All Talk and No Action,
A Two-Part Lesson from 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.
Ask And Ye Shall Receive Part 2
Last srticle I offered an example of a hand where asking the right question - "Why'd you bet so much?" - netted me a sizeable pot.This week, I'll show how a very different question at the same tournament proved equally effective.
Today, I start my table as the chip leader with more than double the average stack.This is a tougher table, with Annie Duke, Bill Gazes, Casey Kastle, and Lee Salem.
An older gentleman at the table is raising and reraising a lot of pots, and generally, playing wildly. Like the Cowboy from a day earlier, he is definitely today's mark. He's got Casey, who's stuck on his right, especially frustrated. The three times Casey brings it in for a raise, the old man reraises, and Casey throws his hand away. This hand, Casey limps in for $1,200. Annie, Lee, and another player all call.I'm pretty sure I have the best hand with A-T, and raise it $5K. I expect to win the pot right there, and am rather unhappy when Casey quickly says "All in" for a total bet of $25K. It's folded back to me, and I am now faced with a decision for half my chips. Here, Casey is representing that he limped in with A-A hoping for a raise behind him so he could reraise all-in. This is a typical slow play in our game. But his play here doesn't make sense. Wouldn't Casey have been more than happy to raise with his A-A, knowing the older gentleman would reraise him? I look at Casey hoping to get a read, but he is frozen like a kid playing statue. I need more information, so I try to get Casey to acknowledge that I'm still in the hand, or at the very least, that he's still alive. I ask if he limped with aces and I still get no reaction. I then say, "Can you beat queen high?" He finally looks up, smirks, and says, "Yeah, I can beat queen high. "Now, some people in poker like to lie about their hands. Here, it felt like Casey was happy to be able to tell the truth in response to what is, admittedly, a pretty silly question. After all, if I can't beat queen high, why am I even thinking of calling? Now I feel certain that Casey is holding K-T, K-J, or K-Q suited. I have him. "I'm not buying it," I say as I push in my chips. "Good call," he says and turns over K-T of diamonds. I proudly showed my A-T and it holds up, winning me the $50K pot. Sometimes a simple question can return a very profitable answer. Remember though , information flows two ways at the tables, so be sure that you're getting more information than you're giving.