At the end of another long night of 73o and missed flops at two different limits and three tables, I’m exhausted, worn. A favorite dealer has asked me what is wrong, Nothing that can be cured, of course. I’ve earned a small win painfully after felting a possibly tilting nit, and am ready to leave. With only an orbit to go, I take on the Grasshopper, a tricky, slight winning player with a wide isolation raising tendency. He loves suited aces and connectors, not matter from where. His strength is sizing and aggression, in other words, not spots. He’s just attacked an early limper, and picked up a very slow moving man on the button. Mr. Slow sat down only an orbit earlier, and inquired as to whether this was Limit or No Limit.
I 3bet with the Ax suited, a move that makes me a dangerous player, but in terms of results, mostly to myself. This partially Ed Miller inspired rearrangement of my range has cost me thousands of dollars over the past year- but this is a really good spot, I convince myself once again. I don’t like backing down and I like setting up range advantage. Suited aces have to be the most overrated hands in poker, aside from J10o, so flatting is out in a cap game. Earlier, in fact, I had identified a beautiful 4bet situation with the Ax maneuver, where I knew that a mostly tight German-same guy who oversetted me the night before- was trying to open up his game, but had reluctantly let it go on account of a shorty possibly involved, only to have a player ship it in himself behind me, as feared, in a near hit to my increasingly fragile hold on my stack. The three bettor let it go as predicted.
This one, however, looks good so far, as the limper and the Grasshopper snap fold, and I am already counting up the money from the pot when I notice that the squeezed Mr. Slow is counting out a call. Don’t do it. Please don’t do it.
We see a flop of K87. This is a very interesting board because I can represent it and have equity, but it’s more complicated than just that. There are kings in his range, specifically a weakly played AK, but honestly I can’t put him on any hand so easily. I decide I am going to semibluff and bet for protection to start. It’s here that Mr. Slow begins to recoil and transform. Unlike on the silver screen, where a set assistant might spray an actor with a little moisture or leave a few drops of water to drip down his face in a sanitary and dramatic rivulet, real anxiety and confusion is messy. Mr. Slow’s whole head and face dampen, and his eyes begin to squeeze water. His hands and fingers contort like a reptile’s or as in the time lapse film of a plant following the light of the sun. He pulls away from me and the table. His lips quiver and their expression deforms as if he’s about to start slurring, but then says nothing. To my despair, he begins to muck about with his stack.
His fussing with his chips is ambiguous. Normally I know what someone is doing, but here I can’t tell what’s going to happen. He might be raising. At one point it looks like he might be folding in the fashion of old anglers who like to make a show of force before surrendering. However, after all this, it’s just a flat call.
The turn is a miserable deuce which will only inflame him. He should have a king here quite a bit, in which case, ripping it in is pointless. He’s never folding, and I do have a little showdown value. I need to see what he wants to do, and check.
Now Mr. Slow becomes truly ponderous. I’ve handed over the keys to the car, but I might as well have given them to a marsupial. He undulates his head and neck, looking to the ceiling and the television screen for guidance. He starts tapping a chip in his hand, almost scratching at it, as if to remove an irritating but in fact non-existent decal. I want this motion to be a check, and the dealer is wondering about it, too. We’re both staring anxiously and intently at Mr. Slow, as if there were three players in the hand. What is he up to? Is he looking to value bet? To ship in a pair or a float he made? I doubt the dealer is folding. In sum, does he even know what he has?
The tension is unbearable. I speak.
Mr. Slow opens his mouth into a small circle for a few beats, then speaks, at last.
“Is it my turn?”
He does check however, now that we have the order of the game actions nailed down.
The river is a second deuce. I can’t really rep anything except ace high now or worse than a king. Conversely, I don’t even know if he understands what kind of game we are playing. I just want to see showdown. I just want to end this excruciating hand. I just want to go home.
My check is a mistake if I can’t soul read him. Even a guy like this is going to be incentivized to bet his entire range. However, I can’t really pin that down, because his behavior is so strange.
While I resign myself to another fruitless night of the downswing, Mr. Slow is roused to action. His eyes pop and bug. He holds his breath. He scratches his face heavily, leaving a red trace on his left cheek. At last he assembles the little toy soldiers of the poker player’s army, and announces, in a classic strength tell, “I guess I’ll go all in.” He pushes everything in.
Double groan. “I guess I’ll I bet the winning hand,” is what this statement usually translates into.
Yeah I guess you’d better do that, bud.
Usually, I’d fold. I know poker players. They are some of the world’s worst actors and psychologists. This is not a contradiction, even though these skills are so valuable in the game. The moth is always drawn to the flame, and if someone isn’t much of an actor or an observer of human behavior, they will want to participate in and with their weaknesses. It’s can be a good thing, and is a naturally self-corrective behavior.
However, I just can’t trust this guy to have any idea of what is going on. I know he doesn’t have a king; he protects his hand on the turn and looks for value, even a limit player knows this. He reacts differently to making his hand and would not appear to be having a stroke. So what is he betting? Tens would make sense, but maybe AQ and small pairs and some of the other errata forum posters tend to overlook in their often static approach to other humans. Getting better than three to one against this strange line and contradictory behavior, I make the call and get shown tens, ruining another session in the long, hard downswing,
Mr. Slow starts breathing again. “I thought I was beat.” So why did you lay a great price? Whatever. I was close but wrong. A petite woman, a table game obsessed rich young wife whose main job seems to be staying out of her husband’s way, is obviously pleased by the outcome. She encourages him, “no, you’re doing great!” She had flopped quads over my full house in a big game last week and absurdly thought I was betting a flush draw where I should never have a draw, being that her hand looked exactly like trips or a turned straight, so losing once again to people who have no idea what is going on is sending waves of pain and disappointment throughout my damaged body and mind.
Mr. Slow wipes his face and straightens up. He has doubled up and has my chips to count. They seem like a burden to him. However, exhaling heavily, he seems to realize he’s acting oddly.
“I probably shouldn’t be here. I’m a little jet lagged.”
Yes, we recognized the classic symptoms at once. Good lord.
Another player inserts himself into the conversation, also enjoying my defeat and the movement of the chips. He tells Mr. Slow to tip the dealer.
“Right,” Mr. Slow says, “what’s normal around here?”
“A green,” I say directly, in rhythm for hypnotic effect. He tosses the the dealer the biggest tip he’ll get short of a bad beat or drunken loon situation in this room.
Don’t judge me.