Listen to What They are Telling You

This hand came up in a $1,000 World Series of Poker event I last year where I raised to 400 out of my 11,000 effective stack at 100-200-25 from middle position with 9s8s and an older, fairly straightforward guy called in the small blind. The flop came 9h-8d-5d, giving me top two pair. He checked, I bet 700 and he called. The turn was the Kd, making the flush possible. He checked, I bet 1,700, he raised to 3,400 and I called. The river was the 2c. He bet 2,100 and I called.

While this may look like a fairly standard river call to most tournament players, I think I made a large error simply because a random older player probably values the $1,000 buy-in highly is not going to run an insane bluff that gives me excellent odds to call. Since I know my opponent is probably not bluffing too often, are there any hands he could play for value in this manner that I beat? Not really!

Even though I have two pair, I only beat bluffs, given he is squarely representing a flush. It’s important to realize that most straightforward players often have exactly what they are representing whereas good players tend to play the strong and weak parts of their range the same manner, making them much more difficult to play against.

On the turn, facing a min-raise, calling is still acceptable because if I make a full house on the river, I will almost certainly get paid off. Also, if my opponent was raising a random hand such as an oddly played K-Q, he may check the river, allowing me to win the pot.

When he bets the river, I think I have a fairly easy fold because he almost always has a flush, which I cannot beat. Notice if I had 5-5 in this spot, it should still probably be a fold because my opponent is probably never running a bluff or overvaluing two pair like K-9.

As played, I called and was shown the nuts, Ad-10d, which makes a lot of sense. On the flop he did not want to raise because he “only” had a flush draw, on the turn, he min-raised because he had the nuts and wanted me to call, and on the river, he bet fairly small because he was afraid I would fold to a larger bet.

His line was about as straightforward as you can get. While a world-class player would never take this line, when playing against straightforward opponents, you have to think like they think. Because of this, when someone who is clearly an amateur takes an overly strong line, pretty much no matter your hand or the odds being laid, unless you have an overly premium hand, you should find a nitty fold because you will rarely, if ever, be shown a bluff. If for some reason your opponent shows up with a bluff, file that away in your mind for the future and make sure to not fall for it again. To sum this up, when straightforward players show a huge amount of strength by raising the turn or river, you should get away from your hand. Don’t be stubborn and donate your chips like I did this time.

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5 Comments

  • Dennis says:

    You write like an expert but you don’t always play like one. Yes us old guys respect the money more than you youngsters.

  • Jeff Roberts says:

    What line would a “world class player” have played?

    • The world-class player would figure out a way to get substantial money in the pot with the nuts, not only a little bit. This can be done by raising the turn larger and then blasting the river, or by check-calling the turn and then check-raising the river.

  • Gary K Lovell says:

    ” A world class player would never take this line playing against a straightforward opponent”
    What line might a world class player take?

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