It Was Never a Mystery At All

by Lou on September 10, 2005

Sometimes a poker hand is played so predictably that both players might as well have their cards face up. I witnessed a hand like that yesterday.

But before I describe it, it’s important to remember that the players must be predictable in order for this to occur. If they are unpredictable, then the range of hands played under the circumstances you witness are likely to be too broad to accurately assign determine their hands. If they are real fish, or complete maniacs, who could be playing anything, then putting them on a hand with any degree of accuracy is nearly impossible.

Let’s call these players Predictable Polly and Reliable Ray, both of whom play good hands, play by the book, don’t go on tilt, and don’t bluff very often. So when they play a hand, you can usually assign them to a range of hands based on their betting patterns. Here’s what happened.

Predictable Polly opened the pot by calling from middle position and Reliable Ray raised from the button. Both the big blind and Polly called.

The flop was T-4-2 of mixed suits. The big blind checked, Polly led with a bet and Ray raised. The big blind folded and Polly called. At this point, I knew Polly’s bet was telling the world that she had a hand like A-T or T-J suited, and that Reliable Ray’s raise meant that he could beat a pair of tens and because he held a bigger pair. And it didn’t matter whether that pair was J-J, Q-Q, K-K, or A-A. Any of those hands could beat Polly’s hand right now.

I was certain Predictable Polly did not have two pair, because she never would have entered the pot with T-4, T-2, or 4-2. What’s more, Polly did not have a set because she would have opened for a raise with any pair she was willing to play in the situation she found herself in before the flop. She had to have a ten in her hand with either a big kicker or a connecting kicker, but in any event, she had a pair of tens — nothing less and nothing more.

Reliable Ray would have raised before the flop with two big cards as well as a big pocket pair, and while he might have called Polly’s bet on the flop with A-K, he wouldn’t have raised without a better hand because he also knew that Polly probably flopped top pair and would not fold to a raise. By raising, Reliable Ray was saying, “I can beat a pair of tens right now.”

The turn card was a nine, and while two hearts were now on the board, I didn’t believe the presence of two suited cards was significant at all, since the chance that it elevated Predictable Polly’s backdoor flush draw to a flush draw were slim. Polly checked, then called Ray’s bet.

At this point I knew that Polly believed Ray was ahead of her, but she wasn’t about to release top pair on the chance that she might either outdraw Ray by catching another ten or pairing her kicker on the river, or that Ray was pushing A-K and she had the best hand right now.

The river was an offsuit jack. Polly checked, Ray bet, and Polly raised. Ray called, suspecting he was probably beaten, and I knew he was. He the look on his face of a man who just had aces cracked, and that’s exactly what happened. Predictable Polly had J-T and made two pair on the river. Reliable Ray had a pocket pair of aces which were skewered by Polly’s two pair.

The way the hand unfolded made it clear what the players held, and while different players might have had different hands in that situation — there are legions of players who would have continued to bet A-K into that board if they were in Ray’s position — when these two players were in the hand, there was never any mystery at all.

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