Because this happened years ago, I can't remember the names of the players, the exact cards in the hand, or even the exact year (I'm thinking 2005?), but I clearly remember the situation, and it's that I'd like to share with you. As for the little details, I'll just make up new ones that fit with the story that's about to unfold.
As a storyteller friend of mine once advised me, "Never let BS get in the way of a good story." Then again, his wife refuted his claim with, "More like never let a story get in the way of some good BS." Regardless of which statement you like best, they're both good advice.
In the midst of the WSOP Main Event, with hundreds of players shuffling chips, busting out and sucking out in every direction, sits Buddy Pro. Deep into the third day of play, under mounting stress, anticipation and exhaustion, Buddy-P is dealt into what could very well be his thousandth hand of the tournament.
On the button, with a stack above average, Buddy-P makes a small raise with Q♣ T♣. One player, an amateur kid decked out in Full Tilt poker clothing, who thinks he's much better than he is, comes along for the flop in middle position.
Amateur-K slowly checks as the flop falls, giving Buddy-P an intense look. Buddy-P fires a semi-bluff c-bet into the pot. Amateur-K thinks for a bit, cuts out his chips, pauses to look into Buddy-P's eyes, and calls, saying "I call" only after his chips have been dropped in the pot.
Amateur-K makes a point of letting Buddy-P see him looking at the turn. With a calculated pause as if he's considering what to do, Amateur-K looks at Buddy-P and taps his hand for a check. Buddy-P, still sensing weakness, tosses out another bet. With considerable thought, Amateur-K calls again.
This is where the hand gets interesting. Amateur-K sits, considering what to do. At some point Amateur-K's actions have led Buddy-P to believe that he had checked. Buddy-P has missed his flush, and neither semi-bluff has caused Amateur-K to throw his hand, so he turns his cards faceup, showing his busted draw: queen-high.
The Kid immediately objects, claiming that he had never acted, throwing his hands up in protest. The dealer, knowing the drill, calls the floorman over to the table right away.
The floorman listens to the dealer's account of what happened and makes a ruling that the Kid still has the right to act, and that Buddy-P's hand will stay live, and open.
The Kid confirms that he still has the right to act before informing the dealer that he was all-in (his whole stack being about three-quarters that of the pro). The pro instantly calls.
I'll wait a second for that to sink in ... With nothing more than queen-high, which the other player could see, the pro instantly makes a call for the majority of his chips. The Kid's face falls in shock. Holding nothing but a lower flush draw, he's now busted out of the tournament.
Buddy-P had a read on his opponent the entire hand. He read him as a weak, dumb, 100% first-level thinker. When the Kid called the first two bets, the only options where he had a draw or had some sort of pair that he was refusing to fold, this made betting the river a futile act.
But once the open-hand schmozzle happened, Buddy-P was given a whole new wealth of information. Amateur-K could see that Buddy-P clearly had nothing. Since he was a 100% first-level thinker, the only thought process he would have would be as follows:
Buddy-P has nothing, so he won't call any bets I make. If I have the winning hand, I will always win the same amount of money by betting as I would by just turning over my hand and taking down the pot. Betting just makes me look like a jerk. On the other hand, if I have the worst hand, I've lost this pot; the only way I can win is by bluffing. Since he has nothing, he can't call my bet ...
"I'm all in."
The pro understood this logic, and made the read that from this specific player, his bet could only mean a bluff, as he wasn't smart enough to bet a winning hand here. Even though the pro only had queen-high, he went with his read, and won a huge pot.
Extraordinary circumstances don't happen all too often at a poker table. One of the distinguishing traits of a pro is the ability to choose the correct action in extraordinary situations.
Anyone can practice how to react under normal circumstances; it's in out-of-the-ordinary contexts like this one that a player needs the focus, skill and intellect to make quick and correct calculations, evaluations and decisions.