Like a no look pass in basketball or a look away throw in football, poker plays are all about doing the opposite of what is expected and making their adversary miss. Because the odds of having the best possible hand, called the nuts, are so low, the door is left wide open to create a believable story whether true or false, leading you to victory.
This concept doesn’t only apply to bluffing. When you have a strong hand and want to be called, the tail of having nothing must be also be believable. Be reminded, however, that if you are caught in a lie or lose credibility, then you’ll find yourself giving away valuable chips when it wasn’t necessary. The Poker Model parameters are built to ensure that this never happens. In today’s hand, we’ll look at a calculated attack that tells a believable story, but is unsuccessful.
I’m under the gun +1 (UTG+1) holding Ad-5c with 86 big blinds, a large stack. The blinds are $30/$60 and all other players have large stacks as well. If Player 165 from under the gun (UTG) raises, then I will fold. Ad-5c would not qualify as a pre-Flop call behind hand with the raise in front. In order call Player 165’s raise I’d need pocket pairs 22-QQ or high cards K-J, K-Q, A-10, A-J, or A-Q under The Poker Model’s pre-Flop call behind rules.
Ad-5c will qualify as a raising hand if Player 165 calls for $60 or folds. The qualifying range with these scenarios are any pocket pair, any ace, any two cards over 7, suited connectors over 4-5, and suited one-offs over 6-8 under The Poker Model’s pre-Flop raising rules.
Player 165 folds, allowing me to make a min-raise (2x the Big Blind) to $120. This raise makes it more difficult for other players to stay in the hand unless they have something playable. For example, if I had just called for $60, then Player 36 may also call for $60 with a hands like 8-5, J-7, 10-6, ect. With the min-raise to $120, however, it’s more likely that Player 36 will fold those hands, leaving me with less players to beat. This is creating isolation and shifting the odds in my favor. What story am I telling to the table? I could have a big or mediocre hand, but I probably don’t have a bad hand.
All players fold to Player 77, who calls from the Button. Both the Small and Big Blinds fold as well. The min-raise to $120 was successful in that isolation has been created. While it doesn’t guarantee I’ll win the Pot by any means, our percentage to win has just skyrocketed. We have one player to beat instead of eight at this point. If I’m telling the story that I could have a big or mediocre hand, but I probably don’t have a bad hand, then we can assume that Player 77 might have around the same. Why would he want to call with a hand like 7-2, knowing that it’s already behind? Please remember, however, that players will do anything with any two cards at anytime, just because they were feeling it.
The Flop comes 10c-4s-Jh and the action is on me. Under The Poker Model’s post-Flop rules, we have a bad hand. This rule states that a Flop where we have 3rd pair or worse (assuming both participants have large stacks) is considered bad. On a bad Flop after our initial pre-Flop raise, we should make a continuation bet in order to win the Pot right now.
I make a medium-sized bet of $165 in an effort to win the Pot right now with my bad hand. This bet is medium-sized because it is within the range of ⅓-⅔ of the Pot of $330. What story am I telling now? I could have a Jack, Straight Draw, 10, Overpair, Set, Two Pair, or just making a continuation bet with nothing.
Player 77 raises to $455 and the action is back on me. First, what story is he telling? I have Two Pair, a Set, a Straight Draw, or I’m aware you are continuation betting and I don’t think that you have anything. My options become simple at this point. I can’t just call because I only have a High Card hand and must improve tremendously to win by the Showdown, so it’s raise or fold.
If I decide to get tricky and make a raise, then I’m standing behind the idea that Player 77 is raising me because he thinks that I’m making a continuation bet with a bad hand. My raise on the $455 would be about 2.5x $455 so about $1,138. I’d still have well above 50 big blinds if I make this play so it is not off of the table. I’d be saying that I have Two Pair, a Set, a Straight Draw, or I believe that you think I made a continuation bet with a bad hand and raised me with a bad hand.
Before we get any deeper into M-Game thinking described above, remember that it’s always easier to fold, even if you may have the best hand. So what if he’s bluffing? If he’s willing to bluff now, then he’ll be will to bluff later when we actually do have a hand.
I decide to take the easy route and fold. While it’s mathematically more likely that Player 77 had nothing, showing patience and looking for a clearer spot will keep your stress level down in the long run.
In today’s hand we told a tail of having a mediocre to big hand pre-Flop, which worked well and isolated the table down to one opponent. After a bad Flop, we chose to make a continuation bet that continued that story by making it appear that we had a number of good hands, even though we had a bad hand. Player 77 was skeptical of our tail and raised our Flop bet, ultimately winning the Pot.
Brush it off. You don’t have to win every hand to win a poker tournament. In fact, you will always lose more hands than you win. The key is leaving your stack in a place where, when you do get a big hand, you can maximize the value and minimize the risk. Can’t win em’ all in basketball, can’t win em’ all in football, and you certainly can’t win ’em all in poker.