World Series of Poker Europe

Cash Catastrophes, Vol. 5: Over-Reliance on Verbal Tells

Verbal Tells

Carlos Welch presents another installment of his “Cash Catastrophes” series in which he examines mistakes made in cash games, thereby providing opportunities to learn how to avoid them going forward.

The Hand

It’s my regular $1/$2 no-limit hold’em game. The effective stacks are about $185 and I have the villain covered. A player limps the button (BTN). I raise to $10 from the small blind (SB) with {K-Diamonds}{K-Hearts}. Both the player in the big blind (BB) and the button call. There’s $30 in the pot.

In our game, players chop when folded to in the blinds. BB in this hand jokingly called BTN a “chop blocker” when he limped. After I raised, he said “I would’ve raised if you hadn’t” before he called. This comment made me think that he most likely had big cards or a pair.

The flop comes {9-Hearts}{6-Diamonds}{5-Clubs}.

I bet $20, BB raises to $40, and BTN folds.

BB would not raise this flop with big cards (I think). He most likely has a pocket pair below {K-}{K-}, as he would have reraised preflop with kings or aces. My hand is way ahead of {Q-}{Q-}, {J-}{J-}, and {10-}{10-} and way behind {9-}{9-}, {6-}{6-}, and {5-}{5-}. But man, his hand feels more like a set, though! I mean, this flop doesn’t contain many draws to bluff-raise. For this same reason, he may view a three-bet from me as very strong, especially since I am the tightest player in the game and I “always have it.”

Reraising here may result in him hero-folding some of his weakest overpairs (I continue to think). Besides, since he doesn’t have many draws, most turn cards will not help him catch up if he’s behind. In addition, I’m not as concerned about overs killing my action since I block two of them and presumably he does as well. I’ll call and reevaluate on the turn.

I call his raise. The pot is now $110.

The turn brings the {7-Diamonds}. I check. He bets $70 and I go into the tank.

This definitely feels like a set now. I almost want to fold, but if he also plays overpairs like this, I am still ahead of his range. I’ll call here and expect him to check back with anything less than the nuts.

I call. The pot is now $250.

The river is the {10-Hearts}.

I check. He goes all in for $64, and I sigh-call.

Crap! I guess he does have a set, but I can’t fold the river for such a small bet.

He shows {10-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds}.

Nice hand. #greasefire

The Problem

When BB made his comment about wanting to raise preflop, I put him on big cards or a pocket pair. Once I had that read, I completely denied the possibility of him having anything else. This caused me to overestimate the strength of his range.

In my mind, there was no way he could have a {9-}{x-} on the flop (aside from pocket nines) because I did not put it in the range of hands I’d expect him to make that comment about preflop. Had I considered that his range still contained some hands that could improve on many turn cards, I would have protected my hand with a three-bet shove on the flop.

The Lesson

It’s completely fine to take verbal information into account when playing live poker, but with all information, take it with a grain of salt. Use what you hear to discount certain hands from your opponent’s range, but do not eliminate them completely.

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