I didn’t want to watch the Cate Hall vs Mike Dentale “grudge match” thing. I didn’t really care; I’d only followed a little bit of their online Twitter drama. I hoped Cate won and was pleased to see she did, but as to the actual match, I didn’t have any interest.
I finally ended up watching recently, seven months after it was played, mainly because I hadn’t watched much televised poker lately, and I thought with Mike being a talkative, aggressive person, and with the animosity between the two of them, it would make for a good match to watch for behavior/tells stuff.
And I did see a lot of interesting behavioral situations. Surprisingly, Mike Dentale had a lot of pretty common behavioral patterns that were remarkably reliable throughout the match. Cate had a few behavioral leaks but was more stoic in general.
I’ve got a few of the more behaviorally-interesting hands towards the bottom of this post, so if you want to skip over my trivial Trump-related rambling, or if you’re a Trump fan who becomes angry when people criticize Trump and don’t want to be forced to unfollow me and miss out on all the great tells info, click here to skip to the poker tells section.
Apart from behavior/tells, the match was mainly interesting because Mike Dentale played so horribly. If you watch the event, you’ll hear the skilled commentators, Doug Polk and Shaun Deeb, explain just how clueless some of Dentale’s decisions were. I was actually surprised by how badly Dentale played; it was much, much worse than I was expecting.
With Cate and Mike’s political differences (Cate being very liberal and Mike being a brash Trump kind of guy), the match seemed to be a sort of a small allegory about Trump-like mentality and recent Trump-related events.
On one side of the match, you’ve got Cate: a player who, while you might criticize her game, especially her heads-up game, takes the game seriously and strives to improve. She does not pretend to be the best player. Before the match, she took one of Doug Polk’s HU training courses to try to improve her heads-up play.
On the other side, you’ve got Dentale, a guy who talks loudly about being superior to other players, including Cate. He’s the guy who called Cate “clueless” on Twitter based on one hand, obviously not because he cares how she plays or even thinks she’s a bad player, but because he is personally offended by what she thinks and says on Twitter. A guy who talked all kinds of shit about Cate’s game, and who then did not (so he says) prepare for the match at all, and who proceeded to play absolutely horribly. And despite his lack of game, Dentale continued to berate Cate’s game throughout the match.
For all the criticisms you might make about Cate’s HU game, here she was clearly and overwhelmingly the superior player. Still, based on the insults Dentale made the entire game, even up until the end, you get the sense Mike Dentale, with a Trump-like aversion to reality and self-analysis, walked away from this match still being convinced of his superior skills, convinced that Cate only won because she ran very well. And there had to be, as hard as it is to imagine, some number of loyal Dentale fans who were able to convince themselves of something similar.
The only way this match might have even more analagous to Trump’s winning the election is if there was some sort of American Idol audience-voting feature and the audience voted Dentale “Best Player.”
Watching Dentale insult and sneer at a mostly-quiet Hall about matters both personal and poker-related brought back memories of Trump insulting a mostly-respectful Hillary Clinton during the debates and calling her a “nasty woman.”
All in all, it is a fun match to watch for getting some slight schadenfreudic enjoyment of watching the forces of prideful ignorance get a little bit of comeuppance, something that most of us would like to see a little more of these days. Admittedly it’s on a very small and unimportant scale but still, it’s nice to see.
I plan on doing more in-depth analysis, but here are a few of the most interesting hands from a behavior perspective:
Mike Dentale bets trip 5s on the river (28:45)
Both of them check the flop and turn, and Mike hits trips on the river and overbets the pot. This was a small pot, but some interesting things here:
Mike bets and says, “And after you fold, I’m gonna show you a deuce.” He says it twice. This is both a goading statement and what I call a “weak-hand statement” (a statement weakening Mike’s range). Both of these behaviors are tied to relaxation. Bluffers just aren’t likely to want to accidentally trigger an opponent into calling them out of frustration or spite (what Caro called a spite-call). While better players will occasionally switch these up, these are very reliable for the most part. There were no other river spots where Mike did similar stuff when making decent-sized bluffs. (Turn bets are different and less-meaningful than river bets in general, but this pattern essentially held true for Mike’s turn bets, too, with exception of one fairly small turn bluff where he kept insulting Cate and then folded to a raise.)
This is also interesting for being the first time in the match Dentale has done something like this; the first instances of such strange behavior between opponents will be even more likely to adhere to the general meaning. While outgoing players may sometimes become more tricky later in a match, they seldom want to do such things the first time when bluffing, because they wouldn’t yet have a reason to know how their opponent might react to it; in other words, even for players who are willing to switch things up, they’d rather do such weird behavior with a strong hand first and then, if they either get called or if their cards will probably be known by their opponent later (as is case here), they can theoretically do the same behavior later with a bluff, with that first instance of behavior with a strong hand as “cover” for their later behavior. (I’ve seen a similar pattern from Phil Hellmuth; doing something strange early in a match with a strong hand that is called or that he shows and then later doing something similar with a bluff/semi-bluff.)
Mike doublechecks his hole cards after betting. This is a common pattern for Mike in this match, and its one for a lot of players in big-bet spots. While he only has a few sizable bluffs in this match, I did not see him doublecheck his hole cards when betting in those spots. And he doublechecked his hole cards a lot when value-betting. In one hand, I spotted 4 double-checks during/after betting. Mike did double-check his cards a good amount in waiting-for-action spots or when checking/calling, but for post-bluff spots it was pretty much non-existent.
Mike looks at her a good amount after betting. Mike seemed to have a pattern of looking at Cate more when betting strong hands. This is a common pattern: being more interactive in general when betting strong hands, whether with eye-contact or verbally. This was a fairly small-bet spot so not a great comparison to other big-bet spots, but still, I think it’s a good example. If you watch the match, you’ll see a good number of Mike’s bluffs, and in essentially all of them, he was looking down and was quite reserved.
Mike bets trip Queens on the river (28:00)
Some interesting things:
Mike makes a quick palms-up gesture before betting at 29:30. Any shrug-like gestures or shrug components (palms-up hands, shoulders going up, tilts of head) are tied to relaxation when making substantial bets. Bluffers avoid these kinds of gestures. And I saw no bluffs from Mike where he did something similar. He does this at 29:50, too; a more obvious palms-up gesture.
Mike bounces his chips, at 29:35. Playing with chips when associated with a bet is tied to relaxation. This is more true for the more playful, loose chip handlings, like this one here, or chip flipping (flipping a chip end over end); not so much true for more standard chip-riffling type behaviors.
He double-checks his hole cards. As mentioned previously, Mike has a habit of double-checking his hole cards before betting strong hands. He does this three times on the river: twice before betting and once after betting when Cate goes to check her cards.
Mike makes a bunch of weak-hand statements. Starting at 29:50, Mike starts to say things about what he thinks Cate’s range is. “You missed your flush. You missed your open-ended. You would have bet a Queen. Pocket eights?” These are all weak-hand statements, which in my book Verbal Poker Tells I talk about being highly tied to good hands from players making substantial bets, because bluffers hardly ever want to remove strong hands from their range. These are indirect weak-hand statements: by stating first that he thinks Cate’s range is weak, he weakens his own range of hands when he bets. He’s essentially saying, “You don’t have nothing so I could be betting with a wide range.” I have hardly ever seen this kind of behavior be a bluff.
Mike looks at her a lot. As discussed before, Mike has a habit of looking more at Cate when betting a strong hand. This is evident here when he questions her and stares at her pretty extensively and makes several small glances towards her.
Cate betting set of Kings on turn, final hand
Cate was just super-relaxed seeming here. She did some things that I think would be quite unlikely if she were betting a weak/vulnerable hand. While this isn’t a huge bet, considering the situation—that if Dentale continues, it’s going to be for all the chips—it’s actually a more significant spot than her bet-size indicates. If this were a more standard $1,300 bet, I wouldn’t be as certain that her behavior indicated relaxation, although I’d still think it would make strong hands pretty likely. Some interesting things:
Cate’s chip riffling is slower and more “playful.” At 1:27:40, you can see Cate riffle her chips very leisurely, taking her time. In almost all other spots I saw, her chip riffling was very standard and even. Less-productive, relaxed-seeming chip handling behaviors are linked to relaxation for bettors. Look at her hands at 1:27:50; she has a good amount of just caressing the chips without riffling them. A few seconds later, she stacks her chips in several stacks. At 1:28:55, she flips her chips end over end (a very playful chip handling movement that I’ve written about before.) All of these things were very unusual for her: I saw nothing like this in any other spots where she made substantial bluffs.
She does a bunch of weird things. None of these unusual things would mean that much by themselves, but taken as a whole, they seem quite telling. Some of the things include: cracking her knuckles a couple times, taking a drink of water, she tilts her head one way and the other several times, licking her lips and making some facial expressions (which Deeb comments on), adjusting herself in her seat. At 1:29:35, she seems impatient and sets her head on the rail: this, above all the others, is to me a very obvious sign that she’s relaxed. I would be quite surprised if I saw her do this when bluffing, just because she’d have to be afraid of irritating Mike and getting a spite call.
I’ve got a lot of notes on this match but these are just a few of the more interesting hands and I think include some of the common behaviorally-interesting stuff. Have any other observations on these hands or other hands in the match? Feel free to send me a message via the Contact form or on Twitter.