Event 4 recap (or “How I tilted Jamie Gold”)

Sunday was the $1,500 pot limit event, which I was able to enter by virtue of my horrific finish in Saturday’s event.  Whereas Saturday’s event was a complete zoo with thousands of entrants and no one I knew at my table (and many apparent donkeys), Sunday only attracted 781 runners and the field was dense with professionals.  Jamie Gold sat pretty much directly opposite me at my starting table and there was a European pro that I vaguely recognized at the end of the table.  If I was less lazy, I would look up his picture and figure out exactly who he is, but I don’t feel like dealing with at the moment.  You can tell the guys who spend their lives on the tourney circuit, because they all know each other.  Based on that, there were at least two other pros who played at my table for some portion of the day.  You could also tell by those who became annoyed with dealers that couldn’t calculate the pot size accurately.

I accumulated a few chips in the first orbit or two with a pre-flop raise and a continuation bet.  I got three callers, so that added 500 or so chips to my initial 3,000.  I had to lay down the nut flush draw on the turn to a pot-sized bet, after calling sizable bets pre-flop and flop.  I was last to act and had a caller in between.  Semi-bluffing there is likely to result in an all-in because we had so few chips to start with, so I decided to play it passively.  I found myself drifting downwards in chips.  After blinds and a few pairs that didn’t connect, I found myself sitting with 1,800 chips and starting to think that the next real hand would be the end of the day for me.

Jamie Gold had actually not been out of line much thus far in the event.  Despite his image as a maniac, he actually played a fairly normal number of pots.  His only big hand involved a situation where he re-raised a pot-sized raiser pre-flop and pushed all-in blind before the flop.  He held Aces, which stood up and doubled him.  However, like me, he had played several hands that didn’t connect and he had drifted down back to something near his starting stack.  He had me covered by about 1,000 chips.

The hand played out oddly because I made a stupid amateur mistake that I do about once per trip to Las Vegas.  The blinds were at 50/100 and I find two black tens.  It folds around to me in middle position and I intend to raise the pot, but am so focused on doing the math to determine what my max raise is that I forget to announce raise after I select out the 500 chip and toss it in.  I immediately realize that this is a call, despite my intention to raise, when someone at the table asks the dealer if that was a call.  I respond that it was a call, since it will be declared a call no matter what I say, so I might as well make it a call.  None of the observant players believe this, because I wouldn’t have selected the big chip and I wouldn’t have opened limped from MP2.  The Button calls, the small blind calls and Jamie Gold makes a raise from the big blind, while staring at me.  Now I have two thoughts in mind.  The first is that he is trying to test me to see if I meant to raise with a big hand or not.  If I had a really big hand like aces or kings, I’d most likely come over the top of him here.  My second thought was that raising limpers from the big blind is one of the most common poker ploys that doesn’t mean he really has the goods.  I toy with a reraise to take down the bets already in the pot, but I feel strongly that he is making a move and doesn’t really have a good hand, so I decide to call his raise and let him fire once more on the flop.  I intend to raise the flop and take the hand away from him at that point.  The button looks puzzled and folds.

The flop comes down queen high with two rags, so I still like my tens pretty well.  Jamie makes an immediate bet of about 600 chips which was about what I expected.  I have been studying books by Paul Ekman, who has done amazing work defining the meaning of facial expressions.   He has done a bunch of great work proving that facial expressions are universal among all humans, no matter what their cultural background.  He has cataloged human expression in massive detail, isolating every muscular movement one can make in their face and documenting which expressions go with which emotions.  Much of his work is not relevant to my poker purposes, but has proved quite interesting at understanding my wife and employees.  The key facial expressions for me in poker are anxiety, fear, excitement and happiness.  He also made an “obvious” discovery that I have found to be extremely useful in poker.  He found that when you have an emotional reaction that you are trying to conceal, you first flash the true emotional reaction on your face and then you quickly rearrange your face into the expression you want to convey.  These fleeting “microexpressions” take practice to recognize (freeze frame on TiVo was my main training tool), but provide extremely useful insight.  I got to put this into practice in this hand.  As I was counting my stack and trying to figure out if I should just push them all-in or if I should make a smaller raise, I was eyeing Jamie.  He gave the classic indication of fear/anxiety which was quickly replaced with his false smile (I call it a smirk, but that is a whole different matter).  I also believe that his false smile can be distinguished from his authentic smile, but there are many reasons why he might use the false smile that don’t indicate what his hand is.  However, the flash of anxiety told me that he certainly didn’t have a good hand.  I changed my mind and decided not to raise now, since I was pretty sure he would fold there.  If I just call, he may bluff off more chips on the turn or he may check-fold — either way, I’m better off just calling.

To my delight, he spikes his chip stack into the middle on the turn.  From his perspective, he has read me as weak the entire hand.  I don’t re-raise his pre-flop raise, I don’t raise the flop — he has to believe I don’t have a hand I can call with.  I think he is a very good reader of other people too, but I wasn’t trapping in the conventional sense, so he didn’t draw the right conclusions.  I didn’t even really study him or think about the situation, because nothing had changed in my mind.  He had a ragged straight draw or a small pair at best, in my mind and I didn’t have anything to think about.  I don’t look to him remotely strong enough to call, so he is pushing to win a pot he doesn’t deserve.  I announced “call” in just a few seconds and he grins (an authentic “oops” expression, for the record) and says “You caught me.”  He tables a complete bluff and I turn over my tens.  He is instantly shocked, because he assumes that I could not possibly call unless I happened to have a really strong hand that he misread.  He rotates quickly from surprise to anger as it dawns on him that I didn’t respect the bets he was making at all.  He angrily asks me “How can you possibly call with that hand?” and when I don’t answer, but just smile to myself, he follows it up with a louder assertion that no one else at the table would possibly make such a call.  When the player next to him admits that he would never have called with tens in that spot, Jamie is well and truly set off.  He does a monologue on how in fact no one in the entire poker room would make such a terrible call.  This makes me chuckle to myself, since I didn’t even find it a particularly difficult call in that spot.  I was quite certain my hand was good.  His angry face didn’t require any advanced study to recognize.  Jamie was then in my spot where he had a short stack and needed to play a hand fast.  Two or three hands later, he flopped two pair and another player flopped a flush and he stormed out of the room.  I didn’t explain my “secret weapon” courtesy of Dr. Ekman.

I made a few moves here and there and worked my way up to 5,5oo chips by the second break, which was slightly below average, but in good shape.  Unfortunately, the structure doesn’t allow you to have too many bad hands.  I raised with Jacks and was called by the BB and an early limper.  The flop came down AK5 and I was forced to lay it down when the big blind made a thick bet and the limper called.  The BB could be making a move, but the caller has to have me beat, so that is an easy fold.  It cost me a quarter of my stack, which illustrates the speed of the structure.  I busted five minutes into a chair massage with AJs.  I raised first-in and the blinds both called.  The flop was Kxx with two of my suit.  They checked to me and I made a pot sized bet and one blind called.  The turn brought a Ten, so I now had an overcard, the flush draw and a gutshot.  Dr. Ekman told me that the blind hated his hand, so I put the rest of my chips into the pot on the turn.  Unfortunately, Dr. Ekman didn’t mention that K9 was good enough for a disgusted call and I went home when none of my draws came in on the river.  In hindsight, I should have just checked, but I’m not sure I get paid on the river if it comes home anyhow.  For those keeping score, that is twice that I expected to get a fold from a weaker hand that didn’t work out.  At least this guy had to tank for a while before he called.  I think the presence of so many draws really worked against me, since he had to include many draws that he could beat in my range.

Despite losing, I took comfort in the great story I now have about tilting Gold and the fact that I won the last longer bet with Matthew.

By Nsidestrate

I'm a hard-core limit ring game poker player who is becoming a degenerate sports bettor. I'm sure it will all make more sense if you read on.