Nick Wealthall realises there’s a fine line between genius and madness when playing cash poker
The endlessly fascinating thing about poker is that there are so few options in the gameplay yet the result is such a subtle, complex game. After all, you can only ever bet (or raise), call or fold – three or four options. Even a monkey could do it – in fact some do (PM me and I’ll send you their screen names).
It’s for this reason that plays in poker can look like genius or awful donk moves depending on your point of view. After all, a raise is a raise – it doesn’t come with the internal monologue of the raiser attached.
I’ve been thinking about the fine lines in poker a lot this month. It all started with a hand Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan played on Poker After Dark. His opponent Bob Safai had bet all the way with top pair and durrrr had called with a flush draw before missing on the river. Bob checked the river, which is like a red rag to a bull when playing durrrr. Dwan thought for a bit and decided to bluff, but no ordinary bluff – he bet $133k all-in into a $39k pot; a huge overbet. Bob Safai didn’t think too long before mucking his winning hand.
What do you instinctively think of this play – is it genius or madness? He needs Bob to fold roughly 80% of the time for it to make money – what do you think of it now? Obviously durrrr thinks he knows his man and knows the situation or he wouldn’t be making the play. By the way I’ll pause while you rush off to make a note on durrrr’s account saying ‘check to him to induce bluffs’ so you’re fully armed next time you play him. Here’s the kicker to this hand though – if you were playing in a $0.05/$0.10 game and you saw exactly the same play (with relative money of course), what would you think? ‘The guy’s a donkey, clearly! What a horrible bet.’
Obviously this hand and this thinking had wormed its way into my subconscious and was lurking there waiting for its moment to pounce, as only a few days later I ended up making a similar play. (The observant reader will note the cleverness with which I’m linking myself to playing like durrrr… not sure I can back this up.)
I was in a hand with another regular player in my games. I have over 2,000 hands on him in my tracker and respect him as a decent, solid thinking player. Before this hand we didn’t have a huge amount of history though – I like playing my big pots with people that are as far away from solid, thinking players as possible. I’d called him in position preflop with 9-8 suited. I floated the flop on a low board then picked up a flush draw and a gutshot on the turn. He bet again and, even though we were fairly deep, I can shove here a lot of the time. I decided just to call on this occasion and instead of the low red card I needed I got a black Jack. He thought for a bit then bet just over half the pot. I hardly thought before bluff-shoving my chips in.
As soon as I’d done it I regretted it. All the likely draws had missed, and worse than that it was a really tough spot to represent a big hand – after all it was a low, drawy board. If I did have a big hand, like a set, I’d usually have raised to protect it and to give myself a chance of stacking him by the river. To make the bet even less likely to succeed he was getting just over 2-to-1 on his call. As his time bank inched down I knew I was – in the words of one top online player – boned beyond belief. I am a massive donkey.
And then, as if by magic, he folded. And that lovely little animation where the chips slide into my avatar was happening. Yahtzee! I’m a genius.
I think what happened was he levelled himself a bit – he knew I wouldn’t ever make a move on him in that spot, so even though he was getting a great price he knew I had to have a monster of some kind. See, I am a genius – except that in the moment I pressed the button I didn’t know any of this and just got lucky – so I’m a donkey. These really are fine lines aren’t they? It’s okay though, I’ve sorted it all out and if you’re not sure whether something was genius or madness just check out who has the chips. So durrrr and me, both geniuses. Right? Right?! I’ll be honest, it’s mostly myself I’m trying to convince…
If you want to play like Durrr then you need to read PokerPlayer magazine HERE