Live Reads Explained: Pagano Gets Emotional on Draxl

Folding an overpair is hard to do.

At the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure back in 2012, PokerStars Team Pro Luca Pagano did just that.

Pagano is still the player with the most Top 10 finishes at EPT main events (7). He narrowly missed another final table this year when he finished 17th at EPT Dublin.

Although he has moved from the table to the business side of poker in recent years, whenever he comes back to play he’s still dangerous.

Back in 2012, however, he was one of the top players in the world and collected results non-stop. His trip to the Bahamas was a successful one, too, as he finished in 30th out of 1,072 players.

On Day 3 he played a remarkable hand against Peter Draxl. We asked him how he was able to make his big decision. (Watch the video. Hand begins at 33:20.)

Pagano Reads Draxl

Luca Pagano

Luca Pagano: Will Reynolds had raised from the cut-off and I re-raised with pocket eights from the button.

The reasons for this are that I want to know where I’m at in the hand by polarizing his range, as he’s known for being very aggressive.

Also, I want the blinds to fold. However, the big blind called, and this was actually the very first hand this guy [Draxl] was at the table, so I didn’t know anything about him.

But I did expect him to know me and that I am a very tight player, so my 3-bet means I have a hand. With these presumptions there are only a few hands in his range.

Small pairs and marginal hands are unlikely. He can just call probably with ace-king, maybe ace-queen, tens or jacks. I put him on one of these four hands.

PokerListings: But if you didn’t know him, you also didn’t know if he was a professional. An amateur could have had many other hands, too, right?

LP: Yes. I didn’t know the player, but the way he approached the table, the way he perfectly arranged his chips, how he stared at every player without speaking with anybody, all this looked like he definitely had experience.

I wouldn’t say he was definitely a professional. He could have been someone who just tried to look professional, but he definitely knew what he was doing.

It is, of course, a hypothesis to assume that he knew me. However, he sees a raise and a re-raise and he just called with Reynolds still behind him, so it’s not difficult to put him on a hand.Get Up to $600 Now!

I’m known as a very tight player so when I 3-bet he should put me on a big hand.

PL: Do you consider yourself a tight player?

LP: I consider myself to have the image of a very tight player. I’ve spent a lot of energy in interviews to say again and again that you should play tight.

So, yes, I am a tight player, even so I sometimes have to change gears.

Listen, as long as you’re aware of the signals that you’re giving to the others, as long as you know how they perceive you, it’s fine.

If they see you as tight, you can loosen up; if they see you as aggressive, you can get paid off more. As long as you know what they think about you, you can always exploit. That’s super-important.

The tricky thing about poker is that there are a lot of complex situations where you have to decide to go either left or right. There’s no middle way out. If you make the right decision, you look great; the other one makes you look stupid. So you’re either a super-hero or a super-idiot.

Luca Pagano

PL: So let’s go and look at the flop. All low cards, and he checks. It’s a pretty good flop for your hand, too.

LP: Yes.

PL: He checks, you bet, and he moves all-in. Looks like a strong message.

LP: Honestly, what can I beat here if I call? I can beat a bluff, but a bluff doesn’t make sense. Unless he just wants some camera time or if he’s one of the guys who doesn’t give a ****.

But he lookedso comfortable, his demeanor was so relaxed. I didn’t think he was bluffing. So the only hands I can beat are pocket fours and pocket sevens.

I’m also ruling out the chance that he has ace-king.

PL: Why?

LP: Because if he had made up his mind to go all-in with ace-king, he would have done it pre-flop. It makes no sense to go all-in on a flop where he could easily get called by a pocket pair.

At least, that’s how I was reasoning at the time. I was thinking about the decision for a while because I was pondering if he maybe did have fours or sevens. But then I thought he could also even have something better than jacks, so I had to fold.

Reynolds later told me he would never be able to fold eights in that spot, by the way. Anyway, it would have been very tricky if the guy had just called.

An ace or king on the turn, a paired board, all would have made it very difficult for me to continue. It would have become difficult to still fold because the pot would be too big.

I try to avoid situations where I need to be really good or really lucky to win, but only need to make one small mistake to lose a lot.

luca pagano
He's watching.

PL: You were talking a lot about the behavior of your opponent. Do you pay attention to tells?

LP: Oh, yes, very much so. I look at this more than the actual play, and I’m able to do it because I have a lot of life experience.

The way someone behaves, even the way he dresses, is the key to figuring him out.

The players of the new generation are missing this because they learned in front of the monitor, and that’s a different experience.

Of course, live players don’t have the experience of two million hands like the young players do. The perfect player would be someone who combines the advantages of both worlds, but I don’t see that player exists.

PL: How do you try to pick up information?

LP: I’m looking for small things and I’m doing it when no one else is. For example, I look at what they do when they’re not in a hand.

If someone’s not involved in a hand and just watches what’s going on, they’ll show very genuine reactions. These are the moments when you can learn something about someone.

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The most important information for me is always “why are they playing the game?”

Are they really playing to win or are they just here to experience the atmosphere as long as possible?

Are they very emotional about the game or very detached? Players have different approaches to poker, so you need to treat them accordingly.

I’m not very good at building a profile of my opponents but I’m very empathetic, for whatever reason.

I work more on the emotional level than the psychological. That’s something that’s always fascinated me about poker, and it still does.

Watch the video to see how Luca Pagano managed to not lose all his chips with an overpair. Hand begins at 33:20.

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