Your Call by Paul Jackson

Your Call by Paul Jackson

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

It’s the UKIPT Coventry. Blinds are 100/200. I have a stack of about 20,000. I am in the big blind with J-9 off suit. A player limps under the gun and it is folded round to the small blind, who makes it up, and I check.

The UTG limper has been relatively straightforward in his playing style. He has not played many hands but has played them quite aggressively and has only once been caught bluffing with a continuation bet, which he gave up when called, and other times has had the goods at showdown.

The flop comes AhJs8h. The small blind checks, I check, the limper bets 500 and the small blind folds.

I think I can be in front here but am really only beating a bluff. I look at my opponent and ask him if he really has the ace or if he is on a draw – this is designed to elicit information from his physical response and subsequent betting pattern in relation to what he now thinks I am thinking about his hand.

He looks very uncomfortable which makes me think he definitely does not have the ace – it seems reasonable that he assumes that I do not have an ace either, and so it’s unlikely he would appear so uncomfortable with even a decent jack or a valid draw.

It’s unfortunate that I am out of position with a moderate hand but I feel fairly comfortable that I can make accurate, albeit potentially difficult, decisions on later streets. Although you should avoid creating such situations, in general, I think you need not be too scared of them either.

The turn card is 7h which completes both straight and flush draws. I check and he checks behind.

I didn’t think he had an ace or (good) jack on the flop, and this card is horrible for me, although his check behind may mean he has a straight and is worried about a flush. He could have a flush as well, although most “straightforward” players tend only to check behind in this spot with nut-or almost nut-flushes because, with a relatively low flush, they are often overly worried about another flush card coming on the river. Having said that, I didn’t think he would have looked as uncomfortable as he did on the flop if he had what he believed to be a legitimate draw.

The river is the Jc. Now I bet 600, as a sort of value-bet and stopper-bet combo (although I didn’t think he could have any hand that I should be worried about if my earlier reads in the hand were accurate). He re-raises to 3,000.

I spoke to him again and mentioned various possible hands he might have that were beating me. This time he looked fairly comfortable throughout my interrogation.

Your call…


I was pretty confident in my read of his discomfort on the flop and normally it pays to follow that belief unless you have a very good reason to change your opinion.

It is not that often that an opponent goes from looking very uncomfortable to very comfortable in the same hand. Most players who get lucky with a draw tend to look comfortable semi-bluffing in position before they hit, and those that are uncomfortable because they do not have a hand do not often end up making a hand that makes them feel very comfortable. So what did it mean?

In deciding whether to call, I was not trying to determine what actual hand he had, just what hand he might reasonably have that was beating me or that I could beat. The obvious hands that were beating me included a straight, although with a paired board and also a flushed board, it seemed very unlikely that this player-type would re-raise with a straight.

Maybe he had a flush, but I didn’t think he would look so “guilty” and uncomfortable on the flop with a legitimate draw, and certainly not with a high or nut-flush draw, which seemed to be the most likely draws he would check behind with on the turn.

Then there was a full house - but two-pair or better on the flop did not fit with a guilty look on the flop when betting, or a jack with a bigger kicker – J-T, J-Q, J-K – although even then it seemed more likely that, with such a dangerous board, he would not re-raise like this.

The bottom line of it was that the only sensible hand I could beat was total air and I just did not think this player had sufficient flair to make this river re-raise with total air. In fact, the only hand that made perfect sense was a pair of sevens, for a turned set and rivered full-house.

I folded, showing my jack, and he was kind enough to show his hand and confirm my suspicions.

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