What were You Feeling?

This past few months, my daily blog on my website has begun receiving more hits than usual. This tends to mean that I get more e-mails than usual and messages. I don’t always have time to respond to people but this week I took the time to reply to a guy who sent me a hand that he had played and asked for my advice on what he did wrong if anything.

The hand played out as follows and was in full-ring NL200. He had a stack of $217 and it was folded to him in middle position with the Kc-Qc and he open raised to $7, the button called the $7 (stack size $366), small blind folded and the big blind also called making a $22 pot. The guy didn’t know his opponents and wasn’t using a sniffer.

The flop came Kd-6d-3c and the big blind checked, hero bets $15 and the button calls but the big blind folds, pot is now $52. Turn card is the 7s and our hero bets half pot and makes it $26 and the button calls again. Pot is now $104 and hero has $169 left and the button has him covered.

The river is the Qd and he bets $40 with his top two pair and gets re-raised to $200, the raise is effectively $129 as this is all our hero has left and there is effectively $313 in the pot and he has $129 left so he is getting slightly less than 5/2 on his money. Our hero thought for a while and stuck his money in only to be shown Ad-5d for the nut flush.

I told him that I didn’t think that there was anything necessarily wrong with his play but paying off on the river was wrong as he was clearly beaten. Elaborate bluffs like this don’t tend to be seen in NL200 FR and his two pair was simply never going to win that pot. But I always feel that you simply cannot just say to a player “listen….big pot big hand” or “don’t stick your money in the middle in situations like that”.

I was more interested in what he was actually thinking after his opponent raised the river…..so I asked him. As it turned out, he wasn’t the type of player who over estimated two pair in deep stacked FR situations. He was a bit more sophisticated than that but nobody sticks in $129 for no reason. Did he do it because of the strength of his hand, was it the pot odds, did he crack under time pressure?

As it turned out the real reason wasn’t any of these but that he thought that his opponent was bluffing. I asked him if he had seen this player before and he repeated that he hadn’t so I then asked him why he actually thought this. He couldn’t actually tell me properly by e-mail and I was intrigued so we arranged a telephone conversation which is something that I didn’t normally do.

I wanted to hear his own explanation and the tone in his voice as to why he had called on the river. I already had my suspicions of what I thought was the problem from our e-mails but the phone call confirmed everything. He simply couldn’t give me a good enough reason for why he had called.
I then asked him how many times he called on the river in similar situations, I wanted to know if this was a regular occurrence. What we revealed wasn’t just a major leak in his game but also a personality trait that was affecting his game. We revealed that he simply didn’t trust the bets and raises of other players and refused to believe what the betting was telling him.

This was a classic case of “curiosity killed the cat” and almost a form of paranoia. His effective value bets on the flop, turn and river and offering poor odds to drawing hands like flush draws only works if you deny your opponent the implied odds on the river for his line of play to work. His opponent could only justify taking poor immediate odds if his implied odds filled the gap.

I told our hero that he had a personality trait that was prompting him to do this. Personality traits are not always easy to correct and I advised him to work on that side of his game. If he found that he was still making this error then another solution could be to bet the pot or more than pot on the flop and try to drive draws out of the hand on the flop. This is not the optimal play to make for players who can lay down on the river but it is the optimal play if you have problems paying off.

So all in all, this proved a very interesting conversation. At the end of the day, you cannot stop being yourself when you play poker. The game is just a representation in many ways of your personality. If you are paranoid about people always lying to you or that people are always talking about you behind your back then this form of paranoia could creep into your poker game without you even realising it.

In marginal situations, a players own personality can take charge and is why a player with aggressive tendencies will encounter greater swings to their roll. Hero needs to either train his mind to act differently in those situations (I recommended a couple of good books on Neuro Linguistic Programming) or he needs to side step the problem by betting larger on the flop or before the flop for that matter. But these “solutions” also bring with them other types of risk as they lead to pot commitment problems if you are not careful. But fingers crossed… he might just stop doing it.