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Michael Binger – My Poker Strategy at the Venetian
Here I want to break down a hand I played last month at the Venetian Deepstacks $5k Main event. With almost 900 entries, this was a great value tournament. I came in feeling good and played my A+ game for 3 days straight. I was big stacked most of tourney, that is until the middle of day 3 when my KK lost to QQ for a 650k pot when the average was 400k. That left me with 250k (instead of 900k and among the chip leaders).
Soon thereafter, I played an interesting hand against Men the Master. Men and I have a bit of history... let's just say we are adversaries at the poker table. This was the last hand before dinner break, and some people were already getting up to leave. I usually consider this a good time to steal the blinds, which were 5k-10k. I looked down at 7c8c and raised to 25k with about 300k total. It's folded to Men in the big blind who calls. The flop comes Td9h2s, giving me the bottom end of an open ender.
I had already planned to check behind when Men comes out firing 40k into the 60k pot. I put him on a ten: either JT, QT, KT, or AT being most likely. He has me covered with about 350k starting the hand. It is tempting to raise here (either all-in or a pot committing amount), and many aggressive players would take this approach. But I think that Men might get stubborn and call me with a ten, and force me to hit my straight draw for my tourney life. On the surface, calling seems bad because I am not getting the right pot odds, and even including implied odds (what I might win if I hit my draw), it is marginal at best. However, calling here looks strong... and allows me to potentially bluff later in the hand.
So I call 40k, making the pot about 140k. The turn was the Qh, an interesting card because in Men's mind I could easily have KQ, or maybe J8 or QT. He thinks for a while and checks. Now I go into the tank. I think about betting this card, but decide there is too good a chance that either Men is trapping, or has a hand like JT which he won't fold. I also think that he will check the river with an unimproved ten and I can often win the pot there. So I check the turn. The river brings the 9c, pairing the middle card on the flop. Men thinks and checks. I decide this is the perfect card to bluff at... I could easily have called with middle pair on the flop, or had KQ (or maybe AQ) and decided to play it safe and check the turn. I bet 60k, almost too small a bet with the pot being 140k, but in this case I thought it looked more like a genuine value bet. Men read it the same way and after a while folded.
This bluff gave me the confidence that I could come back and win the tourney. Sadly, things turned south for me after dinner and I busted in 29th place, pretty disappointing overall.
Two important lessons from this hand are (1) to anticipate how things might play out in later betting rounds, and (2) to think about what your opponent thinks you have.
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