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If You Can’t Spot the Fish…

by Andrew Brokos |  Published: Aug 12, '12


Last weekend I played at the Aria poker room for the first time. I used to enjoy playing at the Venetian, but for a variety of reasons, not least Sheldon Adelson’s opposition to online poker, I was looking for a new favorite room. Aria seemed to be the place everyone was talking about, so I checked it out.

To be honest, I’m not that picky. Game selection matters far more to me than anything else, but I did enjoy a lot of the little niceties: friendly staff, competent dealers, good food delivery service available, and proximity to the outside world (I like to get some fresh air when I step away from the table for a break). I never waited long to get seated in a 2/5 or 5/10 NLHE game, though I did arrive a bit in advance of what I assume is peak time. There weren’t generally 5/10 games going in the early afternoon, but often one started not long after I added my name to the interest list (coincidence, I’m sure!).

There were a lot of regulars playing there, but though many of them looked and talked as though they were good, I found that most exhibited some pretty flawed thinking if I played with them for long enough. For example, there was one young guy with massive biceps who seemed to know everyone there.

I limped UTG with 99, there was another limper, he made it $50 on the button, the blinds folded, and both limpers called. Flop came A84r, I checked and called a bet of $80, and the other limper folded. We both checked a 4 turn, then I checked again on a Q river. He bet $170. I was probably calling anyway, but his bet came so quickly that I doubted he was going for thin value with a Q, so it was an A or nothing. Nothing about his demeanor suggested strength, so I called. He looked a little annoyed and said, “You got it,” then he really got flustered when I showed my 9s. “Unbelievable,” he said, shaking his head. “You can’t bluff anyone in this game. I can so easily have AK there.”

I work hard to remain unflappable at the table, but it was hard to resist cracking a smile at that last comment and how much ignorance it revealed. Of course the fact that he could have AK there is hardly a reason to fold getting nearly 3:1. More amusing was that I don’t think he would have been so bothered if I’d called him with like A3. I suppose the latter has a blocker to his precious AK, but in both cases I’m only beating a bluff. The fact that he was more concerned about the absolute strength of my hand than about my perception of his range was telling.

The other humorous guy was perhaps the most obvious tourist I’ve ever played against. He couldn’t have fit the stereotype better. From the moment he sidled up to the table, he was trying to look cool and show off his knowledge of live poker protocol, a classic case of “the lady doth protest too much.”

“So what’s the buy-in here, guys?” The dealer told him $200 – $1000. With a flourish, he pulled out a big roll of 100′s but put just $300 on the table. So much for looking cool. “Do I have to post? I can just come in? Is the button allowed to straddle?” Nothing he asked was unreasonable, but something about the way he asked suggested that he cared more about showing off that he (thought he) knew what questions to ask rather than about the answers to those questions.

Did I mention that he had his girlfriend with him? I don’t approve of that (If you’re new here, seriously follow that link. It’s one of my best poker stories). She sat in a chair just behind him but demonstrated no interest whatsoever in the game. She was buried in an iPad the entire time he played.

He dusted off that first $300 quickly, getting all-in on a KJx flop. Another J came on the river, and he frantically inquired of his opponent, “You got the Jack?” His opponent showed KJ, and he made a big show of taking the loss with equanimity. “Oh nice hand sir! Of course I’m going to go broke there. Can’t do anything about that. Nice hand, sir, nice hand.” There was another big show as he took out $300 more and called for chips, as per Caro’s Book of Poker Tells.

My hand against him began with me opened to $15 with 9c 8s in the CO. The tourist called on the button, and the big blind called. I bet $30 on a Kh 9h 2h flop. They both called. There was now $135 in the pot and $220 in the tourist’s stack. The turn was another 9. BB checked, I bet $75, and then the tourist went off on a little act. He sighed, counted out chips for a call, pushed them back and forth a bit as though he just couldn’t decide whether to call or fold, then decided that perhaps he should go all-in. BB folded.

Now it was my turn to sigh. He just gave off literally the oldest tell in the book, but I was getting 3:1 with about a 20% chance of improving to a full house on the river. Even a small risk that I was wrong in my read would be enough to justify a call. I called, and of course he had the nut flush.

In retrospect I hate my call. Not only was this one of the most blatant tells I’ve ever seen, but there’s also at least as much of a chance that he’s holding a made full house as that he’s holding a hand my trips beat. Oh well. At least he only had $300!


Andrew Brokos is a professional poker player, writer, and teacher. He is also an avid hiker and traveler and a passionate advocate for urban public education. You can find dozens of his poker strategy articles at and more information about group seminars and one-on-one coaching at

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


almost 10 years ago

Wow Andrew you are so judgemental aren't ridicule a lot of people, including for their looks when I'm not sure how you have the nerve to say a girl is busted( or a 'guy is a tool' when looking at Your pictures... Maybe you are the guy that didn't ever get the good looking girl and now that you have some $ you feel empowered, though your girl is not anything to brag about and your poker skill is obviously not Winning you major tournaments!!


almost 10 years ago

Believe it or not I try not to be judgmental. Sometimes my opponents make it difficult for me :-)

I'll say a few things about this kind of writing, though:

1. Even when I use the first person, I'm often writing in a persona that's kind of an exaggerated version of some aspect of myself. In other words, I often play up certain things for literary effect, and I probably wouldn't come across in person the way you would think from reading certain of my stories.

2. I often ridicule myself more than anyone else in these stories, even when it doesn't seem that way first. In the story I recount here (not the one I linked, the one I tell in this blog), for example, I'm a bigger fish than either of the other players I mention. Here's another, perhaps more subtle example:

Thanks for the feedback!


over 9 years ago

Ignore queenc76 he is just trolling and doesn't deserve a reply. Great blog as always


over 9 years ago

That is some funny shit man. Really enjoying reading your style of writing and the blog with the chick with pancake tits (lol) is great too. I have just started reading you here and really like your blend of poker analysis, hunour and observation.
Keep it up!

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