What’s Your Play? Making Yourself a Target Results

This week’s What’s Your Play? highlights an important point about how to integrate an opponent’s physical tells into your decision-making process. Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, it’s not something that you can do in a vacuum: TeddyKGB didn’t eat the Oreo, he’s bluffing, call him with Ace-high!

You must still take into account hand reading and everything else that you know about your opponent. Once you have determined his likely range based on the actions he has taken up to this point in the hand, his mannerisms may enable you to conclude that he is more likely to have one part of that range than another. For example, if you have a hand that can only and always beat a bluff, and based on your opponents’ play you believe he is either bluffing or has an extremely strong hand, then it may be very valuable to seek out physical information that could sway you towards calling or folding.

No matter how much your opponent’s behavior is screaming weakness, though, you still have to determine what exactly constitutes a weak range in the context of the current situation. Caius breaks it down much better than I could have:

“There are no draws, so there are three scenarios:

1. He’s on a bluff because ‘you never have anything’.
2. He has a weak hand (pocket pair below 10 or an 8) and feels he has to make a stand.
3. He has a strong hand (K with good kicker, set or 2 pair, though K8s seems unlikely) and tries to build the pot.

Option 1 seems unlikely to me. He called the initial raisers c-bet, and the only ‘nothing’ hands I see him doing that with are (maybe) AQ, AJ. It’s much more likely he has some part of the flop or a pocket-pair.

Option 3 is possible. First a call and then, after someone shows real interest, a min-raise to build the pot. It makes sense.

Option 2 also makes a lot of sense. He’s heads-up with the guy who never has anything. He has a pair, and won’t be bluffed!”

This did not begin as a heads up pot. Villain has already called a flop bet on a drawless board from another player before he knew that Hero would be a factor in the hand. This greatly reduces the likelihood of Villain having a hand that needs to bluff in the first place. Villain may not have a monster, but he doesn’t have air, and just because his hand isn’t strong doesn’t mean we’re ahead. I am, by the way, assuming here that Villain isn’t capable of floating the c-bet in order to induce a bluff raise from Hero that he can then re-bluff, an assumption with which I’m comfortable.

Caius leaves open the possibility that shoving could be correct, since it may cause Villain to fold weakish hands that are nonetheless better than Hero’s.  I disagree, and I think Andy explains the psychology at work here quite well:

13 hours decision making,frustrations means a two basic things:1.that his emotional tag is dopamine strapped(attention),

2 unfulfilled expectations (anger,etc)

I interpret staring daggers as boiling point.He made decision to confront you.
I will say that this means that he is not folding this time and this is not because his strong holdings.
His amygdala will make him reacting before the thinking brain has weighed up the evidence and planned an appropriate reaction.
His emotional brain hijacked his neocortex and blanked out more subtle distinctions between stimuli(Ace on turn or 2).
The subconscious part is the man in the command.
So the common denominator for this entire neuronal pathway is expectation(s).
His expectation is: I deserve to this pot and respect not matter what!.”

Whatever Villain has, he’s decided to make a stand, and he’s probably ahead. He may not be strong, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to fold.


I folded, and Villain showed K8s for top two. Rather than being disappointed that I folded, he just seemed proud to have beaten me in a pot.


A few commenters questioned one or both of my pre-flop calls, but despite the outcome I think this hand actually illustrates why I’m desperately looking to get into pots. Villain is not going to have a strong hand in this spot very often at all, and I expect my flop raise to be quite profitable even knowing that he’ll sometimes slowplay two-pair or a straight. There were a lot of pots that were mine for the taking because everyone made it so obvious when they had nothing. I wasn’t calling along looking to make two-pair or better and crack somebody, I was looking for opportunities like this to steal pots. I only posted the one that didn’t work, but don’t assume from that that this was generally an unprofitable strategy for me 🙂


Pretty much everyone agreed with folding here, but you shouldn’t necessarily take that to mean that you “got it right” and therefore have nothing to learn. Some people’s analysis seemed to be no deeper than, “you don’t have a very strong hand, you’re facing resistance, there will be better spots, let it go.”

Of course that will be true 90% of the time, but that shouldn’t stop you from searching for the 10% of cases where you can call (or rebluff) with a weak hand. Finding the exceptions to widely accepted truisms in poker is the only way to stay ahead of the curve.

1 thought on “What’s Your Play? Making Yourself a Target Results

  1. I agree with your conclusions about self improvement.
    I see one small thing is missing in your conclusions.
    There are some implications(assumptions) for your nearest future because of the outcome.
    The unfulfilled emotional charges associated with outcome were released – he won this hand and his social rank raised.
    His dopamine is still low. But his mood soared because he received internal injection of seretonin.
    It means that your opponent model is valid and stable.He will go back to his old patterns(bluffs with no eq,etc).
    He is again excellent target to rebluff.

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