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Pay Attention!

Always Pay Attention

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It’s always wise to pay attention when you play poker. Obviously, you need to pay attention when you are in a hand. But even when you are not in a hand, seemingly innocuous comments made by your opponents or others in the area may turn out to be useful later.

Recently, I played in a $400 buy-in multi-flight tournament at BestBet Jacksonville. Like most events these days, late registration was open for several hours. Around Level 5, a new player sat down at our table.

I’ll call him Damon. I knew nothing about him, but paying attention allowed me to pick up a key piece of information that helped me in what turned into a very important hand.

The hand in question started innocently enough. There was an open raise from middle position. Directly to the left of the raiser, I called with A-3.  Damon called from the big blind.

The flop was A♣ – 9♣ – 7 and Damon checked. The original raiser bet. I called, and so did Damon.

The turn was the 2 and it was checked to me. In retrospect, I probably should have bet, but for whatever reason at the time, I checked as well.

The river was the Q and Damon checked to the original preflop raiser, who made a very small bet of about ¼ pot. This looked really weak to me. I put him on something like KQ, but I just called, not seeing any value in raising.

The Puzzle

Damon quickly made a massive check raise, about 1.5 times the size of the pot. The other player mucked immediately and the action was back to me. 

This bet looked really sketchy.  Did Damon really check all three streets with a monster hand? There are multiple missed draws in this hand as well, none of which I block. 

BUT, virtually as a rule I never bluff catch in a situation like this. A 1.5x pot check-raise bluff on the river? That’s a move that is rarely seen at this level of competition.

Damon had only been with us about half an hour when this situation came up. I hadn’t seen him play enough hands to know a lot about him, but I had one piece of information that anyone who wasn’t paying attention would have missed.

The Key to the Hand

When Damon sat down at our table, the dealer asked him for his ID, as they always do. Damon, however, had forgotten to bring his ID. Unclear about what to do, the dealer called the floor, who vouched for Damon, saying “It’s OK, I know him, he plays the live stream all the time”.

If you know BestBet, you know that the live stream is generally a deep stacked $5/$10 game. And while the players in this game are perhaps not world class, every one of them has serious street smarts.  They know how to pounce on weak opponents, and certainly have river check-raise bluffs in their repertoire. Damon observed two tentative amateur opponents (or so he thought), desperately wanting to show down their mediocre hands cheaply and survive to play a few more hours.

ALSO BY STEVE BLAY: Five Times the Pot All In Rule

Unfortunately for Damon, I was paying attention. Without knowing that he’s a regular on the livestream, I don’t make the call here. Because poker players are weird, and 19 out of 20 times you’re going to get shown something like Q-9 or a turned set of deuces.

But although I’ve never seen him on the live stream, I know the kinds of players that play it. This bit of information persuaded me to make the call. As soon as I called, Damon mucked and I collected the vast majority of his stack, just because I was paying attention.  Since the buy in was $400, you could say that paying attention made me $400 that day. 

Pay attention. You never know when you might hear something useful.

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Steve Blay

Steve Blay is a poker author, inventor, and the founder of Advanced Poker Training.

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