This following is a guest blog post from Los Angeles poker player Josh Hale. You can follow Josh Hale on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/red_stagg.
The Los Angeles Poker Classic just concluded and with it, one of my favorite times of the year for poker. I count myself amongst the many people consider the LAPC to be one of the best tournament series of year (perhaps second only to the WSOP) thanks in no small part to the great work that Matt Savage and his team do to put together a robust and varied schedule of well-structured tournaments. Of course, because the LAPC is held at the world’s largest card room, Commerce Casino, the cash game action is fast and furious for entire month of February as well.
One of the things I love about LAPC is that it offers the ability to play mid-stakes mixed games. Throughout most of the year, mixed game action is really only available at the nosebleed levels (at least in Southern California), but during LAPC there’s always a good 40/80 or 75/150 combo game going.
It was during a 75/150 session that I played an interesting hand which involves me making a pretty big hero call based on a “live tell.” The typical mix of games in LA includes badugi, badacey, badeucey, 2-7 triple draw, A-5 triple draw and Omaha 8-or better. This hand occurred during a round of 2-7 triple draw.
The pertinent action occurs when we’re heads up after the second draw. I had just drawn one and put out a bet. My opponent drew two and goes for calling chips, but then he hesitates, fumbles with his chips for a little and goes into the tank. After a few seconds he opts to raise. This was somewhat odd behavior, especially in a limit game where betting and raising typically move quicker than no-limit or pot-limit.
Since I was still drawing to an eight-perfect (or “number 5” in triple-draw parlance), I didn’t have much of a decision. I made the call and drew one. He stood pat.
On the final draw I caught Jack for an unimpressive Jack-Eight low and checked to my opponent who instantly fired another bet.
While his quick bet on the end smelled fishy to me, I’m still not normally in the habit of calling a river bet from a pat hand with a marginal-at-best bluff catcher. However, as I contemplated my next move, I started to think about his actions on the previous street.
When he paused to think and fumbled his chips before raising me after the second draw, I did not think he was Hollywooding, rather, my read at the time was that he had a legitimately close decision between raising and calling. I asked myself what hand range would fall into that category? He would definitely raise with any seven-low or smooth-eight and since he stood pat, he’s not raising on the come with a good draw to one of those hands. When he pauses to think before raises, his hand range skews towards a rough made hand that he doesn’t feel like he can break or improve much by drawing. Something like a rough eight, nine or possibly even a 10 low fits into that category.
However, when I check to him on the river and he snap-bets, most of those made hands now make much less sense. If he was raising with a nine or ten, then he’s likely just hoping to get to showdown and would check back the vast majority of the time. This particular opponent wasn’t the type to bet thinly
either, but even if he were looking for thin value with a hand like a 9-7 low, he would at least think for a bit or take a moment to try to get a read off of me before betting since I drew and possibly improved.
Going back to his actions on the previous street, I started to think about what other hands that he might reconsider calling with and choose to raise. Let’s say he was drawing to a 247 after pitching a 2 and a 4 on the first draw. He picks up another 2 and a 7 draws one more time to number one. After the second draw he pairs again, but he still has a good draw and goes to call. However, he starts to think about all the wheel cards that have been through his hand (he’s seen most of the deuces and two of the sevens and due to card removal effects, he realizes that it’s much more difficult for me to hold a monster). After some thought, he decides that it’s too difficult for me to have a strong hand with all the good cards he’s seen and chooses to snow with a raise and the intention of bluffing me off a marginal hand after the final draw.
After some thought, I came to the conclusion that based on all his actions that he would be much more likely to play a bluff in this manner than he would a medium strength hand. (Note, he may still play monsters this way, using the hesitation after the second draw as a reverse-tell, leaving his final betting range very polarized). I made the hero call and he insta-mucked what he claimed were trip deuces and I scooped a nice pot.
This hand demonstrates how a combination of physical tells and betting patterns can be used to develop strong hand-reading abilities and help lead to making the right decision and more profit. It also shows the importance of putting together the complete story based on all the action in the hand. The insta-bet alone does not justify my call, but it does when put in context with entire hand and especially the previous street’s actions.