Poker Essays

Playing the man

By Andrew LeRoy. August 13th 2005.

The Victorian Poker Championships are in full swing at Crown Casino in Melbourne at the moment. Yesterday I played in the Pot Limit 7 card stud event. Only the "real" players played this one. Not too many young guns or internet newbies. We will see them at all the Holdem events this week.

I sat at my initial table and to my left I had Leo Boxell and Martin Comer, to my right Emad Tahtou. These three have well over a million bucks in tournament winnings between them, and a swag of final tables in major events to boot. (If you are not familiar with 7 card stud you can skip the details of the following hand and just take my points in bold. If you are familiar with 7 card stud, get your cards out and play through the hand, it's a very interesting one.)

Initial stack was $3000 in chips. In a very early hand the antes were $5 and the bring in bet by the lowest hand was $5 up to the value of the pot.

Leo was the low card and bought it in for $5. Martin showing a jack of diamonds with an ace behind him anounced "pot" and bet the limit. Everyone else folded including the ace. Leo called with 3s showing.

Leo got 9d on fourth street, Martin 7c. Martin bet pot again. Leo called again.

Fifth street. Leo Ts. Martin 6h. Martin bet pot Leo called.

Sixth street. Leo 3d Martin 3h Leo checked, Martin bet pot and Leo called.

On the end cards came in hidden. Leo checked in the dark and Martin bet all in. I watched Leo squeeze out his last card and even before I saw his other two I knew he was home. 7th street was As. Martin opened. "Nothin" he said. His hole cards were 5h, Qh and 2s. Leo opened Qs, Ks and As for the flush.

Why did one of Australia's best players get it all in with "Nothin"? He was playing the man.

He bet 3rd street expecting Leo to fold because he knows Leo is very tight early in tournaments. Once he got a call he knew Leo had either a hidden pair or a flush draw with high cards. He also knew that if Leo didn't improve he could make him fold with aggressive betting.

Equally, Leo knew that Martin was thinking this way. Leo's 4th street call was based on this. He suspected he wasn't beat and by calling he had a shot at Martin's whole stack.

From 5th street on Leo had many ways to win the hand and was staying all the way. Having said that, if Leo's 7th street card didn't pair him or flush him I guarantee he would have folded.

Later in the tournament Emad Tahtou got his whole stack in on a 3rd street re-raise bluff against Nick "The Greek" Georgoulas. Why? Because Nick the Greek is a "Maniac" who bets and raises with nothing, to steal the pot, time and again. Emad wasn't going to let him take his chips and decided to put his whole stack against George's with just 3 high cards, even though he would have made the final table with conservative play. Its fair to say that, due to its size, the winner of that pot was always going to win the tournament. Nick had a medium hidden pair and was only a 60-40 favorite when the money went in.

At the final table I managed to move up from 8th in chips in the beginning to 5th place due to playing the man in a different way. Bob Crossman, the eventual second place finisher had been to my immediate right all day. He is a tight conservative player who rarely enters or stays in the pot without "the goods". On three occassions at the Final Table I was able to fold a hidden pair because I knew Bob was ahead. This included one occasion when he bought it in with rolled up 333. That hand won a massive pot against - you guessed it - Nick the Greek, who set Bob all in on a three flush. Nick made the flush on the end. Bob made the full house on the end as well!

333 is the highest hand in 3 card poker - known as Brag. Since the pot made Bob about $3,000 extra bucks I think "Brag Hand Bob" might be a good new nickname for him.

By the way, you can see Player Profiles of all these players and their tournament histories in the Players section at Pokernetwork. And you can play 7 card stud at Noble Poker.

What's the message for this article? Play the man and consider if your opponent is playing you or his cards. Opportunities will arise to use your opponent's styles against them if you pay attention to how they play.

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