In a recent $2-$5 no-limit hold’em cash game, I had a great read on the players. Only one player (nine-player table) mixed up his betting patterns based on his position.
One player who I’ve played against many times had the most predictable betting pattern I’ve seen in many years. When he had big cards (A-K, A-Q, A-J) he always raised preflop. When he had a pair he would often simply call. After several hours of play, this pattern remained consistent. He never changed how he entered a pot.
In a hand (while I was in late position) this player who was in middle position and first to act in the hand bet $25 into a $7 pot. I had pocket fours and knew (because of his betting pattern) his range was big cards or a pair. I called the $25 and everyone folded.
I knew if the flop had any paint or an ace I probably would be in trouble. I also knew that on a dry board he would bet with big cards and probably check with a flopped set.
The flop was ; he bet $50. I called; the pot was $157. The turn was the . He bet $100; I called, getting 2.5-to-1 pot odds. The river was the ; he then said all-in for his last $173; I called and he turned over A-K.
At this point he said, “Nice hand,” and left the game. Of course when he was gone, the “Comment Commandos” (a name I invented) said, “What a hero call,” and “You really clipped his wings.” These were compliments, but one player said, “What a dumb way to play pocket fours.” Then the action continued.
I really didn’t clip his wings; he clipped his own wings by betting in the same fashion in virtually every hand he played.
Good players will pick up on betting patterns. Betting is the truest form of all tells when playing low-limit cash games.
If your game is limited to betting with good cards and limping and checking with average hands, all good players will identify your game style quickly. You won’t get any action when you raise unless the player calling has strong holdings or big draws that will be the nuts or sure to beat your hand. Mix up your bets and remain a mystery that better players can’t figure out easily.
— Antonio Pinzari has been playing professionally since the ’70s. He’s the creator of 23 Poker and Wild Tallahassee Poker, which you can learn more about at WildTallahasseePoker.com.