Piling on the Pressure

Piling on the Pressure

Thursday, 15 October 2009

I find a lot of value in piling pressure on your opponents in the early stages of tournaments when the blinds are small and most people are playing way too tight, because that’s when people are looking to avoid pressure.

Here’s a hand that I played in Monte Carlo on Day 1 that illustrates my point. I’m playing quite aggressively (as usual), raising a lot of pots. We’re all really deep – the blinds are 100-200 and most people have 30k or 40k, apart from this one guy who has more like 15k. This is because he lost a big pot to me earlier when I had got somewhat lucky. He’d taken it badly.

I open in middle position with 5-3 off suit and the guy on 15k calls on the button. The flop comes A-10-7 with two spades. I check, ready to give up on the pot because it’s a really bad board on which to make a continuation bet. He checks behind and the turn comes another ten. Now I think this is a good card to start bluffing at – I can represent any ten, maybe jacks, a weak ace and so on. I think if this player had a flush draw or an ace he would have bet the flop. If he has a ten – well, I’ll find out now because he’ll most likely raise.

I bet about half the pot and he quickly calls. The river is the 8s, making a very scary board with a potential flush, straight and full house out there, but I don’t see how he can have a very strong hand here. Maybe he has a really, really weak ace and he’s scared of getting too many chips involved. So I figure I can push him off a lot of his weaker holdings which is why I bet about 900. He thinks for a while and makes it 2,450.

This doesn’t make any sense to me at all. If he had a strong hand, he would have raised it earlier. There’s no way he could ever have a full house at this stage, unless he has pocket eights, which is a really, really small part of his range. I think maybe he has a weak flush and, even if he does, he can’t be super-comfortable putting a lot more chips in. It feels like he’s possibly turning a weak hand into a bluff, so I decide to re-raise him to 11,000, leaving him with 3k if he calls and loses.

He thinks about it for a while and he folds, saying, “Will you show me one card?” I probably shouldn’t have, but I show him a five and he goes mad.

The point is I’m putting him to a decision for his tournament life with what I feel is not a super-strong hand. He doesn’t want to put his stack in on the assumption that I might be bluffing, and it’s probable that a bluff is all he beats here. I can have a big flush or a full house, he can’t. To me, there’s no part of his range that he’s comfortable calling to the river with. We’d had some history and I’d seen him play a few hands and I just didn’t feel he’d ever play a monster the way he’d played this.

So the lesson here is to make sure you know your opponent because that will make it easier to read hands, and don’t be afraid to apply pressure in the early stages because no one wants to go bust early on. It’s actually the perfect time to attempt a big bluff if you think that the conditions are right for it.

Tags: Poker News, Piling, on, the, Pressure