What, exactly, is that poker player thinking?
You might have found yourself asking that about your table neighbor in your local cash game or when watching one of the best players in the world TV. The answer is sometimes surprisingly simple. Sometimes, not so much.
Two Years from Nov. 9
Shortly before the 2013 WSOP there was a tournament in New Orleans called the Southern Comfort 100 National World Series of Poker Championship. Down to four players, there are still two WSOP bracelet winners at the table in Max Steinberg and Brock Parker.
Steinberg would reach the Main Event final table two years later where he would finish in fourth place for more than $2.5 million. In the hand below, though, the two bracelet owners are clearly thinking different things, which makes this hand so interesting.
River Changes Everything
There’s nothing strange about this hand at first. Jonathan Hilton, who’s also involved, went on to win the tournament later, by the way.
Parker opens with strong Broadway cards and both Hilton and Steinberg call with hands that have potential. It’s Hilton who flops the monster, plays textbook poker and then gets lucky when Steinberg decides to bluff and Parker at the same time hits top pair.
This is all still pretty standard but then the river changes everything. Steinberg checks from first position with Jack-high and you think he’s given up, but …
Parker shows why he has three bracelets and makes a disciplined fold but Steinberg starts to think about it. He tanks for a minute and then decides to burn 335,000 chips on a board he has nothing to do with. What do you think he was thinking?