Time: Late afternoon in the side action during the Foxwoods Poker Classic, a WPT championship event.
Scene: A young Asian kid, very neatly groomed, with dark glasses and in-ear headphones sits down at my $1/$2 No-limit table. (IPODs are allowed in cash games at Foxwoods, but only for the duration of a tournament--one of the many goofy Foxwoods rules.) He is engaged in an intense discussion with the floorman over just how many chips he can start with. The maximum buy-in at $1/$2 is $100, but this player has been moved from a broken game and wants to bring all or part of the hefty stack he has built up at the other table. But since this is Foxwoods, there is not much clarity. First he is told that he can only bring $100 to the table. Then it seems that he has a choice of what amount he can buy-in for. Finally, the shift manager rules that he must, in fact, bring his whole stack.
He sits down and begins unloading what turns out to be about $1200, by far the biggest stack at the table. One player has built his buy-in up to about $800, another has about $400. The rest of us pose no threat to the Asian kid’s (let’s call him AK) stack. The player with $800 is an erratic raiser (henceforth to be known as ER). He’s been doing a lot of raising preflop and showing all kinds of strange hands. I know the range of playable hands in NL is different from those in limit poker, but seriously, what’s the point of raising with J-3 offsuit, given the tiny blinds? My sense is that he ultimately wants to give away all his chips, and I have a funny feeling they are all going to go to AK.
A few hands go by, no action from AK. Then a situation develops. AK limps into a pot, ER raises to $15, gets called by the blinds and AK. The flop comes 9-8-4, mixed suits. The blinds check. AK checks. ER checks (unusual for him, but it did happen). The turn brings another 4. Everyone again checks to ER, who makes it $75 to go. Small blind folds, big blind calls. AK calls. There is now $285 in the pot. The river brings a 6. The big blind, who has about $300, checks. There is a pregnant pause, after which AK says, “I’m all-in.”
ER starts grumbling about how he knew he’d get into trouble here, he should’ve bet more on the turn, etc. etc. This goes on for several minutes. During this time, AK sits as still as a stone, behind his dark glasses and with his headphones snugly in his ears. He doesn’t move a muscle. After about 5 minutes, some of the other players begin discussing whether they should ask for a clock on ER. At this point, AK rouses himself only to say, “Yeah, can we get a clock?”
In response, ER instantly says, “I call.”
The big blind immediately folds.
Now, let’s analyze what AK could be holding. In descending order of hand values, among the possibilities are quad fours, nines full of fours, eights full of fours, sixes full of fours, fours full of nines, eights, or sixes, three fours, and a straight. Remember, the board reads 9-8-4-4-6. When ER calls the all-in, we would expect him to have a fairly strong hand, especially as there is the wild-card factor of the big blind, who has yet to act. But, after all, this is a story about a horrible call.
AK, it turns out, has the lowest hand I put him on: he holds 7-10 for the straight. But before he even has a chance to show it, ER shows his hand.
It is J-9 offsuit. Also known as top pair, weak kicker.
Why am I calling this “the worst call of all time?” Well, it might be more accurate to say that it was one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen, in eight years of playing poker. Either way, it was a terrible call for several reasons. ER fell for a “reverse tell,” assuming that when AK called for a clock, that meant he was weak and ER’s call was warranted. But there is no logic in assuming that AK is running a bluff at this point. Why would a player with $1200 in chips risk almost two-thirds of his stack on a bluff on the river at a $285 pot, with two players left to act, with a board like that, against the only player who could damage his stack (remember, ER had about $800 in front of him when the hand started)?
The only logic here is that ER, who himself had made some ridiculous bluffs, fell into the trap of mistakenly assuming his opponent was making a ridiculous bluff too.
If there is a moral to this story, it is twofold: 1. Beware someone who asks for a clock during a hand. Yes, this is sometimes a sign of weakness, but in some situations, the exact opposite holds true. 2. Think logically, and be careful not to attribute your personal style of play to other players. Even if you would bluff into a small pot with a large stack, your opponents do not necessarily do the same thing.