Live Reads Explained: Cody Escapes Liu's Clutches at EPT Barcelona

Screen shot 2016 01 13 at 4.09.40 PM
Xuan Liu: Ready to bet.

Have you ever asked yourself how professional poker players make moves that seem to be genius, but not entirely explicable?

We know we have. So when we get the opportunity to ask one of the game's best players just how he or she managed to do just that, we do.

At EPT Barcelona in 2013 Jake Cody found himself at the feature table on Day 2 with rising Canadian star Xuan Liu.

Liu had already had 11 live cashes since her final table appearance at the PCA in 2012 and Cody knew that she wasn’t a fluke.

Cody raised from first position and then masterfully showed how even hyper-aggressive players can make a tight laydown. Watch the video to see what happened:

More Instinct than Movie Reads

So how did an aggressive player like Cody back off so quickly? Cody explained at the 2016 PCA:

“To be honest, most of my live reads are more of an instinct thing than like in a movie where someone scratches their nose when they’re particularly weak or strong.

jake cody 4

“You play with someone for a while and if in one hand something just feels awfully different then that can mean they’re extremely strong or weak. It’s usually nothing in the middle; they’re either bluffing or they have a very strong hand.

“I had played with her for a while, and I knew she played quite tight pre-flop, so I didn’t think she would be coming after me in this spot at all. That board hits her pre-flop calling range very well.

“If she had just called I would probably lose another bet on a later street so I don’t really like her raise on the flop. She’s over-representing her hand.

"She might have done this with A-Q or with a set, but it’s strange to do it with aces because you block some of the stronger hands like A-K.

"There are not too many hands I can continue with but definitely a hand that’s stronger than aces. I have pretty much the exact hand she can get value from.”

How the Mighty Fold

“It was a combination of different things. I made a continuation bet of 2,200 and she raised it to 6,700, which is a raise on the larger side.

“I considered my read on her pre-flop range and how she would approach the game against me. I have a rather crazy image so I expect people not to play back at me that much, if you don’t have a hand.

Xuan Liu
Perception is key.

“On a board like this the raise looked much more like a value raise than a bluff, so I found it to be an easy fold at the time, in fact.

“If I remember correctly I put her on a set there rather than aces. If she raises aces there she would certainly raise a set, too.”

The Hands and the Breathing

“The factors that led me to lay down the hand were:

  • Both of our pre-flop ranges
  • Her perception of me and my perception of her
  • Her raise-sizing
  • and then some of her physical mannerisms.

“There is nothing specific that she did but it was surely my instincts kicking in at this moment. A good part of reading people works on a sub-conscious level, which makes it hard to explain.

“To develop that instinct you need to make sure you watch every hand at every showdown because then you can see how someone acted. It’s often more about what they do with their hands rather than their face, because most players are aware of what their face can give away but they rarely pay attention to their hands.

“Everyone wants to have a poker face but they don’t watch the rest of their bodies. This applies especially to amateurs - not that much to a professional like Xuan Liu - although pros give away tells, too.

“The hands and the breathing are the most important elements of tells. If someone starts breathing heavier they’re getting excited and it’s less likely they’re bluffing.

Jake Cody 1
More math guy than you think.

“But of course, poker is so crazy and everyone’s so unique, that you can’t really give anyone advice on tells. If two players make the same movement or anything it can mean two different things, as everyone is an individual.

“I watch every player at the table and study their mannerisms. Of course, you can’t watch everyone as close, and if you watch two players in a hand you can’t watch them both, but I try to pick up as much as possible.

“I even take notes of players at the table if something interesting comes up that I might want to use later.

“I think my success in live poker is based on me being a pretty good mixture of instincts and theory. I’m much more of a math guy than people think.

“I’m certain that everyone can learn reading skills, 100%. Some people have a natural talent but everyone can develop skills.

“In fact, I’d say I’ve learned my reading skills from experience rather than being naturally gifted. I’m sure I read people better than five years ago.

"Actually, you should be better at everything in poker compared to how you did it five years ago.”

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