Since I spend a lot of time at the tables, joking, bluffing, angling and chirping with the rest of the degenerates, I figured I would start writing down a few of my stories from the felt.
A One-Level View of the Game
Last night I played a hand which reminded me of the role levels of thought play in poker, in terms of how players progress (or regress) in the game.
This hand happened between myself, and "buddy in seat two." He was an obvious degen, missing the top three buttons of his PokerStars-branded white cotton collared shirt.
He also obviously plays a large amount of poker, but has ceased to progress - likely not even having made it to the point of becoming a break-even player. He showed all the symptoms of thinking he is much more adept at the game than he really is.
Which means he's the kind of guy you always want at your table.
My favorite moment came right near the beginning of my session, when he tanked and stared down an opponent for a read on the flop in a $10 pot.
But the hand I'll break down came when I was in late-mid position with him in the big blind.
I limp with A♥ 8♦; six players see the flop. Flop is A♠ 5♠ 6♥. It's checked to me and I bet close to the full pot. All players fold other than "buddy in seat two," leaving the two of us to see a turn.
Turn is the J♦. He checks to me. I bet the pot a second time. A quick call sends us both to the river.
River comes A♦. "Buddy in seat two" immediately bets out one-quarter of the pot.
The legitimate range of hands I can put him on includes any ace, or a flush draw. A flush draw is more likely, given the betting pattern and just my overall read of the situation. But if that were true, the river bet doesn't make any sense.
One of Three Things
A river bet of a quarter of the pot, being the player's first action initiative in the pot, can only be one of three things:
- A value bet
- A value-bet bluff
- A dumb move
1) For it to be a value bet, I would have to believe that he was ahead. This is a strong possibility, considering that almost any ace beats my own with a better kicker or by making a boat on the river.
So the value-bet interpretation is plausible, but the size of his bet makes it unlikely. If he does have the nuts, or a legitimate monster, he will have to believe (and hope) that I'm holding the case ace.
My betting pattern makes it very likely that my hand contains an ace. If I'm holding an ace, as a random poker player, I would be willing to call almost any bet with my trips, half the pot being the bare minimum. Because the guy bet so low, I can't put him on making a value bet.
2) The value-bet bluff is an advanced play, only working on an advanced player who also understands the level of play of the player making the bluff. Since this player is clearly not a strong enough player to ever attempt such a bluff, this option is out.
This leaves us with it being just 3) a dumb bet.
So what do I do? Obviously with this read on the situation I can't fold, so that leaves me with calling or raising. At the most basic level of poker you would take this read and raise, since the read tells you that you have the best hand.
But on the next level of poker thought, it's obvious that calling is the correct choice as there is no hand that calls your raise that you can beat.
Raising also opens the door for a three-bet bluff and for losing a larger pot if your read is wrong. Raising is -EV; calling is the obvious right choice.
So after he makes the bet, I take another look at the second ace on the river and say:
"I guess I have to pay you. Nice hand."
After I call, and invoke my right to have him show his hand first, I watch him roll over his 4♦ 5♥. So I open my own, saying "I got the ace," causing "buddy in seat two" to explode on me.
"Ohh sure, you act like you're not going to win the hand, you had trip aces? **** you buddy, trip aces and he doesn't even raise it."
If you've read the swimming with the fish articles you'll have a pretty good idea of how I reacted to this statement. Check them out if you haven't yet, as there's no way to make more money in poker than to keep very bad players happily seated at your table.
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