Let me describe a recent hand where I was heads-up, I knew I was going to call an all-in bet and yet I took a few minutes before doing so. It was a $1-$2 cash game and after a few limpers, I raised to $12 from the button with 6-8 offsuit, totally playing position. The big blind called after a kind of what-the-heck shrug that made me think he was totally gambling. Everyone else folded. The flop came 8-5-4 rainbow, giving me top pair and a gutshot straight draw. The big blind checked and I bet $20. After a little deliberation, he called. The turn was a seven, making my straight. To my surprise, the big blind went all-in for about $125.
The bet took me by surprise but I was fairly sure he didn’t have 6-9. The player wasn’t tricky enough to push with that hand hoping to throw me off that he had a weaker hand. The only thing that made sense was two pair or he had a six as well. So, there was really not a doubt in my mind that I was going to call. Yet, I took my time. By doing so, I let my opponent talk and reveal his hand. He made a comment that “If I’m beat, I’m beat.” Since I was taking my time, I knew he wasn’t going to put me on a straight.
As I took more time, he asked if I had a set. I said, “A set’s no good,” and there it was. His face and body language betrayed him. I knew he couldn’t beat a set and had two pair. I called and he tabled 7-4, which made sense.
So, why did I take my time and what purpose did it serve? First, let me point out I would’ve never done this with 6-9. With the nuts, I would snap-call as etiquette requires it and it’s the respectful thing to do for opponents.
By taking my time, I was able to take advantage of a rare opportunity to size up an opponent I play with frequently. I could observe, study and gain a whole lot of valuable information that I could use in the future when I actually faced a tough decision.
There is so much going on at the poker table that you need to take some time at opportune moments to slow down, study and learn. When there’s no pressure on you, it makes it a lot easier to think clearly, weigh the moment and register the outcome.
— David Apostolico is the author of numerous poker strategy books including Tournament Poker and The Art of War. His latest, You are the Variable, is on Kindle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.