Monday, December 2, 2013

"Will You Show if I Fold?"

As I mentioned in this post, I played at the Binion’s 2PM Deepstack on the Saturday after Halloween for almost 10 hours.  Although I eventually want to tell you the whole story about that tournament, I first want to isolate one particular hand because I think it is revolves around an age old poker question that I haven’t really talked about previously.

What are you supposed to say or do when you make a bet and your opponent, while considering his action, asks you, “Will you show if I fold?”

I would love to get some feedback on how best to handle that question.  Obviously, the situation somewhat dictates the answer, but what is everyone’s default position?

It wasn’t easy for me this time because the player who asked was a real nice guy and we had been quite friendly up until that point.

I had only recently gotten into a good chip position, as the 8th level had been very good to me.  That riveting tale will have to wait.  Either in this level or the previous one, this guy had moved over from a broken table to sit to my immediate left.  He recognized one of the players I had been playing with since the tournament started sitting across the table and had a running conversation with him the entire time he was there.

He didn’t pay much attention to me at first, but then he noticed me looking at a slip of paper I kept pulling out of my shirt pocket and became obsessed with learning what it was I was looking at.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here before, but when I play in a tournament I like to use a “cheat sheet.”  No, it doesn’t tell me the ranking of the hands.  I usually can remember that.

Just to make things easier for me—so I don’t have to calculate and recalculate it all the time during the play—I have made up a cheat sheet of “Tournament M’s” for every tournament I’m likely to play.  I just use an Excel spreadsheet and it’s easy to use the same format and copy the blinds into it for each tournament.  Not only do I have the M calculation I need, but I also have the blinds right there so I can peak to see what the blinds will be for the next level or two.  Just makes it easier for me.  That way I can take notes between hands instead of doing math in my head.

In all the times I’ve had this cheat sheet, this guy was the first person ever to notice it and be curious enough to ask me what I was looking at.  At first I was embarrassed to tell him and I just shrugged or said, “oh, it’s nothing.”  But he wouldn’t let it go.  He was dying to see it.  I think I could have asked him to give me five bucks to see it and he would have.

He even guessed, “Is that to tell you when it’s time to shove?”  Well, kind of.  Finally I told him what it was and showed him my little cheat sheet.  He seemed amused and/or impressed with my handiwork.

Now I had been checking it quite a bit earlier, when he first came to the table because when he first sat next to me, I was indeed pretty much at the point where I very seldom just raise, I shove instead.

But now, after a couple of nice hands, I was up to around $88K, which was actually around an M of 20, so I was in good shape.  The second of the two good hands involved me stacking a short stack when I had the dreaded pocket Kings.  The shorter stack had raised in front of me and I three-bet him; he called.  On a Jack high flop, he shoved the remainder of his chips and I called.  He flipped over Ace-Queen of spades.  He really had nothing, just a back-door flush draw.  It was an odd play.  He might have felt committed there (which meant he probably should have shoved to my three-bet, which I would have called).   He didn’t catch the Ace he needed and I was very happy to get all those chips with a measly pair of Kings.

Sorry I didn’t write down any details, but the reason is that the hand I want to discuss happened just two or three hands later and I didn’t have time.  And wouldn’t you know it, just those two or three hands later, I had pocket Kings again!  I admit, I felt I was pushing my luck trying to win with them twice in a row and considered folding.  Just kidding.  I think.

The blinds were 200/800/1600.  With one limper in front of me, I made it $6k.  My friendly neighbor to my left called.  He had a similar stack to mine, I thought it was probably a little bigger than mine.  No one else called.  The flop was 10-3-3.   I put out $15K and he called.

I didn’t like that.  He had seemed like a reasonably player, certainly no maniac.  It was hard to put him any hand with a 10 in it unless he had two of them.  Pocket 3’s were possible I supposed, but that’s monsters-under-the-bed syndrome.

There was a low card on the turn, a 7 or a 5, and I considered my action.  Almost any bet I made there would commit me.  I didn’t like the idea of checking and giving up control.  I finally decided to just to put it all in, and if he was slowplaying a monster, so be it.  At least I’d have the rest of the day to do something else.  That’s the attitude I have now playing deepstacks.  I’d rather bust out early than play for 7-8 hours and have nothing to show for it.

Well, I knew my Kings were good from his reaction.  He did not snap-call.  He went into to the tank.  It was a very, very deep tank.

He started agonizing over it, verbally.  “My tournament life is at stake here.”

And then he said to me, “Will you show if I fold?”

What am I supposed to say or do there?

I guess the best thing to do is say and do nothing, right?  Not even respond.  Just stare off into the distance with a stone face, right?

Now, I know if he asks the question, my Kings are good.  He’s already snapped called if he had pocket 10’s or any other hand that beats my Kings. 

I know there’s more than one reason for him to ask that question.  Of course, if I say yes, and he folds, he wants to see if he made a good laydown.

But also, he wants to know my answer so he can read me.  If I say “yes”, maybe he calls there because the “yes” could mean that I want him to fold because I was bluffing or semi-bluffing. 

Unless he reads my “yes” as purposely misleading him so he folds.  Unless I read him as assuming I’d say the opposite of what I want and he then calls.

This poker stuff is hard.

You can go thru the same mental gymnastics if I say “no” of course.

All that said, I actually did respond to his question.  I did indeed said “no.” 

I wasn’t trying to induce a call, although by this point, I wouldn’t have minded a call at all, knowing I must have been ahead.  I was being honest.  I had no intention of showing him my hand after unless he called and I had to.

I guess that is what I always say when asked that question, it’s my default answer and it happens to be the truth.  Is saying nothing better?  I think it is, but I would like to hear your thoughts.

Without trying to figure out how many levels we’re both thinking in order to know the best answer there, the other reason is that, I certainly don’t want the other players to see my hand unless I have to show it.  Even if I didn’t mind showing him after he folded, the “show one show all” rule applies, and everyone would see it.  If I can, I want to at least let everyone at the table consider the possibility that I was making a move there with a weak hand, right?

So even if I did calculate the correct answer to induce the action I wanted, I’m not going to show if I can help it.  I suppose if the correct answer is “yes” and, if he folds, I could still not show it, right?  And just say, “I lied.  All poker players are liars, don’t you know?”  Might even put a guy on tilt.  But I’m not that nasty.

So I said “no” and he was quite upset.  He was actually in disbelief.  “No?  You won’t show?”

I shook my head.  I got the impression that, if for no other reason, the fact that we had been so friendly and so chatty made him think that I would gladly show my hand if he folded. We were pals, weren’t we?

So then he said, “Well then, I may just have to call.”  OK, I knew why he said that.  He wanted to see my reaction.  I guess it was ok, because he didn’t insta-muck.  But he did say, “Oh, you’re not worried, huh?”

He must have asked me if I would show at least half a dozen times.  He kept agonizing and picking up his cards and I guess while he was going through his own mental calculations he was trying to get some kind of read on me.

At one point he did ask me, “What, you have Kings again?”

I said nothing of course.  I wanted to say that I couldn’t possible have Kings again since I had them two hands earlier.  But I said nothing.

Finally, he did something I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do before.  He called “time” on himself.

He apologized to the other players at the table and said he was calling time on himself.  The dealer actually called the floor over and set a timer as he did his finally reconnoitering. 

And with a couple of seconds left, he said, “Ok” and mucked his cards.

He immediately asked me, as I was stacking my chips, “It was a good laydown, right?”

Again, I suppose saying nothing there is best.  But whatever I say at that point, without showing my cards, isn’t really giving much away, right?  I could be lying.  And I did kind of feel bad for him.  He seemed genuinely hurt that I wouldn’t show, like I had violated this very brief friendship we had

I just laughed a little and said, “If you didn’t snap-call there, you made a good laydown.”

Then he said he had pocket Jacks.  I just nodded.  “Did you have Aces?”  I just shrugged.  I probably said again that it was a good laydown.  He said something like, “It was hard for me to figure a hand you were betting for value there that I could beat.”

Finally I said, “OK, I had pocket three’s.”

He laughed.  “If you had pocket three’s there, that was the worst play in the history of poker.”

I agreed.  He was still thinking about the hand when he noticed me writing notes in my notebook.  I think he had noticed it before. 

“Oh, now you’re writing notes about the hand huh?”  I think he made a self-deprecating joke, like, “Got a dummy to lay down Jacks.” 

Now ordinarily, I never admit to taking notes about the hands when they see me writing in the notebook.  I usually say that I’m doing my grocery list.  But this time, having already admitted to him that I use the cheat sheet, I thought I’d confess. 

“I am writing notes about the hand. ‘Bluffed a guy with pocket deuces.’”

He laughed, knowing I was kidding.

I think.

I knew at that point. if at all possible, I would tell him I had Kings when one of us busted out.  And also tell him about the blog.

Sure enough, he busted out not that long after that.  No doubt his game was completely thrown off by not knowing if he made a good laydown to a guy with a cheat sheet and a pocket notebook.  As he left and said goodbye to his friend at the other end of the table, I got up and whispered into his ear, “I did have Kings on that hand.  Honest.”

He thanked me and then I did something I rarely do.  I gave him a card with the blog’s URL on it and said, “I do a blog.  That’s why I write down the hands.  It may take awhile, but I’m sure I’ll eventually be writing about that hand.”  He thanked me again and said he would look for it.

Well, my friend with pocket Jacks, here it is.

((Note, for those of you who follow me on Twitter, the story above is clearly not at all related to the tweet I sent out last night that said, "Poker is a stupid game" (except that I repeated the word stupid about a hundred times). No, this story was written a while back, when I could still type the word poker without wincing.  The story that led to me sending last night's tweet will come sometime down the road, if I can ever bring myself to type the word poker again.))


  1. My standard response there is "For only $X (the amount of chips he has left) I'll show 'em". You know you have him beat in this case...and I think sometimes that will induce a call.

    Now if I am not sure I have him beat, I will just look down at the felt and say nothing...just do the stoic thing...hoping he mucks.

    1. Thanks, bill. I think I would have been more closed-mouth if I wasn't having such a nice chat with him until this happened.

  2. My default is just to shrug and say nothing.

    1. Thanks. I recall one guy saying "it's pay per view." That's not a bad line, tho I'm not sure if it gets the right response.

  3. "Pay me 20% of the value of the bet your are facing and I will show if you fold." But whether you say "yes", "no", "maybe", "it depends", or something else, I suggest you reply instantly to the question so it's obvious you've thought about how to answer and are giving a stock answer suitable for any situation whether you want them to fold or not.

    1. Thanks Apollo, the "stock answer" is great advice.

  4. "If you fold, I'll show you a bluff. If you call, I'll show you the nuts."

  5. I don't talk during the hand, EVER, in NL... They always make a big deal about it on t.v. about how the pros are trying to get the guy to talk, searching for info - I try to sit frozen...

    1. I think I've done this in the past, but as I said, I had been friendly with this guy. Guess that shouldn't matter.

    2. I agree with ~Coach. I do not respond and freeze. Of course, sometimes guys have taken so long to decide that it gets hard to remain motionless. In those cases I just turn away from the table.

      I think I once said "Since you do not know me I don't know how my answer would help you decide."

    3. Thanks, Lightning. I wonder how this would work? Just take out your celphone and start playing OFC on it?

  6. I agree with coach. The answer is to say nothing. Why? People want you to speak to see if you are nervous. Maybe you are bluffing and some people are able to get a read off of your voice. I hate this play. I play with the same people in many tournaments. There is always one guy who loves this play. I say nothing until he makes up his mind. I never show pocket AA or KK either. Dwey Tomko who is in the Hall of Fame says never give free information to an opponent. Poker is a game of information so why help someone out. I do not even tell them simply things like I started playing poker in the Commerce Club. Do I sound paranoid??? Good that is one small edge and I'll take every edge I can get. Lets say it is later in this tournament and a K hits the flop. If you got him to lay down pocket JJ once maybe he will do it again with a K and a weak kicker. Why help anyone out when you do not have to.????

    1. Thanks, Ed. Very strict rules, but no doubt effective.

  7. I don't say anything if they ask me if I am going to fold. If they fold I tell them that I don't talk when I am in a hand.

    1. Thanks, Nappy. How about, "I'll show if you call"?

  8. Tell them that you will show them 1 card for a $5 and 2 cards for $15 if they fold.

    1. Thanks, cowboy.

      Of course, in a cash game, that might be too cheap!

  9. “Will you show if I fold?”

    I don't know what to say, so I don't respond.

    1. Thanks, MOJO. I need to find that discipline.

  10. "Will you show if I fold?"

    I always have the exact same response every time someone asks me this: I just smile, and shrug my shoulders - and never say a word.

    The fact is, in poker sometimes you WANT to show and other times you don't. You might want to show a bluff, so that you're called next time when you have a monster.

    At the end of the day, if you want to see my cards - put in your money and call.

    1. Thanks, VegasDWP! I guess the consensus is to say nothing. I hope I can keep mum next time.