Greetings again Red Chippers. My article, and it’s companion video below, are about a tournament hand. No, Red Chip isn’t going to change it’s focus to tournament play. But this hand was very illustrative of how hand reading can be very clear to a pro and completely baffling to reasonably solid “recreational” players. I think it’s interesting enough to feature it here.
The hand took place in level three of the Big 50 at the World Series of Poker this year. I was the only serious player at my table at this point, with the rest of the table populated with players who had never played a WSoP event before or who had not ever bagged chips in a multi-day event. This kind of massive event brings in a ton of recreational players who haven’t ever had a training site membership or any serious coaching, so the value is incredible.
I raised from middle position with Ace-King. The button and big blind both called, and we all had deep stacks. The 50k starting stack for this tournament gave us a lot of play during the first half of the day. My raise was to two and a half big blinds, which is pretty standard for me for the early stages of a tournament.
The flop was 8♥6♥6♦. This flop misses me completely, but it usually misses my opponents as well. On a TJ8 board I would usually not make a continuation bet, but this is an excellent board. If my opponents fold a lot, that is great, and if they are calling wide then I am actually betting for value. The button folded, but the big blind called.
The turn was the 6♣, making trips on board, When the big blind checks to me now I am definitely worried about him getting stubborn with a small pair or an eight, so I checked behind. Hopefully I can hit an ace or a king or even win a check-down when he misses an ace-high flush draw.
The river was the Q♥. This river card is very important. This specific river card is what makes the hand so much fun. Because my opponent bet into me. He took the lead away and bet about 75% of the pot.
Most players fold here. Most recreational players, and even many semi-serious players will fold, assuming their opponent has to have something now. The flush came in, the big overcard came, and we could have been beat to begin with. It’s easy to fall into this line of thinking. I call this being “stuck in your chair” and it’s a bad habit. I work hard with my students to get them out of this mindset. When you hear players talk about playing their opponent rather than their own cards, I’m about to show you what I mean.
Start by putting yourself in the big blind’s seat. What could he be betting? Would he bet a flush here? Clearly not. With trips on board, he would be happy to get to showdown with a flush and hope it’s a winner. Would he bet an 8 that was slow playing the flop and turn? Possibly, but usually not. He’s afraid I have an overpair and also afraid of the queen. If he bets an 8, he assumes that I will only call if I can beat him most of the time and he won’t know what to do if I raise.
What about a queen? Does he have a queen? Usually not. What hands would he have that include a queen? If the queen wasn’t the queen of hearts, then we may have a problem, because many of his flush draws that would call the flop could have a queen in them. But the queen of hearts means that he almost never has a queen in his hand unless he was just floating the flop with a hand like KQ, hoping to hit one of his overcards. It’s possible, but reasonably rare. And if he was floating with two overcards, it’s more likely that he now has no pair and is bluffing than that he hit a queen.
What about the elephant in the room? Does he have a 6? While it’s certainly possible, it’s just not very likely. His big blind defense range tends to have big cards in it more often than a 6, and there just aren’t many combos that include a 6 when we can see three of them already on the board. I’m not terribly afraid of quads here. He also exhibited some mild behaviors that made me think he didn’t have quads.
And what about bluffs? How many bluffs does he have in his range? Well, there is always 79 or 57, probably suited. Those are certainly hands he might defend his big blind with in this spot and play this way. There are also the overcards I mentioned earlier. And if he has an ace in his hand, the queen may make him think that we are chopping so he can try to bet me off the hand without much risk. This strange board could bring in all kinds of bluffs.
As we saw in the description of his value betting range, there are very few hands that he will bet here for value, but we have found lots of hands in his bluffing range. So, I called. And he rolled over A4o, hoping for a chop. My king kicker played and I got the whole pot. The entire table was impressed with my call. They thought it was really something. And all I could think about was how much trouble they were in if they thought my call with Ace-King in that spot was a really special play.
Most of them said things like “I would have been afraid of the flush at least” or “Hell of a call, I don’t know how you knew.” As we know, a flush should not even be a concern. Who is going to bet a flush with trips on the board? Not an amateur, that’s for sure. If they were afraid of a flush there, they were definitely stuck in their own seat, unable to see the hand from their opponent’s perspective. Being able to see things like this, the ability to sit in their seat instead of your own for a moment, are what separates the great hand readers from the small stakes grinders who just narrow down a range and hope their guess is good.
Practice putting yourself in your opponent’s seat. It is a skill you must develop, whether you play cash, tournaments, mixed games, or holdem. Seeing the hand through their eyes is how you get to buy things with their money.