I was playing in a 1-2 No Limit Hold ’em cash game at the Borgata during the 2014 Spring Poker Open. The cash games here on Friday and Saturday nights are really juicy and they are even better during the seasonal Poker Opens. You get a mix of semi-professionals, recreational players, degenerate South Jersey gambling addicts, and transient players from Maryland and Virginia.
I got into a really interesting hand about an hour into the session. I had been running well and my confidence was up and I was really happy with some of the strategic moves I was making to get maximum value from my winning hands. With a 7-9 off suit in first position, I limped in. Five other players called and the button raised it to $7. Everyone called the raise. The flop came 9d-7c-9h. I currently had the nuts by flopping a full house but not the stone-cold nuts since I could be beat by anyone holding 8-8 and above if their set card peeled off on the turn or the river. I was in first position, so instead of slow playing, I led out for $15. Is this the best move? Should I have slow-played it? Maybe. Two players called and Mr. Drunk Guy on the button called as well.
The turn card was the Jack of Hearts and I pushed All-IN with $129 behind me in first position into a pot of $95.
My strategy was to isolate Mr. Drunk Guy and get everyone else out of the hand. The two limpers folded and it was heads up between Mr. Drunk Guy and me.
“Show me your hand and I will lay it down.”
“I’m not showing you my cards, sir,” I said.
“You can have it. I will lay it down. Just show me your hand.”
“You have to pay to see it.” I said.
“It’s a big bet.”
Growing annoyed, I quickly said, “So call. I’m not showing my cards.”
This was an obvious tell that I had a really strong hand and yet, after all that banter back and forth, where he was trying to get information from me (was I bluffing or not?), he called for $129 and he looked stone-faced after the hand was done. The river was a brick. The four of hearts. I scooped the $224 pot and couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
“Did you tip the dealer yet?” He said. I found this comment a bit insulting. He was pegging me as a stingy nit for winning the hand and outplaying him, when really, he should be blaming himself for calling. I did tip the dealer $3.
“What would you have done if you were in my position?” I asked.
“I would have done the same thing as you.”
Was he a skilled player? He had a healthy stack in front of him, about $500, but he was drunk and was playing an erratic reckless style. He had an attractive pint of amber ale in front of him and he had already guzzled down six of them. He was not afraid to gamble it up with speculative hands, like Q-10os, A-8suited, making him a dangerous player that could easily bully the table around.
I put him on A-J, A-Q, A-K. He could have also had a small pocket pair, like 4-4, 5-5, 6-6. If he had A-J, the peeled Jack gave him top two pair but my all-in bet was a sign that I had at least a set. And he probably thought I had a set too.
A few hands earlier, he called a $300 all-in bet with A-K on a flop of 2-4-7. The player who pushed his stack had just sat down at the table and connected with a set of twos.
“You had no business being in that hand,” the winning player said.
There is a strategy to playing against drunk players, especially drunk players that may have significant skill at the table. Drunk players, for the most part, will talk themselves into calling big bets with second best hands since the alcohol impairs their judgment. A sober skilled player may think more deeply and is more likely to lay down a good hand to a better hand.
If I had shown the nuts, would he have been less reluctant to call me the next time I got into a big hand with him? I left the table with a nice profit before it happened again.
What’s the lesson here? Never let your opponent coerce you into showing your cards. It is a sign of weakness and the other players at the table who notice it may use that information to exploit you on future hands. Stick to your guns. I’d only show my cards after winning with a big bluff against players that I think are better than me. Show your cards when you want to. I opt not to show my cards most of the time. I want to be mysterious at the table.