The other day I played in the $1k buy in turbo event at the World Series of Poker. I ran good at the beginning, and by the time the second level started, I had more than doubled my stack.
On the last hand of the first level, Mike Dentale, an aggressive east-coast player took a seat at my table. On the next hand, I was on the button and looked up to see that the blinds had increased to 50-100, but the players at the table had posted the previous blinds of 25-50. Before I could say anything, the under-the-gun player raised to 200.
I had the dealer stop the action and told him the blinds had gone up during the previous hand. Mike Dentale immediately told me because action had occurred, the current blinds were going to have to stand. I knew this was incorrect and I asked the dealer to call the floor. This sent Mike into a minor tizzy as he shouted at me that I was wrong and I was wasting everybody’s time. The floor arrived and ruled that the blinds would need to be corrected to 50-100 and the under-the-gun player’s raise to 200 would have to remain. That player immediately complained and requested a higher ruling, which resulted in further delay while a different floor was called to the table, a result that made Mike even more angry.
At this point, while we waited for the other floorperson, Mike looked at his hand and then commented to the table something to the effect that he hadn’t looked before and had wanted the under-the-gun player to be able to take back his raise, but now that he’d looked, he wanted the raise to stand. He was implying that he had a big hand, an extremely dumb thing to announce to the table. I was watching him the entire time and was pretty confident he was telling the truth about the strength of his hand, despite how ridiculous it would seem for him to do that.
The second floorperson arrived and confirmed the ruling that the blinds would be raised to 50-100 for this hand, but that the under-the-gun player would have all of his options. That player elected to fold (perhaps because Mike told the table he had a big hand?) and the action folded around to Mike who raised to 300. It folded to me on the button and I looked down at 2h3h. Now this isn’t a great hand against a raise, but with the information that Mike had already given, that he had a big hand, and the depth of our stacks, him with a starting stack of 5000 and me with around 12,000, it seemed like a reasonable spot to take a flop. I called and the big blind called as well.
The flop came A,3,5 with one heart, giving me a pair, a gutshot, and a back-door flush-draw. The big blind checked, Mike quickly checked, and it was on me. I considered betting here, and in other spots often would, but with Mike’s announcement, I thought it was possible he had AA and was checking to set a trap. If he check-raised, I would usually have to fold, and my hand had too much equity for me to want to take that risk. I knew there was a reasonable chance Mike had KK or QQ here and would fold to a bet, but I also had to fade the big blind’s hand, and small aces were certainly in his calling range if Mike didn’t have the AA. I decided to check.
The turn was an offsuit King, and the big blind checked again, seeming very disinterested in the hand. Mike checked quickly again, and I was now fairly sure he was trying to trap. There was still some chance he had something like QQ or JJ and I could bet and win, but betting here after checking the flop seemed terrible. Mike might even call with the underpair if I did bet here as my line would seem very suspicious and bluffy. I checked again.
The river was the beautiful 4 of hearts, giving me an A-5 straight; not quite the nuts, but close enough. The big blind checked again, and Mike now bet 1000 into the 950 pot, a large bet and a classic betting pattern tell that I thought made it quite obvious he had that big hand I’d suspected him of having. I was obviously raising here, and I just needed to figure out how much.
I wanted to make it a lot, and I considered simply putting him all-in. I thought there was a reasonable chance he would pay me off, but with the board reading A,3,4,5,K, he might put me on the 6,7 and fold if it was for his tournament life. If I left him with a small but still playable stack, I thought he might be more likely to call. I decided to raise to 3000, which would leave him with 7 big blinds if he called me. The big blind quickly folded, and Mike called without much thought, making me wish I’d put him all-in. I showed my straight and he blew up, showing KK for a turned set, and immediately berating me.
He made silly statements such as, “There’s no justice in poker,” and, “This idiot calls a raise with 23 and gets there.” He was clearly tilted and quickly dusted off the remainder of his chips, getting all-in with 7,5 in a 3-way pot and busting to a player who had AQ.
From the time he saw my straight, until the time he busted and left the table, he continued to moan and cry about how bad he was running, and how unlucky he was, and how bad everybody played against him, but how they just always got there. Some time after he busted, he posted the following Tweet:
Which brings me to the point of this blog; at least be honest with yourself.
Mike certainly has the right to complain to his Twitter followers and anybody else that will listen that he’s really unlucky, however, he made several terrible decisions in this hand that caused him to lose a big pot.
The first, obviously, was announcing to the table that he had a big hand. Does this really need to even be said?
The second was slow-playing his hand on the turn. Had he fired a bet there, with one to come and a player to act behind me, I wouldn’t have been able to call.
The third was calling the river raise without considering my hand range. I may not have a lot of deuces in my range, but I have some, and 6,7 certainly is a part of it, and what am I really raising in that spot? Smaller sets possibly, and smaller sets certainly in most similar cases, but never when he has made a statement like he made before the action began. I can really only have him beat in this exact scenario.
Mike’s Tweet also has many inaccuracies, including misrepresenting the flop to make it seem that I’d only flopped a gutshot as opposed to the pair and backdoor flush draws I also had. If he was writing a factual Tweet, it would read, “Announced to the table I had a big hand, then raised with that big hand. Opponent on the button with 2.5 times my stack, getting good implied odds, called with 23 suited and made a straight when I checked the flop and the turn despite having second set on the turn. I finally bet on the river and then paid off the raise quickly when I probably should have folded.”
Okay, more than 140 characters, but you get the point. He can complain about his bad luck to the world. He has that right and so do you. But at the very least, you should be honest with yourself. Instead of whining about your bad luck, you should be looking at the hand and evaluating your decisions at each point in the hand, looking for spots where you made mistakes, and learning from those mistakes so you don’t make them again.
Ironically, if Mike hadn’t decided to announce that he had a big hand, the under the gun player would have probably raised, Mike could have re-raised, and I would have had to fold, leaving Mike to potentially win a big pot instead of losing a big one.
Be honest with yourself about your decisions, even if you can’t be honest with the rest of the world. It will help you make honest evaluations of those decisions and help you avoid mistakes in future hands.