Standing Naked at the Poker Table

by Lou on February 8, 2011

I watched the Superbowl from the vantage point of a poker table at my local casino.  The games were good in the sense that most of the players were more interested in the Packers and Steelers than they were in their cards—with the result that many players weren’t computing their options with anything close to approaching mathematical precision.  But more interesting than that was one player who was seemingly oblivious to the fact that everyone at the table, including most of the least observant players in the game, could read him like the proverbial book.

Our hero was a 20-something player who severely overvalued A-K, and always continued to bet it regardless of the board and the action of his opponents.

While he liked to try for a checkraise with any pocket pair of queens or higher, he would always fire out a big bet or bigger raise every time he was dealt A-K.  By halftime he showed down Big Slick in a couple of situations—once where he flopped top pair and kept raising at every opportunity, another where he whiffed on the flop and kept driving the hand, and a third where he kept betting A-K into an it-missed-me three-suited board that became four-suited on the turn against three other opponents.  He played the same way each time, just as when he had top pair, and it was pretty clear that everyone was looking to confront this guy.

He wound up going broke a couple of times and couldn’t understand that A-K doesn’t win every time, and never understood that he stood naked before the entire table—the emperor’s new clothes in a poker game—and that although everyone had a read on him, he was oblivious to it all.

On the way home it got me thinking:  If you’re having what you consider a spate of bad luck at poker, it might pay enormous dividends to have a friend shadow your game for leaks. After all, it wouldn’t have taken a genius to decipher what our hero never saw at all—that he played A-K the same way every time, and played it in a cartoonish, caricature-like way by betting much larger than he did with any other holding. He was an otherwise sound player, but when he had A-K he became low-hanging fruit that everyone was able to pluck.

Don’t let it happen to you.

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