the flop caller. But in this spot, because he was the aggressor, and would be expected, as the aggressor, to be thinking about either getting value or making a bluff, his check behind is extremely polarizing and, I think, extremely weighted in the strong range.

At the same time,  he’s such a weird, bad player, I can’t be completely sure of this read, and he could be playing a flush draw like this, and could just be happy to get a free card and be checking behind because he’s given up on the hand unless he gets his flush.

The river is a low blank. Because his hand is weighted to either a better full house or a missed flush draw, my only play is to check to him. He bets about 5K almost immediately. As much as I think it’s probable he has AJ, he’s just so bad I can’t fold the hand. So I call and he shows the AJ and I show my full house. I technically never advocate showing a strong hand played weakly, or advocate giving information in general, but in this case, I was left crippled, with only about 2.5K, and I figured showing the hand was good promotion for when I gave my book away when I left the table. Showing I can read hands and all.

People were impressed I didn’t go broke on the hand, and the guy was like “wish I had bet a couple grand more, lol”.  Then I started wondering if I could have folded the river. If my read was that good. And it’s possible I could have against a more predictable player, but this guy was just so off his rocker, and anyway, it’s hard for me to imagine any player in this situation where I could fold that river that shallow. But the immediate check-behind at least made me cautious and at least led to my survival.

I ended up getting my little stack in good a couple times and running my stack up to 17K at its highest. Then I was anted and blinded down to about 11K. You can read about my bust-out hand in this post I made on 2+2 about it. I had a few other interesting hands from the Pendleton trip, which I might post later.

  • YH

    Hi Zach,

    Read about the BvB situation. Many players adopt a slightly different perspective of BvB. Meaning, most players will give even tight players less credit when they raise in SB vs BB. One way to “test” the water is to condition the BB, is via a few methods, limp shoving a genuine hand “e.g. AQ/AK, 77-AA” or raising occasionally with an Ace and if he tank/folds, show and Ace, to manipulate. Once you feel he’s giving you credit for raising in the SB, then raising lighter is an option… Do this with hands with equity. Very occasionally do it with junk. (Obv planning to fold to a shove)…

    When you are going to play SB v BB think of the next move depending if villan reraises or calls. Super tight players are hard players to play against if they just call. They might even do this with JJ-AA, just so they keep you honest, it makes you uncertain playing OOP, and you might be destined to barrel down to your own doom.

    As played given your stack size (13bb) vs villain, and the situation (i.e. you’ve been playing snug for awhile) if he’s tight, just raise / fold. By raising, you can force a normal fold, and if he raises you back you have the information you need, and you can fold with enough of your stack to continue another 2 orbits, while waiting for a good hand to shove.

    I read the posts in 2+2, most advocate open shoving, it’s not a bad play but, the slight chance villain has a hand, you’ll be crushed. Try not to put your stack at risk unless you have to. Make moves on the villain when you have some history of his behavior or how he plays… Of course in hindsight, everything is 20/20 and people tend to give you perfect advice. :) so take everything with a pinch of salt.


    • http://www.readingpokertells.com Zachary Elwood

      Thanks for the input. I like what you say. I wouldn’t have open-shoved there like some people advocate; maybe if it was a short-stacked tourney where people weren’t playing horrible, I could see myself doing that. But in most live tournaments there are so many better spots and you don’t have to push every single small edge, in my opinion.

      I think my main fault in this was, as you say, not taking into account the slight bit of history I knew about this opponent; that he was volatile and prone to calling very light. I should have weighted that more in my decision, even though he’d been playing pretty snug the past hour. I felt very good with my read of the situation, even though people made fun of me for that on 2+2; it’s not like I rely on those kinds of reads often at all when making moves, but when those situations do develop, I feel quite strongly about where I’m at. But this guy was apparently the type to get agitated when in a confrontational situation and make a light call-down, as I’d seen him do before. I am prone to be too aggressive, and this was one of many spots where my aggressive instincts got the better of me.

      Thanks for input; your analysis makes a lot more sense to me than most others I’ve read on 2+2.

  • kat smith

    I love your blog and book. thank you ! <3