An experienced player has the ability to think about what his opponent is likely to hold. Beyond that, a top-quality player – a poker pro – will think a level deeper and consider what he believes his opponent is thinking about his cards.
This summer, at the World Series of Poker Main Event, an interesting confrontation occurred between two Full Tilt Poker pros and bracelet holders, Mark Vos and Chris Ferguson. With blinds of 500 and 1,000, Chris raised on the button to 3,000. Mark re-raised from the small blind and Chris called.
On a flop of A-J-T, Mark bet 12,000 and Chris called. The turn brought another Jack and Vos bet 15K, and Chris called again. The river was a 2. Mark checked and Chris moved in for his last 20K. Mark thought for a time, then turned a Jack face-up, showing trips, and folded.
Mark discussed his thinking shortly after the hand was played.
I was in the small blind with King-Jack suited. It was folded to Chris Ferguson who had about 70K to start the hand. He raised it to 3,000. I decided I could probably pick it up with a little re-raise, take him off of Ace-rag or a small pair. He thought for a little bit and called. I put him on a very strong hand here. He's not likely to defend his button raise with a weak hand. I'd been playing pretty tight.
The flop came out A-J-T. I figured if he had a pair of Queens or maybe a pair of Kings he might lay it down, and if he had a small pair, like 9s or 8s, he'd definitely fold. So I bet out 12K. He thought for a little bit and called. At this point, my hand is totally dead; I'm hoping for a Queen.
The turn came a Jack , which is either a suck-out or a trouble card. I have trips with the best kicker I can have without having a full house. I didn't like the situation, but I felt I had to lead out. Because he could have had A-K or A-Q, or a flush draw. So I bet out 15K, which is pretty weak, because it was about a 40K pot. He called fairly quickly. At that point, my hand is dead. I was half hoping for a King on the river and half not, because it could bust me.
The river was a blank. I checked. He went all in for 20,000. I was fairly certain he had tens full or Aces full, and I folded.
Chris later congratulated Mark on his good fold. He confirmed that he had pocket Aces and had flopped a set and turned a full house.
It takes time to learn to think this deeply about a hand. But if you put in the time and have an open mind, you're game will get increasingly sophisticated and your profits will grow accordingly.