The fishtank part 17

At just 25 Scott Fischman holds two WSOP bracelets and a WPT title – so pick his poker brain


I was playing in a local cash game recently when I entered a raising war with a player sat at the other end of the table. He hadn’t really played any hands and was nursing what looked like a fairly small stack. I raised to £6 with A-K suited (£1/£2 blinds), which the ‘short stack’ called. The Ten-high flop gave me the nut flush draw, which I checked. He bet a pot-sized £15.

I asked him how much he had left and he nervously said, ‘Maybe £70. Look for yourself.’ From my view it looked about right so I said, ‘I’ll put you all-in.’ He called instantly with Jacks and counted his money out, including a stack of chips that had been tucked behind his others, for about £150. Thankfully I hit a King but what’s the etiquette here? Should his all-in call only be for the £70 that he said he had? Whose responsibility is it to count chips?

Matthew Thomson

SF: If you want to know how many chips another player has, it is your right to ask and get an accurate answer. When you ask for a chip count, the dealer or the player should count on the chips so you can visually see the stacks and be assured of an accurate count. In this situation, if you took the word of the other player who was estimating his chip count, than whatever the actual amount of chips in play, regardless of how accurate his guess of chip size is, will be what the call is for.

Obviously, if he has you outchipped, he must only match the amount of your all-in bet. In future, make sure you have an accurate count before committing all your money, as you will occasionally encounter people that ‘hide’ their big chips. Normally, in tournament play, dealers and floor staff will try to make sure the chip stacks are fully displayed, but particularly in cash games this is something you should be on the lookout for.

Good investment

I invested some of my not-so-hard earned cash in your book Online Ace. I’ve read most poker books and always find that I learn something and it pays for itself. Well, your book’s chapter about satellites changed the way I approached such a tournament and subsequently saw me qualify for the Betfair Asian Poker Tour $5,000 buy-in event (see p28). This is by far the biggest event I’ve ever been involved with and I’d like to know if there’s anything I should do in the run up to a big tournament in terms of preparation both at the table and away from it. I do a desk job by day, go to the gym twice a week and enjoy a beer at the weekend, but should I be changing anything that could increase my stamina and concentration and help raise my game?

John Black

SF: Well I’m glad to hear that you benefited from my book, and congratulations on qualifying for the Asian Poker Tour event. As far as preparations go, I really don’t have anything that specific to advise you to do (or not to do). The most important things are focus and concentration, as well as being comfortable and confident at the table. Some people like to listen to music while they play, some people avoid alcohol, while others seem to always have a beer in their hand. There is no one-size-fits-all way to accomplish these things, so you just need to experiment and find out what works best for you. One thing that I like to do is keep my mind on the game by playing online during long breaks, if it’s logistically possible, or discussing hands with friends – anything to try to stay in the zone, so to speak. Good luck! (Look out for a nutritionist expert’s guide to preparing for a big tournament next month – Ed)

Your call

Can you play like a WSOP winner? Email us your answer and win a travel chipset, courtesy of

The situation:
US Poker Championship
The Taj, Atlantic City
Day 4, blinds 2500/5000, ante 500
Your chips: 900,000; 19 players left

I’m chip leader with 900k and the guy in second (Mike Santoro) has 600k and is sitting to my left. I open for 15k on the button with K-10 off-suit, and Mike makes it 40k from the small blind. He’s re-raised me several times during the day and has shown A-10 off-suit once. I’d folded to almost all of his re-raises previous to this. I decide that I can take this from him and I re-raise to 120k. He looks nervous, thinks for a short while, and then calls. The flop comes K-Q-2 with two hearts and he leads out for 200k leaving himself about 280k. What hand would you put him on and what would you do?

The answer

At this point I was almost 100 percent sure that he had A-K and I pushed. I knew he would remember that I’d folded so many hands to him, and he was smart enough to fi gure out that he had shown so much strength that for me to push I would almost always have to have A-A or better. He ended up thinking for around 10 minutes and folded A-K face-up.


Congrats to David Wharton, the only person to get the answer spot on. ‘I would go all-in. I’d have him on A-K or A-Q – a solid enough hand to call that big re-raise but still feel uncomfortable about it. By your play you’re representing one of the three big pairs. The flop has hit him nicely but he’s still nervous, as he would be against Q-Q, K-K and A-A. So he makes a large stopper bet of 280,000 chips – still a usable stack to play with if he has to fold.

Calling in this situation is weak but folding is certainly a good option, being as you have overcommitted with a mediocre hand. The problem with it though is that he would now be joint chip leader, forcing you to make more decisions like this one for your tournament life. Even if my read is wrong and he has one of the premium pairs and calls the all-in you would still be left with 300,000 chips.’

Next month

Jim Meehan, aka Minneapolis Jim, takes you through a hand with Men ‘The Master’ Nguyen at the Bellagio Cup in Vegas. Can you beat the Master and win a chipset?

The situation:
Bellagio Cup II, Las Vegas: $10,000 buy-in
Day 1, Level 6; blinds 200/400, 25 ante
Your chips: 19,675

With Allen Cunningham on the button, Men Nguyen raises in first position to 1200. Men had what appeared to be about 16,000. Everyone passes round to me, I look down at 6♦-4♦ and call. To my surprise everyone else passes, so it’s two-handed. The flop comes 9-6-4, one diamond. Men leads out at it for the standard continuation bet of 2400, but what could he have? If he has A-A, K-K or Q-Q, obviously I want to bust him. Of course, if Men flopped a set, I’m virtually dead… but, mathematically speaking, he’s probably flopped something else – either nothing, an over-pair, two over-cards, or a draw. If I raise it right here, I acquire some instant information about his hand… but, if I wait until the turn, I acquire additional and, in my opinion, better information, plus I have the advantage of getting more of his chips when he leads again at the turn if he’s in bad shape. In addition the turn might put him into a position of getting onto a draw that will cost him all his chips. By calling, I disguise my hand, and Men, of course, is simultaneously trying to figure out what I could possibly have. To me, the call is obvious – although many great players may disagree.

If I raise on the flop, he might put all his chips in with an inferior hand – A-A, K-K – and put ME to a difficult decision. So I’ve learned nothing and am simply gambling. The better, simpler and counterintuitively more conservative decision is to simply call. The turn card is the 2♣ – an apparent blank – and Men leads at it again for 4000, leaving him just 8400. What do you do at this point?

Send your answers to – the best one wins a chipset. Find out what Meehan did soon.

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