To succeed, be ready to lie
Here’s a poker truth according to maniac pro David “The Dragon” Pham:
“A good poker player is always lying. Always lying. An honest player cannot be a good player.”
In today’s hand from the 2009 World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in main event at Las Vegas’ Rio Hotel, Pham shows how players attempt to deceive opponents through their action, their talk and even showing a card.
With blinds at $50-$100, a player in middle position raised to $250. A player in late position re-raised to $800. Action folded to Pham in the small blind. He elected to call with, well, his exact hand will remain unknown until the end, and even then you won’t know his complete holdings because you often don’t in this game, which is the point of today’s column.
“The original raiser might have anything, but the guy who re-raised had a big hand,” Pham said. “That’s the way he played. I put the guy on two kings or two aces or ace-king suited.”
With no board cards revealed, Pham was already plotting five streets down to get the re-raiser’s entire stack -- a concept that often eludes amateurs.
“I called his re-raise because I knew I had a live caller,” said Pham, winner of two WSOP bracelets. “If I got my cards, I could break two kings or two aces. Calling another $750 to get $25,000 is nothing.”
The original raiser also called, so three players took a flop of Q-9-8, two clubs. Everybody checked.
“When the re-raiser checked on the flop, I was thinking he might have pocket queens,” Pham said, suspecting that his opponent was feigning weakness with a set in hopes of check-raising a bet from Pham.
The turn came the 6 of hearts, putting out two flush draws and some straight possibilities. Pham bet out $2,000 into a $2,500 pot.
“If I had bet $1,500 and nobody had a hand, they wouldn’t call anyway,” said Pham, a pro from the Full Tilt Poker online site. “So I made that kind of bet and hoped someone would make a play on me.
“I put out $2,000 to make it look like I was stealing. I thought the original raiser was going to raise me. If he had raised me, I was going to smooth-call. I wanted to see the river, and then I might lead out big or I might check.”
Instead, both opponents folded and Pham dragged the pot.
But that wasn’t the end of it. As often happens at a table, other players urged Pham to show his cards. Was he bluffing? Or did he really have it?
Pham obliged. Sort of. He turned over only one card, the jack of diamonds, meaning he at least had a gutshot straight draw. The other card?
“I either had ace-jack or pocket jacks,” Pham said, “or I’m lying.”
Gutshot straight draw: Four cards to a straight completed by one card in the middle.