Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Think I Got Into His Head

This past Saturday I drove down to The Bike in Bell Gardens, America (oops, that’s Coach’s bit—It’s actually Bell Gardens, CA) to play my first poker session of the new year.  Once again, I bought in for $300 (the max) at their $2/$3 game.

Early in the session, while I was enjoying my free lunch, I looked around and was rather surprised to see my ol’ pal Poker Genius walking around another section of the poker room.  This is the first time I’d ever seen him in L.A., but I do recall reading that he has been spotted at the L.A. poker rooms before.  I figured out quickly that he was likely there because the WSOP is having their circuit events there presently.  There was a $1675 ring event starting that day, plus satellites into the main event.  My guess is that PG was looking for someone to stake him into a satellite, or the bigger event.
He was quite a distance from me and looking in the other direction.  My actual thought was that, if he saw me, he’d probably ask me to stake him!  He soon disappeared from where I saw him and I never noticed him again.  I suppose it was likely that he found a sucker benefactor and was playing in the tournament area, which is in a separate area form the cash game area I was playing in.
Things started slow for me and I wasn’t getting any cards.  However, I do want to point out, for the benefit of Grange95  that I did indeed win a hand with pocket Kings very early in the session (see his comment here for the explanation of why I bring this up).  I had them in middle position.  Two people limped first, I bet $20, and no one called.  So see, Mr. Grange, I can win a pot with pocket Kings!
I was losing close to $!00 after a couple of hours.  I just couldn’t find a place to do anything, and when I got promising cards, the promise seemed to always be broken.  Then a guy who looked familiar sat down next to me, and after a few hands got a seat change to the seat 1 directly next to the dealer.  I was in seat 5.  And I was racking my brains trying to remember this guy.
I was sure I’d played with him at the Bike.  Then it started coming back to me.  He was a very aggressive, very loose player.  Raised a lot preflop.  Made a good deal of bluffs that I knew about, and probably a lot more I didn’t see.  Showed his cards when he bluffed and he didn’t have to sometimes, but would also show a good hand when he didn’t have to as well.  A tricky player to deal with.  He was probably in the same general age range as me, and somewhat distinguished looking. 
Now, my memory isn’t what it used to be. I wasn’t sure if I had mentioned him on the blog or not.  But in getting ready to write this post, I found I had indeed mentioned him, in this post here.  If you read that post, he’s the guy who I called “bluffing guy” there (which, sorry to confuse you, has nothing to do with the bluff of the title).  Since that was a couple of months back, and a lot has happened since then, and I only played with him that one afternoon, and since he wasn’t some hot chick with large breasts, I could have easily not remembered anything about him.
But I remembered this guy, and I knew he was going to be raising light and that he was going to try to bluff.  I was determined to use this knowledge of him to my advantage if I possibly could. Now, of course, I would have figured that out again after playing with him a bit.  But the hand I’m about to describe happened before he had really had a chance to exhibit any of the tendencies I remembered.  He hadn’t been at the table very long, and I had just finished going over my mental file on him.
In middle position, I had Ace-Queen off.  There had been one limper so I made it $15.  Two callers, including this guy, who, I’m calling to call “BG” for bluffing guy, as I named in the previous post.  He was either the small or big blind, which is why he didn’t raise first.  OK, maybe not the reason, as he did limp into pots occasionally.  In fact, a few hands before, he had limped in with 2-3 off and flopped a wheel, and taken a nice pot from a guy with two pair who couldn’t believe he played 2-3 in early position.
The flop was Queen 9 - 7, two diamonds, one heart.  It was checked to me and I bet $50.  The other guy folded but BG called, fairly quickly.
The turn was the 4 of hearts.  He checked again, and as I was considering my action, I suddenly flashed back to the now famous hand I got into with Grump.  What if he checked raised me there?  And did I really want the pot to get too big with only top pair?  So I decided to risk giving him a free card and I checked behind him.
Now I knew for sure that he would bet the river, whether it was a bluff or if he had the goods.  I had shown weakness on the turn and he would want to take advantage.
The river was the 3 of hearts.  True, there were now three hearts on the board, but I felt if he had a flush draw, diamonds was a lot more likely, since it had been runner-runner hearts.  Of course, he could have had 5-6 for the straight, I couldn’t rule that out.  Hell, I couldn’t rule out that he had 3-4 and had gone runner runner two pair.
But if my memory was correct, I knew there was an excellent chance that any bet there was going to be a bluff.
So indeed, he bet out, putting a nice neat stack of $100 in front of him.  I really didn’t take too long.  As soon as I realized he was going to bet, I knew I was going to call.  I just thought it was well over 50/50 that he was bluffing.
I put out my stack of $100, which would have left me with less than $100 left if lost, and he said, “good call.”  But he didn’t muck so I had to show my hand.*** (see addendum below)  When he saw what I had, he said “good hand” and mucked, so I don’t know what he had. 
I could tell by his body language though, he didn’t think it was a good call.  I swear, I was sure he was thinking how could I call there with only top pair, top kicker?.   He hadn’t shown a bluff yet on that day, how did I know?  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I swear that’s what I was sensing.  And part of me wanted to “brag” to him that I knew he was bluffing because of the previous time we’d played together, which I remembered and he had not, though of course, I never would do that.
He clearly didn’t remember me.  As the day wore on, and he saw how tight I was playing, I think he became even more surprised at my call there.  Meanwhile, he started demonstrating the exact game that I remembered, lots of preflop raises (usually $15, though sometimes $20) and lots of showing his bluffs as well as his strong hands.   And after some early losses, he re-bought and started building up his stack again. 
And then I noticed one hand he played against another player.  The other player had made a good size preflop raise, and BG three bet, 3x the guy’s bet.  The other didn’t have much more than the amount of the raise, so he shoved and BG called.  The other guy had a pocket pair, 10’s I think, and BG had AK off and hit his Ace to take the pot.
I guess I wasn’t surprised that he three-bet with AK, but it caught my attention.  To me, in a cash game, that’s not really a good play.  But it depends on your opponent, doesn’t it?  I guess it was ok there because the guy didn’t have a huge stack, but I saw him do it again against someone with a stack almost as big as his—who was a much tighter player than he was.
So I recalled that hand when I was dealt AK offsuit in middle position.  Under the gun, BG raised to $20.  It folded to me.  As you can infer from the previous paragraph, re-raising there isn’t something I’d normally do.  In fact, I doubt I’d ever three-bet AK in a cash game before.  But again, I knew my opponent.  I knew his raising range there was pretty close to any two cards. There was a guy two seats away from me that was playing a lot tighter than I was, if you can believe it.  I wouldn’t have 3- bet him with anything less than KK.  In fact, a little earlier, when that guy had raised preflop, and it folded around to BG, as he went to look at his hand, he said, “I’m not calling with anything but Aces or Kings.”
Anyway, I figured I’d raise it so everyone else would get out, and if he did call, it would just be heads up.  So I made it $60.  If folded to him and he thought for quite a while, and then folded….face up.  He had pocket 6’s.  I didn’t show, and he gave me a very inquisitive look, sort of expecting me to reveal my cards.  Truth be told, he had shown a lot of his hands that he didn’t have to, including that one.  I kind of liked the idea of keeping the information flowing, and also, I kind of liked the guy.  I did admire his game.  So, I mouthed to him “Ace King.”
I know I had surprised him again.  By this point, having played with me for several hours, I think he would have been his house that I’d only 3-bet with Aces, Kings, and maybe, maybe, on my loosest day, Queens.  Heh heh.  He was again rather disturbed.  He said something like, “I guess 55-45 isn’t good enough against you.”  He was upset that he put me on a better hand, and upset that he hadn’t called when he was ahead.  He only folded because he thought he had a two-outer. 
I started to think I had gotten into his head.  On a hand he was in with another player, that I had absolutely nothing to do with, he made a laydown against a big raise, and said something to the effect that “he would have called.”  The “he” he was referring to was yours truly, he was looking right at me when he said it.
I wasn’t sure how to use this information—that I was in his head—but I knew I had to tread carefully.  No sense getting too cocky and giving him back his money.
I came real close to make a move against him one other time.  He made a small raise in a hand I’d already limped into with pocket 5’s.  There were some other callers between us.  The flop was Queen high and missed me completely.  I checked and he made a bet of about half the pot.
I thought it over.  I knew there was an excellent chance the flopped had missed him.  There was a decent chance my fives were good.  There was also a chance a check-raise there would cause him to fold.  OTOH, since I told him I only had AK on that other hand, he might now be more inclined to give me credit for making a move, and be willing to call me on it.
I decided to play it safe and fold.  And I was somewhat surprised when he said to me, “I would have folded to a big bet.”  I instantly responded with the truth, “I was thinking about it.”
But I wondered why he said that.  Surely, he was trying to set me up.  I think he was trying to get me to make that move against him the next time with a weak hand and he’d re-pop it, whether he had a hand or not.  Or maybe I’m thinking a little too much?
Anyway, the opportunity never present itself.  After five hours, I’d had enough and took off.  Most of the money I made from BG I had distributed in small pieces to other players, so it wasn’t a particularly profitable session.  But I took solace from having won some money with some good reads on a certain player, knowing that doing this more often and more reliably will be a key to improving my game.

***-Addendum (1/16/13):

As Neo & Mojo commented below, I misspoke, or misstyped.  I did not have to show my hand.  I could have--and should have--insisted he show his hand first, since I had called.  I think I was basically just so delighted that my read was right--and also that I had won the hand--that I didn't bother to stick up for my right to demand he show first.  Really, I was too busy doing my little happy dance in my head to do it.

While that was a bad play, I have to say, I think it worked to my advantage to show that hand (I might have had to anyway, if I had forced him to show, he probably would have), as I described in this post, I think that seeing I had called with such a (relatively) weak hand really distracted him, or as I titled the post, got into his head.  You could say I gave away free information to the other players I suppose, but I think it was minimal damage.  But yes, that was a bad play on my part.

And thanks to my readers for pointing this out!


  1. You are bosom obsessed! But that is why we love you and your posts. Glad you successfully avoided Poker Genius.

    1. Bosom obsessed? Moi? That's absurd.

      Glad you noticed that throw-away gag.

  2. Why didn't you make him show his cards when you called with AQ? If he's gonna say nice call and not show, I either make him muck or show. I paid to make the call, I am entitled to know what he had unless he just gives up and mucks them. If he wants to see what I have he has to table his cards as far as I'm concerned.

    1. Thanks Neo, you're right, I should have made him show, I called. The truth is tho, that, based on my experience with him before, I wasn't all that interested in him showing me his bluff. When he said "good call" and I realized my read was right, I was too proud of myself to demand it. As it turned out, I think it was to my advantage that I had to show my hand because it really messed with his head that I called with only top pair there.

  3. You can use "America" Rob - Heaven knows that your posts aren't long enough... ;)

    1. I agree with the last part, as do all my readers. Not sure what that has to do with using "America." But thanks.

  4. Good blog Rob and good info on BG!

    Way to use it to your advantage.

    1. Thanks, grrouch. Yeah, was glad I remembered the dope on this guy in time for me to use it.

  5. But he didn’t muck so I had to show my hand.

    I see Neophyte beat me to it, but NO, you don't have to show your hand. If you had the nuts or near-nuts, then go ahead and turn them over. Most likely he will muck, then you can claim the pot WITHOUT SHOW YOURS. You gave him free information, a cardinal sin.

    1. Ok, MOJO, you, and Neo, are right. Please note that I've added an addendum to the post that is basically a response to your comment.


  6. While you are certainly entitled to forcing him to either show or muck, it is generally considered (IMO) to be a dick move. He's relinquished the hand to you and waived the white flag... simply show the winning hand and move on. If the information can be particularly helpful then by all means wait for him to show or muck... but I definitely would not consider this scenario a mistake on your part "giving away free information."

    Thanks for the great read, as always, and looking forward to more!


    1. Thanks, Cory, and thanks for the contrarian view.

      Yeah, in this case, he had confirmed two important bits of information...1) he was bluffing and therefore 2) he was exactly the player I thought he was, my memory of him was dead on. I didn't need to see the exact bluff he made.

      To the extent other people were paying attention, the free information I gave them probably helped me more than hurt me. And it sorta put BG on tilt, so it was a good move, even if I didn't plan it that way.

      Of course, I've seen hands where a guy says "good call", the other guy shows his (presumably) winning hand, and then the guy who says "good call" says, "That's all you had, wow, I thought it you had at least XXXXX" and turns over his hand, which is weak but stronger than the guy who called!