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A WSOP Lesson Learned: Ears Are as Important as Eyes

A WSOP Lesson Learned: Ears Are as Important as Eyes

As this summer’s World Series of Poker winds down, I am remembering an experience playing in a WSOP event last summer. It was the $500 Casino Employees Hold’em event — not quite the prestige of the $10,000 Main Event, but an exciting opportunity nonetheless.

Thinking back on that tournament, one hand in particular comes to mind that illustrated a lesson I wanted to share here. It was a hand that highlighted the downside to wearing headphones at the poker table and not utilizing all of your available senses when figuring out what to do.

In this tournament players started with 3,000 chips and the blinds kicked off at 25/50, meaning players only had 60 big blinds with which to begin. The levels were an hour each, but there were a few jumps in there that made the tournament much like an online turbo, which was quite pleasing to me as I’d played quite a few of these in my time.

The hand took place a few hours into the tournament and I had around 50 big blinds in my stack, which made me relatively deep-stacked at the time. The player to my direct right had become quite active whenever the action folded to him in late position and I decided to put him back in his place. He raised from the button, I three-bet him from the small blind with {a-}{k-}, he shoved, and I called. It turned out he had {a-}{k-} as well, and five cards later we chopped the pot.

One hand after that, he raised from the cutoff to 1,400. I had the button this time, where I looked down at {a-Spades}{j-Spades}. I decided to three-bet him again, mainly because I thought he was slightly tilted from splitting the previous pot, but also because I figured my hand and position at the table were strong enough to three-bet. Anyway, I made it 3,400 to go and he jammed all-in for 5,800 in total. I called, then lost to pocket queens.

On the face of it, it seems like a standard hand, yet if I hadn’t had my headphones on listening to The Libertines, I could potentially have gotten away from the hand and saved some precious chips.

You see, after the hand was completed, the guy with queens tried talking to me. I removed my headphones and he said to me “I told you I don’t play crazy like you younger guys. I told you that only two hands beat me and you still called!”

Unknown to me, my new friend had been talking throughout every hand he played, including the one that I had lost to him. During that one he apparently had asked me if I had pocket aces and made the statement about only two hands beating him, which was the truth as it turned out he had a pair of ladies in his hand.

Had I heard this information when I was deciding whether to call his all-in bet, I could potentially have folded. It may not have been a mathematically correct fold as I had 32% equity against {q-}{q-}, but sometimes in tournament poker you have to make such folds to conserve chips in order to commit them in a better spot later in the tournament.

Having removed my headphones after that incident, I realized the guy was a constantly vibrating box of verbal tells, basically announcing his hand whenever he faced some resistance to his raises. Had I only been listening all along!

Learn from my mistake and try to use all of your senses whenever you’re in a hand. By all means listen to music if it relaxes you, but make sure that it’s not so loud that you cannot hear what is going on around you, because you never know what vital pieces of information you may be missing.

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  • Matthew Pitt recalls a World Series of Poker hand in which he learned a lesson about listening to what your opponents are saying -- and revealing -- at the tables.

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