Player’s misdirection sows confusion
In early February, I watched an interesting yet seemingly inconsequential poker hand play out during t he $1,100- buy- i n, $500,000 guaranteed Mid-States Poker Tour Poker Bowl II at the Venetian in Las Vegas.
On Day 1A of the tournament, which began with 268 entries, the field was down to 60 players in Level 12 (800-1,600 blinds with an ante of 200) when Maury Solano of Texas, who was sitting with 49,000 in chips, raised to 3,500 from the hijack seat.
Minnesota businessman John Morgan, who had a stack of roughly the same size, called from the cutoff seat, and an unknown player in the small blind did the same. The big-stacked Ankush Flop: Mandavia, who finished runnerup and earned $108,000 in the same tournament a year earlier, came along from the big blind to make it four-way action. The flop came down 5h 10h 10c. Three checks opened the door for Morgan to bet 4,500, and the player in the small blind called. Mandavia flat-called, and Solano put in a call to see the turn, which was the 8d. Turn:
It was at this point that things got interesting.
The player in the small blind checked, and Mandavia opted to bet 10,500. As I watched the hand play out, I couldn’t help but wonder why Mandavia had just called the flop and then lead out on the turn.
My first thought was that he had a 10, but why just call preflop with trips when there was a flush draw on board? Maybe Mandavia wanted to peel one more card to make sure it wasn’t another heart before springing to life. This was a very real possibility, but not the only one.
I also thought it would be a brilliant play if he had a heart draw. Assuming he had two hearts and just called the flop, the turn (which wasn’t a scary card) provided him an opportunity to seize control of the hand.
With a bet, he turns his heart draw into a semi-bluff, and a highly believable one given the circumstances. With three others players in the hand, it would be impossible for all of them to have a 10. Solano surely didn’t, as he was last to act and just called, but the other two might.
By betting, Mandavia could test the waters. If he was raised, he would all but know his opponent had a 10. If he received a call, it would probably be from another flush draw, in which case he could easily bluff the river. Or everyone would fold and he’d win the pot uncontested, which was exactly what happened.
During a break, I asked Mandavia about the hand. Did he have a 10? A flush draw? He let slip a little smile, and for a moment I didn’t think he was going to answer, but then he said, “I had a 10.”
I think he was telling the truth. But then again, it’s poker, so it’s possible that he was bluffing me.