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Lessons From The Ladies

The Situation

A player I coach was recently involved in an instructional hand at the $1,000 buy-in ladies’ event at the The Bicycle Casino’s 2007 Legends of Poker. Her table had seven or eight players. UTG, an aggressive chip leader, raised to 4 big blinds. Action folded to my player, who held JJ in late position. When talking about this hand, my player mentioned to me that the raise to 4 big blinds was odd...whenever UTG raised, it was always to 5 big blinds. I won’t dismiss the possibility that UTG bet 4 big blinds accidentally; however, players who consistently raise to the same amount preflop tend to be very ritualistic. Something significant is happening when such a player raises to a different amount in his poker hands.

A fundamental law of reading players is the following: people tend to do things differently when they have big hands (to extract value) or when they are stone-cold bluffing (to minimize risk). UTG had a history of raising with a wide range of hands, meaning that she probably didn’t care about minimizing risk. Additionally, even generally aggressive players tend to raise with narrower distributions in early position. These two considerations alone mean that UTG had a monster hand. I would have put UTG on KK-AA (tossing QQ in the distribution would be debatable). UTG may as well have been playing her hand face up.

The Mistake

My player keenly noticed the different action...something most other players would miss. Furthermore, she’s a player who’s very capable of making a KK+ read and mucking hands like QQ and AK. In fact, she lost a very minimal amount of money when she had QQ vs. AA earlier in the tournament. Unfortunately, after many hours of play, my player was feeling fatigued.

After noting to herself that something fishy was amiss, she somehow rationalized to herself that the lower bet size was a sign of weakness instead of strength. She took her 15 big blind stack and shoved all-in with her JJ. Action folded to the UTG raiser who quickly called with her AA. My player didn’t win her 19 percenter, and she was sent to the rail in 22nd place in a tournament that paid the top 18 players.

The Lessons

1.) Consider your poker reads and your cards separately. Don’t tweak your reads to rationalize playing a pretty looking hand in a bad spot.

2.) If you’re a tournament player, you need endurance…your physical well-being is directly linked to your mental well-being. Make exercising regularly a habit, and make sure you bring sufficient amounts of food and fluids to the tables.

Source: Tony Guerrera

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