Would You Believe it?
Tuesday, 5 June 2012
By Paul Jackson
Poker analysts go on about the importance of having a plan when you’re playing a hand (normally in a less than routine spot) and that is a very sound and sensible piece of advice. The biggest leak of many players is not to think logically and to make random decisions whenever it happens to be their turn to act; decisions which have little or no relation to the one they acted on eight seconds earlier.
Sometimes, though, having a plan prevents you reading signs that you might normally spot as you are too busy concentrating on your victim falling into your trap, when in fact you are already standing in his.
I was playing a decent event at DTD and Ben Vinson was moved to my left. Now, I know Ben is a very good and generally very aggressive player, and I knew he was going to make life difficult for me, particularly when it was folded round to me in the small blind. I also knew I would rarely have much of a clue where I was in big hands with him, although on a positive note he was a little short-stacked so I might even get to bully him a bit. With this in mind, I decided I would give him an early “slap” to encourage him to behave.
The first time I was in the small blind to his big blind, I decided that if it was folded round to me I would limp re-raise him, thinking he would raise my limp a large proportion of the time. Sure enough, it was folded round to me and I limped, he raised, I 3-bet and, after a little thought (the dirty nit), he 4-bet shoved with what he told me was A-K. I quickly folded my 5-7 double-suited. That will teach him!
Ben actually said that if he hadn’t had such a strong hand he would likely have folded (because he thinks I am a dirty nit). I tried a similar “I will win the next hand regardless” move in Monte Carlo in 2006 and that worked out about as well.
Talking of quirky hands, I was recently playing £1-£2, six-card PLO cash at Broadway Casino in Birmingham and running quite well. In one hand, a player on the button raises, another moves all-in (for just about a full raise), and I decide to call with a poor-but-gambling type hand. I knew that the initial raiser may well raise again but, while obviously preferring to see a flop, I was prepared to call his 4-bet (which would also put him all-in) if that’s what he decided to do.
A player called after me and then the initial raiser decided to just call. I said to the initial raiser, as the dealer dealt the flop, “You have the best hand and the best position and you deserve to win the pot.”
The flop was no good to me as I had no pair, but I did have a gutshot for the nut-straight. It was checked down to the river, at which point I skilfully hit said nut straight with T-J on a K-9-4-6-Q board (no flushes there). I turned to the initial raiser and said, “As you deserved to win the pot, but I now have the nuts, I am just going to check it to you.” The dealer turned to me and explained that this comment was inappropriate as there was also another player yet to act, which was a good point, well-made. That player now decided to move all-in for all he had left, which was less than a pot bet, the initial raiser folded and I found a good call with the nuts and tabled it (always nice to table your nuts in a live game). The player who bet the river then mucked his hand. I feel he could have played his hand more profitably, but did not like to enlighten him at the time.
Even unlikelier events occur when poker players involve themselves in prop bets, although sometimes you wonder what goes through the mind of some of these individuals. Recently in a posh hotel in Dublin, several English lads each wagered €1,000 on a bet that required them to go down to the hotel lobby wearing nothing but their underpants. The winner was the last to be ejected from the lobby by hotel security. I mean, would you be happy for the individual who conceived that bet to take your daughter out on a date?
The most horrific train crashes are often those players who are credited as “totally fearless” when they’re running good, but it is that very “asset” which can often lead them to crash and burn. This is why so many “great new superstars” disappear so quickly and why my favourite moves are the check-fold and the open-fold.
Two spectacular cases recently involved one individual who finished second in a big online tournament, winning about $100k, and the decided it would be a good idea to play Jungleman heads up, and also some fairly well known PLO player called Philip Galfond. He ran like Dwain Chambers (before he was clean) and turned his $100k into about $750k.
I know this individual and he’s actually a very good player, although his financial success in these games was as a result of playing poker in the most profitable way possible – ie, very, very aggressively (and often badly) and running very well. It’s very easy to get caught up in that and get a feeling of total invincibility that causes you to never want to fold in any spot. And why would you, when the last time you were in that spot you got it in and won – and that was when your opponent had it. He might not this time and, even if he does, you can always get lucky.
So he continued in the same manner and his upswing turned to a downswing and within seven days he had lost virtually all of it. Fortunately for him he is a quality player and will no doubt find himself in a similar situation again, either live or online. I hope when he does, his increased years and experience enable him to treat his newfound fortune with more respect, as only a few are good and lucky enough to ever get there in the first place.
A more morally offensive case involved a known degenerate spinner who was put into a big tournament online by a long-time friend on a 50/50 basis, and managed to chop it, winning about $460k. The rules of the site (sounds like some dodgy Vegas casino rule to me) meant he was unable to withdraw the winnings for about 14 days, and so naturally he was unable to prevent himself from losing not only his own share but also his friend’s share.
My good friend Jeff Burke, who as Badbeat.com’s head of mentoring personally deals with all similar individuals that are sponsored by Badbeat, suggested a more sensible idea. Rather than just waiting for two weeks to get your share sent, it would have been better to drive down to the lad’s house and put him in the boot of your car, thus denying him the use of a computer until the two weeks were up. I’d imagine that, in hindsight, the degenerate spinner might also have preferred that option and he may have even had the pleasure of admiring the Welsh Valleys through the crack of the boot.
So, all in all, be careful what you wish for and try to keep your brain engaged, even if your recent results might be encouraging you to do something less sensible than your brain might be thinking. And if you are male, also try to remember that your big head generally knows better than your little one.