I played a No Limit Hold’em tournament yesterday at a local casino that had a bout 100 players total in it. It’s not a bad daily tournament in a nice poker room and it gets some pretty decent players, but mostly the same old selection of tight, selective, older guys who really don’t take many chances and play a pretty straightforward game. At $125 buy in it doesn’t get the real novice ‘fish’ but the field ends up pretty much split between guys who don’t know quite what they are doing and guys are who are pretty sure they have the game of poker completely mastered. There is always a lot to be learned in these tournaments if you pay attention and here is a hand that I thought illustrates a number of good points.
One hand in particular involved a younger guy across the table from me and an older gentlemen who was sitting on his left. The young kid’s style of play was very typical for guys his age and easy to identify after watching him get involved in a few hands: he was hyper-aggressive and would fire large bets on every street after seeing a flop and large raises pre-flop every time he played a hand. Definitely the type of player who relies on aggression to push other players out of pots and off their hands.
The older fellow was also typical in that he was tight and had played few hands, but fortunately for me (and unfortunately for him as it gave me a ton of info on him) I was able to watch the hands that he took to show-down and he had the ‘goods’ every single time. There was no bluffing for this guy, he had shown-down with 3 flop sets already and also a Broadway straight that he used to take down a big pot. He was the big stack at the table and he had done nothing more than hit his hands, bet them in a completely straightforward manner and get lucky enough to have other players pay him off!
In this particular example hand, the young guy made a large pre-flop raise and the older guy called him. The flop cam out Kh-Js-Jh.
The young guy of course, led out with a large bet and the older guy raised him. This raise normally wouldn’t mean much, in fact it could mean anything, but from this older guy, if you had been paying attention to his game, it meant something. The other part to keep in mind in this instance; the younger guy is out of position.
The Turn is a harmless 6c and again the young guy leads out with a large bet. This time, the old guy calls. Again, this means something.
The River is a 3c which is again, a pretty harmless card for this board. The young guy shoves (all in) and the older guy calls him.
The young guy turns over Ah-9h for a busted flush draw and the old guy shows A-J for three jacks. The young guy’s tournament is over and the older guy chips up even more.
The first lesson here is obvious and one that most ‘cool’ ‘aggressive’ players tend to want to overlook: position matters. He came into this hand from early position and then got immediately resistance from a tight, good player. This should be a warning sign to shut off the aggression before it ends up costing you your whole stack. This hand in early position would have been better off folded.
Second, when an old guy like that raises you on a flop such as this one, you had better pay attention. Most of them are WAY too conservative to be pushing a draw here or just making an outright position bluff. If a dude likes that makes a raise like that, assume he has it until you learn otherwise later on my watching his game.
Third, just because you have fired way too many chips into trying to take down a pot from out of position doesn’t mean that you should try an all in bluff on the River. Bluffs on the River seldom work anyway (at least at this level of poker) because if a player has come along with you up until this point, he likely has something good. Sure, I know what this kid was thinking, but it was more of a pipe-dream than any real hope: he was hoping the old dude was on a flush draw that didn’t make it and by putting him all in, he would get a fold. The problem is, if you were paying attention to how this hand played out, you know that was pretty unlikely in this circumstance. This kid should have checked it down on the Turn to try and see a free card for his flush and he certainly should have given it up when the flush didn’t come on the River.
You can be a hyper-aggressive player in NLH, that’s fine. You can even pull off the All-in Bluff ocassionally. But you have to be smart enough to get a read on the other players at the table, especially the old guys when they fire back at you!
Chris Wilcox is a professional poker coach specializing in No Limit Hold’em and is available for one-on-one teaching. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.