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Deep Stack Bluff in Holiday Game

I get together with my friends back home in Madison, Wisconsin every year for our annual Holiday Poker Game. Here's a story about a very entertaining hand that came up during this year's eighteen-hour long marathon session.

We played a $5,000 buy-in no limit Hold'em game featuring $5-$10 blinds. Players started with at least $2,000 in chips on the table and were allowed to put three $1,000 chips into their pockets for safekeeping. That means that we kicked off the game with at least 200 big blinds apiece, and that my friends, is a deep stack poker game!

About twelve hours into the game, with a live $20 straddle on, Jon Ferraro limped in with Qc-10c. Three other players called, including Jon Green from the small blind.

The flop came Qh-10s-6d. Green checked, another player checked, and Ferraro bet $120. Everyone folded except Green and the player in the big blind who both called.

The turn card was an eight. Ferraro bet $450, and again, Green and the player in the big blind both called.

The river was a three. Both players checked to Ferraro who bet $500, but this time Green check-raised, making it $2,200 to go. The big blind folded and Ferraro began to squirm in his chair. About thirty seconds passed before Ferraro said to Green, "J-9, huh? You must have J-9!"

Green said nothing and sat very still in his chair. After another sixty seconds, Green flipped a jack face-up from his hole cards. The already squirming Ferraro began to wiggle even more. Ferraro then flipped up Q-10 -- top two pair -- and after yet another thirty seconds, said to Green, "Give me $1,000 back from the pot and I'll fold."

Quick as a startled rabbit springs forth, Green accepted Ferraro's offer.

And then, in one quick motion, Green swept up the large pot, tossed two $500 chips to Ferraro, and showed off his K-J bluff. Ferraro groaned, "I should have known you were bluffing. Otherwise, why would you have shown me a jack?"

Let's examine this hand.

Some important history: Green had been playing super-tight poker and it just isn't his style to fire out huge bluffs on the river. I really thought he had J-9 and was half expecting him to raise it up on the turn when Ferraro bet $450. But, in retrospect, Green almost always raises on the turn when he has the nuts in order to protect his hand. So, since he didn't raise it up, I should have realized he didn't have J-9.

Another possibility, though, was that Green had a set. If he did, he'd probably decide against raising on the turn because all three players had at least $6,000 in front of them, and he wouldn't want to push $6,000 into a $450 pot when someone else might already have him beat with a straight.

I like the fact that Green showed one of his cards - the jack. He made similarly tricky plays earlier in the game in an attempt to confuse his opponents when he actually did have the goods.

Now, if Ferraro had already made up his mind to fold, then I love his offer to take back $1,000 to fold his hand. Brilliant play!

But I'm not in love with Green's decision to accept Ferraro's offer, even though it locked in some profit for him. It seemed to me that Ferraro was about ready fold his hand anyway. To be fair, though, Ferraro did pay off some big bets later in the game with weak holdings so perhaps Green did make the right move.


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