Thursday, February 1, 2018

"I Think That's a Tell"

The Saturday before Christmas I headed to Aria to play in the $240 Big Blind Ante tournament.  I documented my initial reaction to that tournament here.  By the way, the big blind ante format is catching on and will likely be coming to a poker room near you soon.  Wynn tried it out for their Signature Weekend just recently, and will be using it for most of the events at their Winter Classic next month.  The Venetian is trying it out in some of their DSE events coming up.  And here in L.A., Matt Savage has been trying it out in some of the events at the current L.A. Poker Classic.  I'm pretty sure it's here to stay.

One thing I don't like about $240 on the weekends at Aria is the starting time, 11AM is just too early for me.  I had to pack a lunch and eat it on the first break, which is a pain.  But after seeing how good the structure of the tournament is, I decided that I could get there closer to Noonish and still get more than enough play.  That way I could eat lunch before getting to the Aria, much better for my meds schedule

So for my return, I arrived fashionably late—around 11:50, so about half-way through the second level. And wouldn't you know it, they had just filled the 30th seat so I was the first alternate.  Having to wait once I got there was making me question my thinking that it would be ok to arrive late.  However, the TD assured me that once they got a few more alternates they'd open another table.  Sure enough, just a few minutes later they opened a fourth table, using the alternates and also taking a player or two from each existing table   I received my first hand with just 4 minutes gone in the third level so it wasn't so bad.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any success in the tourney.  I didn't last very long and there were not a lot of interesting hands to talk about.  I know that doesn't always stop me from talking about them anyway, but this time it will.

I just want to focus on one amusing situation that occurred when I was getting short stacked but still had enough chips to actually play with—I wasn't quite down to fold-or-shove territory but I was in a position where I had no choice but to take a little bit of risk to try to get my stack up to a respectable level.

So on the button I had Ace-6 off and it folded to me. The blinds for this level were 300/600 with a single ante of 400.  I decided it was a good spot to steal so I made it $1500.  Now the small blind was the big stack at the table.  But he hadn't been overly aggressive.  This time he started fumbling with his chips, but before he acted, the big blind, oblivious to the fact that the guy on his right hadn't acted, suddenly pushed out all his chips.  He was a short stack.  His bet was a few times my bet I guess but a fair amount less than I had. 

The dealer spoke up immediately, "No, no, no…he hasn't acted yet," pointing to the small blind.  Then to the small blind, she said, "You didn't see that."

But the small blind knew exactly what that meant.  "If I just call, his bet stands, right?"  I don't believe the dealer answered but it didn't matter.  The small blind said, "I call."

The big blind pushed all his chips back out.  I dunno if the thought occurred to him to try to not shove at that point.  I don't know if he realized how screwed he likely was. But he didn't ask the dealer if he had to go all-in.  He might have at least asked to see if he could get a friendly ruling. Maybe he figured his hand was good enough to shove with no matter what.  But I knew exactly what the small blind's comment meant.

The action was back on me and I said to the small blind, "I think that's a tell."  Everyone at the table laughed.  Now, the small blind probably shoved too many chips for me to have seriously considering calling if it was just heads up.  But the small blind's comment made it crystal clear that he wanted to raise my initial bet, but knowing the guy would be obligated to shove if he just called, just called.  So he had really caught a break with the guy betting out of turn.  There was no way I was messing with the big stack with a lousy Ace-6 knowing if I called the big stack would put me all in.  So after making my joke, I folded.

Of course the small blind called the big blind's shove and showed Ace-King.  The big blind showed Ace-9.  He didn't improve and he was gone.  I assume that if he had been paying attention and waited for the small blind to raise me, he would have folded.  Oh well, that's what you get for not paying attention, right?

I busted out a few hands later.  I had to shove with 8-7 of clubs when I had a chance to open the pot.  Unfortunately the big blind (a big stack) decided to call with pocket 6's.  I whiffed and was done.

One thing I want to mention about this big blind ante format is, you have to be aware of who is overly defending their big blind because they also post a big ante.  Here's what I mean.  It's pretty standard in a tournament to open a pot to ~2.5x the big blind, especially early in the tournament.  Sure you see all kinds of opens but that's more or less what the good players do unless they have good reason to change it up.  I think that's come down in recent years, it was probably 3X a few years back.

The big blind is typically the player who will most likely call a raise like that since he already has an investment in the pot.  So he has to decide if his hand is worth risking an additional 1.5 blinds to make the call.  But, with this format, instead of posting a relatively small ante, he or she actually had to post an ante that was pretty close to the size of the big blind.  With that extra investment, is that BB more likely to defend?  Really, they shouldn't be….they have to come up with the same amount of chips as in the old method to make the call.  But psychologically, will that bigger ante they posted make them more committed to the pot?

It will vary from player to player so you have to pay attention and see if it appears they are defending the big blind too often.

I do enjoy the big blind format, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it more once I cash in one in a tournament using it.


  1. The big blind paying all the antes shouldn't effect the decision to defend your BB. But... in certain cases I could see where it would be taken into consideration. It is interesting to hear this BB/ante consolidation is getting traction in other LV venues!

    1. It's getting traction all over the country. MGM in DC used it, others too. Forgot to mention that the WSOP is using it in some events this year!

      I think it might affect people psychologically even if it's not correct math wise. The single angle is typically the amount of the bb, so that min raise is so close to what they already have invested. I'll have to play it more to see if that is the case.

    2. u meant to type the small blind had ak and the other guy had a9. instead if u reread ur post u will see u typed the small blind had both hands.

    3. Thanks, Tony. I fixed it.