Ask And Ye Shall Receive Part 1 by Erick Lindgren
You can learn a lot by listening. You can learn almost as much by talking, if you ask the right questions.
The following occurred at a tournament at Bellagio in 2004.
I draw a very good first table and recognize only two faces. They are solid pros, neither of whom is very aggressive. I know I can take control of the table and quickly look around to find the best targets. I notice an older gentleman in a cowboy hat who’s involved in too many pots and decide he’s my mark. My plan is to bluff him at first opportunity and do anything I can to get under his skin. I want him to view me as a young hot-shot, with the hopes that he’ll bully me later when I have the goods.
I chop away at some small pots and my $20K starting stack is now $43K when Cowboy and I finally get to lock horns. I’ve been raising a lot of hands and splashing my chips around a bit. In this case, the blinds are $200-$400, and I bring it in for $1,200 with pocket jacks. I get three callers, including Cowboy, in the big blind. The flop comes 7h 4c 4h and the small blind checks. It’s Cowboy’s turn, and he pushes all in. He looks proud, firing his $37K into a $5K pot.
I’m completely befuddled. What’s going on? I can’t make any sense of it. There’s a player to act behind me, but he’s only got $3K – he isn’t going to matter at all in this hand. My best bet here is to get Cowboy to talk. "Why’d you bet so much?" I ask. He tells me to call and find out.
I make a list of his possible hands: A-x hearts for the nut flush draw. Pocket eights, maybe. Or a random berzerko bet with a pair of sevens. After a minute or two of deliberation, I call. He flips up T-7c for one pair! He fails to improve and I now have $80K, and am ready to roll.
It’s important to know who your weaker players are. Concentrate on playing against them and finding ways to get them to make a big mistake. You can’t count on the pros to make those mistakes. In this particular case, I knew he was getting tired, and through a few verbal jabs, I was able to make myself his target.
Next week, a similar question with a very different answer yields an equally large profit.