Learning From the Pros: Your bet as a tell

by Greg Cavouras

If you are to be successful at any game above minimum limits, learning your opponent and responding to their style of play is going to be critical. Having said that, there comes a point where reason has to take over, and you need to be aware of the situation as a whole, not just the expected play of your opponent. As we all know, Poker is a dynamic situation above all, and how you respond to that dynamic environment will determine how well you do. To illustrate this, Iíd like to refer to a hand from the recent Poker Superstars Invitational.

The table is loaded with 8 of the best players in the world, and Denmarkís Gus Hansen is the chip leader. His aggressive play has fared well so far, and his rivals are struggling to read him, when we see a rare poor play by the veteran Chip Reese:

Chip holds 5D 5H and makes a small pre-flop raise, the table folds around until the action reaches chip leader Hansen, who calls with a KC 7S. The flop comes down 10C JD QC, a devastating hand for Chipís pocket 5s. Chip checks, and so does Gus, who know has an-open ended straight draw. The turn comes 6C; this is again checked around, but now Gus holds a flush draw as well, and Chip is facing 4 overcards. The flop hits a KD, giving Gus one of his multitude of outs, and resulting in a pair of Kings.

Gus senses weakness in his opponent Reese, and makes a $25,000 bet. Up until this point Chip has played this hand reasonably well, but he makes a terrible call here. He calls Gusí $25,000 with an under pair, and is burned by Gusís kings.

Why is this such a bad call? Chip is betting on Gusís reputation as a wild card who will play anything; for Gus to make a $25k bet, thatís a pretty serious bluff for absolutely nothing, especially against Chipís pre-flop raise, which indicates some strength. I suspect Chip made this call out of frustration, as Gus had taken a good pot of Chip two hands prior with an aggressive re-raise. So through a combination of disrespect for Gusís sometimes erratic play, and a personal tilt, Chip gave away $25,000 totally unnecessarily. He is clearly frustrated by the earlier play, and the lack of value he got out of his 5s. By contrast, Gus played a marginal hand, didnít pay much to get to the river, and ended up flopping top pair. The lesson here is to maintain your objectivity and not let a playerís reputation proceed him; gather your own data. Chip, being an experienced professional, should have walked away from his 5s with 5 overcards, a straight draw, and a flush draw on the table, and Gus Hansen was the benefactor of his lack of restraint.

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