Friday, March 31, 2006


Keep 'Em Guessing

There's something I have wanted to talk about for a few days, but while flicking through Fox he expressed it so well I had to share it. He's talking about maintaining a defensive image, that is preventing people from bluffing you :

"Probably the most single important factor associated with improving your defensive image is to never admit turning down a good hand ... Do not ever make an exception to the above rule ... Particularly eschew showing a strong losing hand for emotional reasons. If you have made a great laydown through the use of deduction or card reading, keep it to yourself"

The two recent instances of this I have come across were not, in fact, great laydowns. IMO they were appalling laydowns, and while that's a matter of opinion, I'm sure no one could argue they are "great". First up in the £1500 at the Vic, now I don't normally trawl through forums tracking these but a friend was still in and I was funking for him. According to the report, in a heads up blind v blind pot, someone called a chunk on the turn with two pair (three flush on board), then folded when the river came blank, getting at least 3-1 on the final call. There was plenty of comment on the pass but no one asked why the hell did he show it ?

Maybe it was a case of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours". If so, careful what you wish for - his opponent gleefully showed him a complete bluff [1]. The guy must have felt like crying and going home. Frankly he might as well have done, seeing as he had just painted a big target on his own head for what little remained of his tournament.

The second case you can see here, Ben Grundy's Monte Carlo report [2]. It's well worth reading the whole thing just to pick up an appreciation of the steal/resteal dynamic in these events, but the bit I'm referencing here is Tony Chessa (apparently) putting in 20K with AK and then folding for 30 more all in. Again I think this is a terrible pass, but the worst thing is, why show everyone ? Contrary to popular opinion, big laydowns are not the ticket for big tournaments. If you must, just muck your hand and either say you were bluffing or say nothing at all. As Fox also says, "If your opponents observe that in certain circumstances you will turn down a strong hand, they will start attempting to bluff you. Never doubt it. They will !"

It's like the anecdote in Kill Phil about the two poker players in the jungle (or the veldt or something, whatever) who realise they are being tracked by a hungry lion. One of them takes his running shoes out of his pack and starts putting them on. "What difference does it make," says the other, "you can't outrun a lion". "I don't have to," he replies, "I only have to outrun you". If you're playing these bigger tournaments, there are plenty of good and/or aggressive opponents who are always on the lookout for an easy mark. Showing a big laydown is the very best way of saying "Pick on me ! Me ! Over here !!".

Finally, as Fox also points out, it is different if you want them to bluff - but while I think there is a lot of scope for trapping the over-aggressive in these events, I'm pretty sure that wasn't what either player was thinking when he showed his hand. God knows what they were thinking, but that probably wasn't it.

[1] Showing a bluff is slightly different, in a case like this it can affect your opponent, but there are still far too many fools on the Internet who think "look at me I know how to bluff" is a good enough reason for giving away free info.

[2] On reading this, and a previous report or two, I think Ben's a better player than I have given him credit for in the past. He's certainly a step or two ahead of most of them. And he doesn't make a lot of "big laydowns".

It might be considered a sad state of affairs, but I would wager a pound to a pound that when you wrote that Fox expressed it so well, a considerable majority of your readers would have thought of Russell rather than John.

I think that this is one of Fox's most valuable points. I tend to add in a note in the chat box along the lines of "I would have called you if I had anything at all. I always call". Even better is if you make a thin value call and it wins. Then the line "I always call" in the chat box looks utterly true.

People make what they call "great laydowns" because they are shit-scared of going out of the tournament, probably because the rent is due. They then (because subconsciously they know that they are acting like yellow cunts) attempt to turn it into a "strong play". "Takes a lot of guts to lay down that hand", Jesse May might mutter. Bollox.

The two protagonists in the hand you describe were on my immediate right in the hand you describe..

It was one of the most amazing hands I've seen at a major tournament.

The flop was 236 with two spades. The German, who went on to finish second checked and the young guy bet 35k. (blinds were 8-16 I believe). German calls. Turn was Ks. (Giving the young guy kings and sixes) Now Heitmann bet 80k. When the young guy called, leaving himself with approx another 80k it was obvious to the whole table he had a made hand and wanted Heitmann to bluff again on the river.

The river was a blank and Heitmann bet 100k. Perhaps because it looked so obvious that he was pot committed he thought it was obvious that Heitmann could bluff in that spot. (Marcel often folds in spots like this... looking as though he cant possibly pass, yet passing anyway)

Colclough said something along the lines of "That (Heitmann's bet) was the most amazing bet I've ever seen. I certainly couldn't have made it"

But to me, it smacked of desperation. 99% of players wouldn't have folded. I refuse to believe Heitmann is that good that he knew the other guy was the 1% who would fold.

Still, a remarkable hand.

You are wrong about the guy having a target on his head though. After Heitmann showed Tc4c he was so far on tilt that I wouldn't have touched his blinds with a bargepole....
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