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Tournament Poker with Jeremiah Smith: Trusting Your Reads, Part 2

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At the time, it made perfect sense. My hand was inconsequential — I was going to use my superior ability to outmaneuver my opponent and win this pot. I felt like I had a good read on him and believed that calling with any two cards in position would be profitable. Instead, my little attempt at playing Jonathan Edwards was about to blow up in my face.

To be fair, there is a context for the hand. Poker is situational; I found myself in this particular situation because I had been holding it over this player for a couple levels, winning each of the pots we played. I reasoned that I should be able to continue this trend. He liked to play a lot of pots from any position, and I unduly assumed that he was attempting to get some TV time when he opened the first hand at the feature table from under the gun (as it turns out, it looks like I was the one trying to prove something).

But, Albert Kim was no slouch; from what I understand he was a regular in the medium stakes no-limit games in Los Angeles. He opened under the gun and I called in late position with a horribly unplayable hand for this stage in a tournament, 6-3 suited. In this situation, I wasn’t looking to connect with the flop as much as I was looking to take the pot away if I sensed any kind of weakness.

However, when he watched the dealer roll out at the 10-6-4 flop, Kim did something I had not witnessed before. It reminded me of Samantha’s famous nose-wiggle from “Bewitched”, except he was doing it with his mouth. Everyone does something with their nervous energy; that’s the basis for reading physical tells. In this case, having never seen Kim purse his lips then move them from side-to-side, I decided that it had to be weakness. Naturally, I “went with my read” and raised. Instead of the fold I assumed would follow, the little mouth-wiggle came out again. This time, Kim declared another raise himself, putting most of his stack into the pot. That’s what you do when you flop top set.


Unfortunately, out of the hundreds of hands I played during the main event, this is one of the handful that made it on ESPN. When Lon McEachern says, “Smith is going to raise with his measly pair of sixes,” it’s only natural that I come off looking like a complete donkey. That’s because I was playing the role perfectly. There was no reason for me to be in this spot with this type of hand.

One of the problems of having too much confidence in your reading ability is forgetting that every once in awhile your opponent does pick up a hand. I wasted over 150,000 incredibly valuable chips attempting to pick up a pot I had no business being in. We were much too deep into the tournament to be messing around with these kind of beyond speculative hands.

And, since it didn’t work the first time, I figured I might as well try it again later. This overconfidence led to an epic spewing of nearly one third of my 1.4 million stack before I got things back under control and made the necessary adjustments. If I would’ve saved those chips, I likely could’ve ended the day around the two-million mark, instead of just below one million. Had I done that, it’s possible I could’ve survived the coolers and bad beats coming my way on Day 5.

There are several problems with my approach to this hand. I never stopped to consider Kim’s hand range. I never tried to put him on anything but a bluff. I never weighed the high risk versus the rather low reward. I was playing a junk hand that had no value at this stage in a tournament. The “confidence” I had gained from “trusting my read” in earlier hands had reinforced an extremely bad habit of putting myself into these ridiculously dumb spots.

In my previous article, I pointed out the importance of going with your reads. In this one, I point out the dangers of trusting them too much. You should let your growing ability to read physical signs and betting patterns complement your game, not take it over. Remember, at the end of the day, the cards still speak and the best hand still wins.

Veteran poker writer Jeremiah Smith proved his own mettle at the table with his own deep run in the 2008 WSOP Main Event. Jeremiah shares tournament insights weekly with PokerNews readers.

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