In a $1,500 buy-in no limit Hold'em event at this year's World Series of Poker, I was sitting on $9,600 in chips right after the dinner break when this hand played out. With the blinds at $300/$600 plus a $75 ante, a player to my right in the cutoff position opened for $1,200. I was sitting on the button with A-10 offsuit and opted to smooth-call.
Online poker pro Eric Lee was in the small blind and made it $4,800 to go. The original raiser folded and I considered my options as I counted down my chips.
I could fold, I could call $3,600, or I could move all-in for $4,800 more. I studied Eric for a moment and wondered if I had the best hand. You see, Eric's a young guy and I'm quite aware that a lot of young guns are more than willing to make moves with relatively weak hands.
The more I studied Lee, the more I sensed that he didn't have a hand that he could snap call with for $4,800 more – hands like pocket aces, kings, queens, jacks or A-K. But I also realized that he might be priced in to the hand, meaning that he would have to call a $4,800 raise no matter what his holdings were.
Just then I reminded myself that I had intentionally smooth-called the min-raise to induce one of the players in the blinds to reraise. Since I'd received the action that I had hoped for, I just felt that I had to continue with my plan and move all-in.
So, I shoved in my chips knowing that the heat was on Eric as he only had $5,800 in chips remaining. He'd basically be putting his tournament life on the line with a call.
Keep this tip in mind: You can reasonably assume that a player is super-strong when he moves all-in knowing that his opponent will most likely make the call.
Eric studied the situation for about a minute. He was getting three-to-one odds to make the call. I figured he had a hand like A-J, pocket nines or something similar. If I was correct, he'd have me beat so I was rooting for him to fold.
Eventually, Eric did make the call. I asked him if he had A-J and he said, no, A-Q. “Nice call,” I said, “you deserve to win this one.”
The flop came A-J-7. A four hit on the turn, and then, to everyone's amazement, the river card was a ten!
Let's take a closer look.
My smooth-call with A-10 was an interesting play. Many players would consider A-10 too weak to smooth-call and set a trap with but I like my play. I had two young players in the blinds behind me and had the impression that both were very aggressive.
I also like the fact that I smooth-called quickly. Too often, players take too much time before smooth-calling with a hand that they are trapping with, which sends a signal of strength. By acting quickly (and deceptively), I hoped to send a signal of weakness.
I like Eric's $4,800 bet. By today's internet poker standards, his approximate pot-sized raise was probably a bit heavy, although it was right in line with the traditional brick-and-mortar norm.
And my all-in move? Well, in my defense, that's exactly how I set up the play as I read Eric as not being particularly strong. On the other hand, he was probably priced in, so I should have more strongly considered that he'd have to make the call because folding just wasn't a realistic option for him.
FYI, I went on to finish the tournament in fifteenth place – very frustrating.