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Poker News | World Poker News

You Gotta Believe, or The Unintentional Semi-Bluff

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The Scene: Bellagio Poker Room, $2/$5 No-limit holdem. Our heroine - moi - has been in the game for a couple of hours, playing tight due to a dearth of starting hands, and has recently moved to a different seat, away from two older men who are rocklike in their play.
Preflop Action: A player limps in early position, I limp in middle position with {A-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}, player next to me calls, and the button calls as well. Then the small blind, one of the two players I had classified as rocks, makes it $25 to go. Big blind (the other rock) folds, early limper calls, I call, and the player next to me flips his cards over by mistake as he folds, revealing {6-Spades}{2-Spades}. He grabs them and turns them facedown again before the others can see, but I have seen them so I tell the dealer, who retrieves them to show to the others, but not before the button also calls the raise (the button was in the 1s so his view of the 10s was blocked).

And away we go to the flop, with a pot of $110.

The flop brings a 10-6-2, with two diamonds. I am thrilled with my top pair, nut flush draw on this board. But the tight preflop raiser bets out from the SB position, $75. The BB folds, and the next player raises all-in for $165. I have just over $600 in front of me and I announce that I'm going to reraise. After putting in the amount of the raiser's all in, I think for about 30 seconds and announce that I, too, am all-in. I figure if I double the other player's all-in, reraising to $340, I will only have about $300 left to bet on the turn, so I might as well push. More importantly, I am sure I have the best hand, and I'm not sure I want any callers. I am not great at playing multi-way pots, and by going all-in, I don't have to worry about what to do if I fail to improve on the turn. What if an offsuit King comes and the SB has AK? (As for just calling the other player's all-in, I didn't think it was an option with this hand. In that case, I may face a big bet on the turn from either the SB or the button, and possibly have to decide whether to call with the flush draw for all my chips. Or, if I hit my flush on the turn, the tight SB won't call my bet.)

To my surprise, both the button and the SB fold. The button gives it a lot of thought before folding with a sigh, and the SB, having had time to think while the button was thinking, pauses for just a few seconds before also mucking his hand.

Now, this is Bellagio, where there is a rule in the $2/$5 NL games that if it is heads-up with one player all-in both players must show their hands, as in a tournament. The early limper turns over KQ of diamonds. I turn over my Ad10d and the button erupts, saying he folded the top two pair (what??). He seems astonished that I don't have a set. The SB grumbles genially that he had an overpair (I'm not sure what he said, but it was either Aces or Kings). He thought he was beat, too.

The flush doesn't materialize, but the board doesn't help my opponent's KQ, and I am happy to take down a nice pot.

I'm astonished that I got both the button and the initial raiser to fold their hands. I spend some time mentally reviewing the play of the hand, to see what I can learn from it. Obviously, they both thought I was a lot stronger than I actually was at the point of my all-in. The tight player with the overpair, I can see him giving me too much credit for my hand, because he really had demonstrated that he was a rock, hadn't given much action all evening, and may have assumed I was a rock, too, because I had been involved in very few hands before this one. Players often assume their opponents share their tendencies. With another player all-in, his fold wasn't a great fold, but I don't think it was a terrible fold, either. He simply thought he was beat - and he hadn't paid attention when the clumsy player's mucked {6-Spades}{2-Spades} was revealed. Luckily for me, he also didn't know that the button was holding 10-6 offsuit.

I had a lot more trouble understanding the button's thought-process. He said that if he'd seen the folded 6-2 in time, he wouldn't have called the raise. But having called it, and then seeing the flop come down 10-6-2, how could he have folded top two pair? It just didn't make sense, unless he put me on a set. But the likelihood of my having a set was pretty small, given that he held the top two and knew that another six and deuce had been mucked. I thought about this a lot. I think what it came down to was that, when I went all-in, I was so sure that I had the best hand, so confident, that I gave off a "tell" of unbeatable strength. I just did not realize that what I was actually doing on the flop was semi-bluffing on a draw, with the third best hand. When I decided to go all-in I wasn't even thinking about what the button was holding, being more concerned about what the SB would do later in the hand.

In retrospect, this situation has happened before. Once upon a time, in a $15/$30 limit game (back when I played mostly limit), I remember check-raising with an overpair (pocket queens) on the flop and causing a lot of serious thought from the bettor, who later told me he thought I had a set when I did that. Of course, he said this as he was stacking the pot - he had held pocket Aces, and this was limit, so he called even though he put me on the set. In the future, I will have to be careful not to give off this "strong hand" tell when I actually have a lock (though with top pair/top kicker, and the nut flush draw, I liked my hand at the Bellagio). Come to think of it, though, I often have a lock when they call me anyway. It must be because I babble so much at the table.

Much of the time in no-limit, however, I am simply scared out of my mind, when I have a good hand on the flop, that someone will call and outdraw me. This fear seems to have worked to my advantage a lot of the time.

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