I was playing in a deep-stack tournament and had seen my stack fall from 10,000 to around 7,500. With blinds at 100-200, a guy in middle position with about 15,000 made a standard raise of three times the big blind. I was in the small blind and called with A-Q. The big blind also called, and the flop came down king-high with two rags. I was first to act and quickly checked, as did the big blind. The original raiser looked as if he was going to bet, but then, after a few seconds, checked.
The turn brought an ace, so I bet 1,200 into a pot of 1,800. The big blind folded, and the initial raiser thought for a while before raising to 3,600. I studied him for a couple of minutes, trying to get a read, but eventually folded, knowing that if I called, I'd probably be committing my entire stack to the hand.
After he raked in the pot, I heard my opponent tell other players that he had nothing. No one believed him, speculating that he must have had at least A-K for two pair or, more likely, a set that he slow-played on the flop. Was I right to preserve my stack with a semi-strong hand, or do you think he bluffed me off the pot?
- Bobby, Virginia
Unfortunately, you'll never know if he was bluffing -- though if he was telling people that he had nothing, he's probably the type who would have shown the bluff just to annoy you. I think it may have been better to check-call the turn and keep the pot small.
Remember, it's OK to be bluffed in tournaments. Often, I feel as if I have the best hand but still fold to preserve my tourney life and stack size. After falling victim to a bluff, move on and don't obsess over the hand. Trust your instincts. In this case, I think you made a good fold.
Jamie Gold did a lot of talking to opponents on his way to WSOP glory, and it seemed to help him immensely. However, I believe you can also give a lot away to your opponents - especially online, as there are no visual tells. What's your advice on talking at the table, both online and live? Should the table banter be left to the professionals?
It's a matter of personal preference and knowing yourself. If you're comfortable talking at the table and feel that it helps your game, then by all means, chat away. The risk is that talking can expose you. However, there are ways to capitalize on the table image that you establish through your banter, provided you're able to control it.
Gathering reliable information as quickly and efficiently as possible is basically poker in a nutshell. If you're able to increase the volume of information by keeping your opponents verbally active, it's worth the effort. So much of poker is psychological, and verbal communication is one of the easiest ways to manipulate a situation.
As you mentioned, there are no visual tells in online poker, so you must carefully evaluate what you type into the chat box. You may think that a player is giving a lot away with what he's saying, but it's possible nothing he's saying is true -- which is tougher to determine when all you have to go on are words on a screen.
Scott Fischman is a professional poker in both the live and online poker worlds. He has won two World Series of Poker bracelets and has accumulated nearly $3 million in career earnings. He is also the author of the poker book "Online Ace." Send your poker questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @scottfischman88.