Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thinking About (Not Practicing) the Art of Misdirection

The Art of MisdirectionI mentioned a couple of days ago how I’d been playing a lot of pot-limit Omaha, and how I was on the lookout for interesting hands and/or situations to share. Found one.

Have been mostly sitting at the “20-50bb” six-max. tables with $0.10/$0.25 blinds, buying in for the maximum $12.50. Having been playing decently of late, I think, but I have to admit I’ve been running especially good, too. Among the big pots I’ve played I’ve hit a couple of two-outers, the sort of thing that does a lot to help keep one’s momentum going in the right direction.

Two seats had emptied, so we were four-handed. After a few orbits I’d chipped up to $19.47 when I was dealt KhKdJd4c on the button. The cutoff limped in for a quarter, and I raised to $1.00. The small blind folded, then both the big blind and the cutoff called.

That meant there was $3.10 in the middle when the flop came 6d2sKc. (I said I’ve been running good.) I get top set, with no flush draws to fret (yet). It checked to me, I bet $1.75, and only the big blind stuck around. Pot now $6.60.

The flop had been good, and the turn was pretty decent, too -- the Ad. Not too worried about a set of aces here, and now I have the nut flush draw. My opponent, now with $13.21 left, checked, and I went ahead and made a nearly pot-sized bet of $6. His quick call made me think he’d either picked up a diamond draw, too, or perhaps had flopped a set of sixes or deuces. Pot up to $18.60.

The river then brought the 6h, giving me kings full of sixes. With no hesitation whatsoever, my opponent fired a bet of $4.50, leaving himself just $2.71 behind. The bet momentarily slowed me down, and I sincerely thought I might’ve been one-outed here. In fact, I’ll admit my recent run-good might’ve affected me here just a little, making me irrationally feel as though I might be due for a bad beat.

I took a couple of seconds, then, I suppose as a way of insulating myself against the disappointment I would feel if indeed my opponent held sixes, I typed “if u got u got” before raising to $9.

I knew I was good when my opponent didn’t instantly call. But as a few more seconds went by, I found myself wishing I hadn’t typed anything. The pot was about $30, yet he appeared actually to be considering folding and preserving his $2.71. Finally, after 20 seconds, he called, showing Ks4h3s2h. He’d flopped top-and-bottom pair and a gutshot, chased, then made a failed play on the end to try and steal the big pot.

As the next hand was dealt, I thought again with some regret about my chat. All I had really accomplished was essentially to tell my opponent what I had and thereby give him a chance to fold a worse hand.

Then a thought occurred to me. What if I didn’t have a monster hand there? What if I had nothing at all -- say, a couple of busted draws myself and nothing but ace-high -- and typed the same line?

It genuinely felt like I’d nearly caused a player to fold in a situation where he had better than 10-to-1 to call on the river. His hand was weak and he knew it, but it was better than ace-high. Or, say, a pair of queens. Perhaps typing such a line might not be such a bad maneuver to accompany a desperation river raise to steal a big pot with air?

Then again, perhaps not. Still, the hand made me think more generally about those times in poker when we act in ways that unambiguously reveal our hands or intentions -- when we not only give tells but consciously do so -- and how effective it could be to act the same way in a different situation, that is, one in which the seemingly unambiguous information we are giving away is completely misleading.

I imagine the better players are often devoting their energies toward working on this -- the art of misdirection. More so than toward fearing quads, anyway.

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