Coincidently, there was an important conference I had to go to Casino Malaysia in Las Vegas. Since I happened to be there anyway, I thought I would try my skills against the locals (actually, the other tourists since in the low limit games, only the casino staff are locals).
The game was $1/3 no limit with a $200 buy in. The rake was only 5% of the pot to a maximum of $10 – better than any card room in Australia. In Vegas however, you don’t have to, but it is the right protocol, to tip the dealer if you win a pot. $1 for a small pot, $5 for a big pot. Still, the game was pretty good and I managed to play for over 10 hours for my initial buy in of $200.
I had been playing for a few hours and was up about $20. Not great, but not bad considering I had given at least that much away to the rake and in tips. Anyway, a new guy joins the table and immediately starts betting big and raising on most pots.
I fold some reasonable hands, that maybe would have won if he was bluffing as I suspected, but if I hadn’t won, would have cost me a bunch of chips against his aggressive raises. So I am happy to fold and wait until I can get a better read on him or get a nut hand.
He steals a couple of blinds from me with big raises, and I let them go uncontested, just biding my time.
A few hands later I am on the button and see A Q suited. Mr Aggressive raises from early position and everyone folds around to me. I don’t think he has a pocket pair, but I am sure whatever he has he will re-raise again if I raise. So I just call to see the flop.
The flop is very good for me, Q 8 2 rainbow. I have top pair and top kicker. He could have hit trip eights or trip twos but I don’t put him on either of those hands.
He bets about half the pot, and I call.
The turn is another 2. Now I am sure I am well ahead. My opponent bets $20, about 1/3 of the pot now and I call.
The river is a blank, a 7 I think, and there is no flush possible. My opponent checks, I bet another $20 into the pot, and he check raises me by calling all in.
Now his all in bet is considerable, he has me covered and it will cost me my remaining $110 or so to call him. I think about the hands he could have – he could be on a bluff, quite possible given his aggressive play. But he also could have pocket 7’s, 8’s, 2’s, K’s or A’s, or hit two pair on the river, all which would fit his betting pattern and beat me.
I think it over for a while and figure the only hand I can beat is a bluff – 1 possible hand out of 7 he might hold. I don’t think the odds are good enough to call, even though I put his chance of bluffing quite high.
I take one last look across the table before I fold and to my amazement see him sitting there chin thrust froward, fist clenched, chest puffed out, giving me the big stare down. He looks exactly like an example photo in Mike Caro’s Book of Poker Tells.
As Mr Caro explains, the key to poker tells is ‘strong means weak and weak means strong’. When someone is posturing aggressively towards you, it almost always means they have a weak hand.
Without further hesitation I announce ‘Call’ and shove all my chips in. Mr Aggressive looks stunned “How could you call that raise?” he says
“Well..” I say slowly “I got a pair of queens, that’s a good hand right?”
“hmmph” he snorts and turns his cards to show J 8 and I take down the pot of $410, happily tipping the dealer $10.
In the introduction to his book, Mike Caro says that if you win just one pot from a tell you learn from the book, it is a worthwhile investment. And so it was.