Learn to listen to their stories at the poker table

July 24, 2012  

This hand came up in a $1K World Series of Poker event I recently played. I raised to 400 at 100-200-25 from middle position with {9-Spades}{8-Spades} and an old, unknown, fairly loose guy called in the small blind. We both had around 9K chips to start the hand. The flop came {9-Hearts}{8-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}. He checked, I bet 500 and he called. The turn was the {k-Diamonds}. He checked, I bet 700, he raised to 1,400 and I called. The river was the {2-Clubs}. He bet 2,100 and I called.

While this may look like a fairly standard call down to most tournament players, I think I made a large error simply because an older guy that probably values the $1K event highly is not going to run an insane bluff that is giving me excellent odds to call.

Since I know the player probably isn’t going to run a bluff too often, are there any hands he could play for value in this manner that I beat? I don’t think so.

Though I have two pair, I only beat a bluff, as he is squarely representing a flush. It’s important to realize most weak players often have what they’re representing whereas good players tend to play strong and weak parts of their range the same way, which is what makes them good.

On the turn, facing a min-raise, I think 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 some random hand like 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 basically always has a flush, which I can’t beat.

Notice if I had something such as 5-5 in this spot, it would still probably be a fold because our opponent is probably never running a bluff, especially with the given line.
As played, I called and was shown the {a-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds}, which makes a lot of sense, as I thought my opponent was fairly loose preflop and would play his hands overly straightforward.

On the flop he didn’t 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 scared I would fold.

If you look at his line, you will notice he played the hand as straightforward as possible. While a world-class player would never take this line, when playing with weaker opponents, you have to think like they think. Because of this, when someone who’s clearly an amateur takes an overly strong line like this, pretty much no matter your hand or the odds being laid, unless you have an overly premium hand, you should find a fold.

Rarely will you be shown a bluff in this spot. If for some reason your opponent shows you a bluff, file that away for the future and make sure not to fall for it again. To sum this up, when bad 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.

— Jonathan Little is the Season 6 WPT Player of the Year and is a representative for Blue Shark Optics. If you want to learn to play a loose-aggressive style, which will constantly propel you to the top of the leaderboards, check out his poker training website at FloatTheTurn.com.