Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


The Play of Hands: Some Players are Hard to Read

by Rob Hollink |  Published: Jun 01, 2006


This story takes you to the 2004 World Series of Poker. We are in Binion's Horseshoe, Las Vegas. The 2004 WSOP is coming to an end and the main event is starting in two days. The WSOP has been a great success, and all records have been broken again – well, not all records. The overall interest in live cash games has exhibited a clear downswing this year. We all knew this was going to happen, as nowadays, the variety of games offered on the Internet is so huge. Also, it's very nice to play any game you like without traveling around with lots of cash. All in all, it wouldn't surprise me if this interest in live cash games changes a lot more in the future. Yes, the interest in bigger games might go down, but on the other hand, there will be a lot of new players. So, there could be a lot of low-limit cash-game action in the casinos, I don't know. But as I said, this story takes you to the Horseshoe, so here is a live-poker story, one that never could have happened on the Internet.

Juicy Game at Binion's
It's 8 o'clock in the morning and we are still playing a cash game, pot-limit Omaha with blinds of $25-$50 – not a small game, by any means. The atmosphere at the table is very good. I guess this is for several reasons: first of all because most players did drink a lot of whiskey; second, most players at the table are pretty loose already and are all quite imaginative in the way they play – and this includes me; and then, of course, the WSOP is reaching its final stages, and isn't it so that most of us usually play a little bit different at the end of a trip?

In this particular hand, I am in the small blind and get dealt K-K-4-2, with three hearts and a diamond. The first two players fold, and then we get a caller, two folds, and a call on the button. The guy who called from the button is a sympathetic cowboy who had a good drink, as well. He is a very good pot-limit Omaha player. I pay another $25 and the four of us see the flop, which is 7spade 6club 4spade. There is $200 in the pot. Well, this is not my flop, so I check, and so does everybody else. The turn card is the 8spade, for a board of 7spade 6club 4spade 8spade. Everybody checks again, and the river brings the Adiamond.

OK, that's it, I am thinking. Regardless of what my opponents have, I cannot win by a showdown anymore. But it's checked two times, and nobody looks very interested in this $200 – so if I make a stab at the pot, I might just win it. There is a good chance that someone with trips or two pair won't call if I make a bet here. I decide to bet $150 into the $200 pot. The first two players fold, and now it's up to the cowboy. I have played with this guy many times; he is good, and a very tricky player. I know him as a guy who likes the complicated bluffs, not the easy ones. Now, he thinks for a while, and says, "Raise the pot," and puts $650 in the middle.

Bluff Attempt has Failed. Now What?

Hmm, this is not what I had been hoping for. My bluff attempt has failed, and I don't have many other options than just give it up. But then again, something just doesn't smell right. I look down at the table and start thinking: For him to raise here, I have to give him the ace of spades. But to make a nut-flush bluff this way is just not his style. This ABC type of bluff is far too simple for him to make; it's a bit below his level, if you will. And I am pretty sure that he must know that this raise of his shouldn't scare me all that much, and that I would call him very quickly if I had a small flush. So for me, it is pretty clear that he can't have the bare ace. But, as I said, I have to give him the Aspade, so then he has to have the ace-high flush. But there is only $200 in the middle, and we all have more than $10,000 in front of us. Could he play the nut flush this way, with the money so deep? Could he check the nut-flush draw in position on the flop? Yeah, maybe – but I think he would still bet the flop more often than check it, taking into account these big stacks. But, OK, let's assume he indeed checked this nut-flush draw on the flop. Would it then be possible to believe that he would check it again on the turn, having just completed the flush? Well, I think that's almost impossible. The same is true when he has a straight flush. So, my next conclusion is: He does not have the nut flush or the straight flush. So, what could he have?

With a smaller flush, a straight, trips, or two pair, it would be useless for him to raise me here. In fact, his game is way too good to make this mistake. He would just call or fold with these holdings. So, my conclusion is, he has the A, but he does not have the bare ace, and he also doesn't have the nut flush. Hmm, nice conclusion, buddy. How much whiskey did I drink myself?

Trusting My Read

All in all, I don't give him the bare ace, and I don't give him the nut flush, either. There is no hand left that he could have. So, the only thing I can think of is: He is bluffing me with absolutely nothing. So, I have to call him. I have to call him – with one pair of red kings on a flop of 7-6-4-8-A with three spades. Wow, I have to be out of my mind to even consider that call. But then again, going by my "reads" has never been too bad for me in poker. So, yes – I decide to call him. I pick up five $100 chips and throw them in the middle. I feel the tension all over me. What is going to happen?

Then, just like that, the cowboy looks at me and says the magic words: "Nice call, buddy," and throws away his hand. Wow, what a feeling; I feel great. Then, the dealer shoves the pot to me and one of the other players says: "Hey, Rob, show the bluff; it's good for the game." Show the bluff? What does he mean? Do I have an image that it is normal for me to make any bluff-calls on the river?

Then, on the other hand, I think, "Ah well, why not? At least I made a very brave call, didn't I?." So, I show my hand, K-K-4-2, all red cards. They all start laughing very hard. It looks a bit exaggerated to me. OK, so it's a risky call, but why laugh so hard? Is it that funny? I ask, "Guys, what's so funny about it?" It turns out that while I was thinking about how to handle the cowboy's raise and was looking down at the table, he was all the time flashing (showing to the other players) the ace of spades. And I was probably the only one who didn't see it. So, eventually, I called him with a pair of kings – whereas he was showing a pair of aces already!

Game of Skill?
So, I was the one who won the pot; I was the one who raked in the chips. Concerning my bad read of him not having the bare ace, I think it was probably the alcohol that led him to make this simple bluff, one that was so uncharacteristic of him. Or, maybe … maybe, I just don't have a clue at all.

So, for those of you who are still thinking that poker has anything to do with skill, this must be the ultimate proof that playing like an idiot isn't always so bad in poker. spade

Rob Hollink is the 2005 European Poker Champion, having won the inaugural EPT Grand Final for a €635,000 first prize. He is one of the few players in Europe who excel in both cash games and tournaments, live as well as online. For more poker info, you can visit Rob can be found playing at under his own name.