In­duce op­po­nents’ mis­takes

Los Angeles Times - - THE GUIDE - By Jonathan Lit­tle Lit­tle is a pro­fes­sional poker player.

Since the World Se­ries of Poker is un­der­way, I want to share a hand from last year’s WSOP $1,500-buy-in Mon­ster Stack event. This tour­na­ment is dif­fer­ent from other $1,500 events in that ev­ery player starts with an overly deep stack (15,000). This hand was just the third of the day.

With blinds at 100-200, a player who ap­peared to be in his 30s raised to 525 from mid­dle po­si­tion. Ev­ery­one folded around to me, and I called fromthe big blind with 4♣ 3♣.

Call­ing and fold­ing were both fine op­tions in that spot. I sug­gest that you learn to prof­itably call in such sit­u­a­tions, be­cause be­ing able to con­tinue with a wide range of hands will make you much more dif­fi­cult to play against as op­posed to if you play only strong hands. If you con­stantly keep your op­po­nents guess­ing, they’ll make mis­takes. If they usu­ally know where you stand, they’ll play­well.

The flop came A♣ J♣ 4♦, giv­ing me bot­tom pair and a weak flush draw. I checked to my op­po­nent, as I tend to do with all of my hands, and my op­po­nent bet 700 into the 1,150 pot. I check-raised to 1,700.

If the stacks had been ei­ther shal­lower or deeper, I likely would have called. If the stacks were shorter, my op­po­nent eas­ily could have gone all in, forc­ing me to make a de­ci­sion for my tour­na­ment life with a hand that would win roughly half the time. (In gen­eral, good play­ers want to avoid coin-flip sce­nar­ios.) If the stacks were deeper, my op­po­nent could call and play well af­ter the flop. With th­ese stack sizes, go­ing all in would be a huge over­bet for my op­po­nent. And if he called, it would al­low me to put sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure on him on the turn by bet­ting again.

My op­po­nent sur­prised meby rerais­ing to 5,000, leav­ing only 9,475 in his stack.

I was fairly con­fi­dent that my op­po­nent liked his hand. How­ever, I thought that he could like a hand such as A-K but still be will­ing to fold if I reraised all in.

I rec­og­nized that count­less play­ers had trav­eled a great dis­tance to play this event and would cer­tainly not want to bust out on the third hand of the day. I didn’t es­pe­cially care if I busted out, be­cause this event was one of many that I would play through­out the se­ries. For a pro­fes­sional, no in­di­vid­ual event is emo­tion­ally sig­nif­i­cant. This gave me the courage to go all in. While at­tempt­ing to bluff some­one off what’s likely a strong hand is rarely a good idea, oc­ca­sion­ally it­makes per­fect sense.

My op­po­nent looked dis­gusted. He asked me a few ques­tions, try­ing to get a read, but of course I didn’t re­ply. He thought for about three min­utes be­fore fold­ing A-J face up. He told me that he knew I’d been lucky to flop a set and that no one else at the ta­ble would have been able to make such a great fold. (Don’t be one of those play­ers who think they al­ways make the right play.)

If I had thought my op­po­nent had an ef­fec­tively un­fold­able hand like top two pair, I cer­tainly wouldn’t have tried this semi-bluff. When your op­po­nents are look­ing for a rea­son to make a big fold, don’t be afraid to get out of line and in­duce them to make a huge mis­take.

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