Dancing on the river in no-limit
DALLAS -- Let's say you're looking at your cards pre-flop and you see, say JJ, and you make a modest raise. It gets folded around to a guy who immediately pushes all-in. His hands are shaky and he has that come-hither, "call me" kind of look in his eye.
It's not too hard to think that he could have AA, the best starting hand preflop.
You may call or fold, depending on what you know of the player.
Having lots of time to think about live play at the tables in Las Vegas this past week, I now think that this same critical thinking preflop isn't applied on the river. Preflop, you may call with KK against the guy with AA. The difference between this and calling a huge bet on the river is that at least you have outs preflop. The hand is completely decided on the river.
At Bally's NL $1/2 last night, there was this kindly Japanese guy sitting to my left in seat 6, who had to ponder a tricky river decision. The board had two 6s and there was a nine on the river.
The way he was betting strongly made me think he had a 6, with a big kicker, like an A.
The small blind in seat 1 was his opponent. He was short-stacked. When the river card came, he displayed not one but three tells: 1). He sighed loudly and studied the board, before betting. 2). He had that shaky hand thing when he pulled out his chips. 3). He was like "$42?" in the form of a question mark, like, "You want to give me $42 for the nut I just made?"
Sho (I'll call the Japanese guy that because he reminds me of a guy named Sho) quickly called and found out the hard way that this guy indeed had a boat with 96o.
The above quote by the Magician surely is the top nugget of wisdom I've ever heard from him and his magician-like ways. It's made me think before jumping into an often electric-current filled river in a no-limit game, and you know that poker cats don't like water in the first place.
But let's think about it: For bad players, such as the ones who will slowplay everything, the river is their last chance to bet out their monster. Same goes with solid players who want to get the most value for their hands - the river is the absolute last chance they have to get money from you.
Too often I've seen people calling huge bets on the river with the second-best hand. It happened to my friend Doug right before the robbery, in a similar situation. Both he and this other guy had trips, Doug had the A kicker and the other guy made a boat on the turn with his Queen-rag. The other guy checks the turn and is all-in on the river.
It's okay to occasionally fold the best hand and if you use Dan Herrington's maxim, you assume 10 percent of the time, someone is bluffing you. But all-in bets by players on the river need to be treated with caution, especially in low-limit NL.
I just don't see people planting monster bets, especially as bluffs, on the river at these small games without some kind of reason. I also feel that if the player is bad enough, you'll catch up with him eventually. No need to give him your stack first. It's no different in limit games that have no cap when it's heads up -- advice commonly heard is to not go all-in unless you are sure you have the nut.
So I tell Sho after he pulls out more cash and his notebook -- "If you had seen his hands (shaking), you would have folded."
"No, no. He was just lucky."
They use luck. You use skill, all of the information available to you -- how he entered and bet the hand, tells, history of bluffs -- and you won't have to worry about jotting down yet another missed read into your notebook.