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Live Reads Explained: Mercier Makes Wilf Wilt with Best Hand
They say that the younger generation of poker players don’t use live tells and reads because they learned poker online.
Is that true? Well. Let's ask one of them.
Jason Mercier exploded onto the poker scene when he won the EPT San Remo main event in 2008 -- at the time the largest of all the EPTs apart from the PCA.
He made a famous call at the final table with 9-5, too, but we’ve talked about that hand with him before.
This time we asked him about a hand from the 2009 World Series of Poker Europe when he pushed Israeli Saar Wilf off the better hand.
Jason Mercier: Me and Saar Wilf were the chipleaders at the table. I was winning a lot of hands and I wanted to keep the pressure on.
I had king-ten in the hijack and, at that time, I would raise 2.5x. The big blind is 16k, I made it 39k and Wilf calls. Everyone else folded.
Up to here, this is all pretty standard.
PokerListings: Wilf has ace-king and just calls. Is he trapping or why does he not three-bet?
JM: Surely, he could three-bet here. I think he wanted to play it slow. We were very deep stacked.
I wouldn’t say he’s trapping; he’s just keeping the pot small. It’s pot control. He wants to keep me in the hand with all the weaker aces and kings…
PL: Which is exactly what you had.
JM: Right. He wants to keep me in with what I have. The flop is jack-five-deuce with two hearts, so I have a backdoor flush draw.
At this point it’s close between check-folding and betting. You might be able to check-raise in some universe, but check-calling is probably the worst option because we don’t have anything and we don’t want him to take the lead in the hand.
I think we can bet and hope he folds, plus there are a lot of good turn cards for us. A queen gives us an open end, a king gives us top pair, a heart gives us a flush draw, a ten gives us middle pair, a nine or an ace gives us a gutshot.
PL: And, in fact, Wilf does call.
JM: He does call and I think that’s his only option.
PL: What do you put him on at this point?
JM: Initially I thought he had some kind of middle pair, sixes to tens. I didn’t put him on a very strong hand because he called pretty quickly.
PL: And all these middle pairs would peel one off here.
JM: Yes, they would all call. The queen on the turn gives me an open end but not just an open end; it’s an open end to the nuts.
Any ace or nine gives me the nuts on the river and I think I have a lot of fold equity against the hands that I thought he had.
Any middle pair is going to have a hard time continuing. The queen is a very good card for me to double barrel on because it puts him in an awkward spot even if he has a jack.
There are a lot of hands I could have that beat him. Had there been any card between a deuce and an eight on the turn, I would have checked.
I bet half pot on the turn and he kind of quickly raised. It’s a very odd raise -- especially with the hand he has, which is ace-king -- because he’s beating all my bluffs and he’s losing to all my value hands.
There really aren’t many hands betting for value that would fold to his raise – almost none, really. Two pairs and sets aren’t folding, so I would only fold bluffs.
I felt I had a read on him in this hand. I felt he was raising with whatever garbage he had and that he couldn’t face an all-in bet. I decided to do it quickly to make it look like I had a very strong hand, without second guessing myself too much.
Watch the hand play out here in the video.
PL: You said you had a read on him. What does that mean?
JM: It was based on the previous hands we were playing and the way he was acting with his chips. The way he called the flop and then raised the turn, I just did not believe him.
It’s hard to explain as it’s not something very specific; it was more a sort of a sense.
It’s not that he scratched his nose or anything. It was how I felt when he acted; I just had a read that he was weak.
PL: When you play live do you observe the other players closely or do you base your decisions more on math?
JM: It’s more so based on math and numbers, but sometimes I get a sense of whether they’re bluffing or not, like a soul read.
Usually I play more of a mathematical game and base a lot of my decisions on betting patterns.
PL: Has the value of reads decreased with so many young players who learned to play online?
JM: Not necessarily. However a lot of the top players don’t use them to their advantage.
PL: Isn’t that a leak?
JM: A leak? I wouldn’t call it a leak. Many of them are practicing reading, are getting better at it and are trying to add it to their game.
I think it’s only a question of time until everyone is using tells as much as they can.
PL: At some point everyone’s solid, even with reads?
JM: (laughs) No, there will always be leaks, there will always be leaks you can exploit, and no one plays perfectly.