How The Novice Player Can Have A Direct Affect

published on 12/15/09 at 7:47 am

How The Novice Player Can Have A Direct Affect

All too often I hear the phrase that poker is poker. There is no difference on how you play in a cash no limit game then in a tournament no limit game. Anyone who makes such a statement either has not played much in the way of high stakes cash games, or they have a serious complex they need to overcome. There is a tremendous difference between the two and it will directly affect the way you play. The biggest difference between the two is the effect of the novice player.

In a high stakes cash game it is not out of the ordinary for me to pay a player a “referral fee” if he brings a fish to my table. Especially if that fish is well funded. I have paid fees in the thousands of dollars to get somebody with a bull’s eye on their forehead at a high stakes game. It is every players dream to land one of these guys regularly. In a cash game, this type “A” player will chase down a flush, a straight, two pairs to a full, all night long. He knows if he catches his hand he will be well compensated. Now and them he actually does. And he takes the pot down. He knows he is out classed and out matched so he has to place his destiny in the hands of fate. By the end of the night, the longer he plays, the more the odds catch up to him. Eventually he goes home busted as usual……again……and again…and again.

Now you have left the comfort of your cash game and decided to venture into foreign waters. It’s now July, and you are in Las Vegas. You have just flopped down $10G’s for a shot at the most prestigious bracelet of them all (the only bracelet in my opinion). You draw a weak table and are playing well. All of the sudden, the same guy you have been busting in cash games shows up at your table. You have enough information on this guy to fill a book. This must be your lucky day. The first time you played with this guy you paid for the privilege of having this fish at your table. And now here he is. All on his own coming to give you his chips. He begins playing tight. That last about 40 minutes until he gets outplayed for the third time he’ is in a pot. All of the sudden, it’s business as usual. He is following along paying off every raise.

A few moments later you find yourself involved in a pot in late position with pocket Aces. The flop comes and it’s 9, 10 A all hearts. You just made a set of bullets. The AK out of position bets, our friend calls, you raise. The AK folds, our buddy does what he does best……makes a bad call. The turn reveals a 4 of hearts. This is not what you wanted to see. At this point you could bet your house on the fact that he just made his flush……yes he needed a four flush on the board. On a good day, he was drawing on the straight but not today. You are now crippled with 65% of your chips in the pot and he has you covered. You make the best lay down of the tournament and he turns over the Kh, Jc off suit he was playing and shows you the nut flush.

Its now two hands later. You are on the button with pocket Kings. You make a play and guess who calls you. You got it. It’s him. He opens a Q J off suite the flop is 2, 7, J rainbow. Not what you wanted to see. The turn is a 6H. And the much anticipated river reveals the third Jack. Congratulations, you are out of the biggest tournament of the year on the bubble. Does it happen? If you need to ask then you need to start playing more tournaments.

Here is a situation that shows how the Novice Player can have a direct affect on how you play and assess a hand. You are in a major tournament, deep into day two. You are four positions out of the money, on the bubble. You have a decent chip stack but there are four larger stacks at your table including the chip leader.

You are third to act and are holding Ah, Kc. First position puts in a raise of 4X the BB. Second position folds. The action is on you. Here is where it starts to get tricky, and it will get much more difficult as this hand progresses. If you are up against a top ranked player that is making a move in the worst possible position on the bubble, then one can clearly assess that this player is holding a very strong hand.

Against a novice player, you have no idea. We now face our first decision. Do we fold, raise of call? If you have decided that you want to play this hand, your best decision would be to just…make the call. With all those players still to act after you, it is hard to tell what they will do. You make the call and another player calls on the button. The small and big blinds fold and the three of you go to the flop. The flop is Ac, 6s, 5s. You have flopped top pair with top kicker. The player at question, in first position, puts out a very large bet almost 2X the pot. What do you do? In a cash game this a no-brainer. In a tournament on the bubble, its not.

Now let’s assume once again that this is a top ranked conservative player. This bet would indicate that he is not giving pot odds for a call from one that is on a draw and he is more than happy to take it down right there and then. As such we can assume that the player did not make a set of Aces and is not on a draw himself. He is also showing little regard for the fact that there is an Ace on the board. With two players left to act it is extremely likely that one of you has paired the Ace. It is very likely that you two are playing
comparable hands.

A player of this caliber would not have raised pre-flop in this position, at this stage of the tournament pre-flop with A, 5 or A, 6 so the likelihood that he is playing two pair is very low. He could also have elected to play a mid pair (unlikely with 5’s or 6’s) so he may be on mid or bottom set. Another reason why he would want to take it down right there and then. With a player left to act behind you, you find yourself sandwiched between the two so you decide to call, as does the button. With a novice player you could never logically assess his starting hand based on the information you have compiled thus far. Your only hope would be that you got some type of read on the guy and can act upon it. The turn reveals a 2h that does not appear to have helped anyone. Whatever you assessment was before after the flop, remains the same after this turn card. The player in first position makes a pot sized bet. With a possible straight draw and flush draw you decide to move all in and take the pot down. The button folds.

Now if you are playing a top player you have made the assessment that you may win the pot or even chop the pot should he make the call. In this particular hand the player in first position was in fact a Novice Player. He called the all in and revealed an 8h, 9h. He hit a 7h on the river and won the hand with a 9 high straight. You are out of the tournament.

The above hand is a good example of how a good player can get in trouble quick against a Novice Player. There was very little you could have done in the above example that would have changed the outcome of the hand. Even a raise may have enticed a re-raise from the player in first position. Short of laying down the best hand, which would not have happened, you were doomed.

Most top ranked players would not have raised in the worst possible position pre-flop with that hand. They certainly would not have played that hand from that position at this stage of the tournament. Most importantly, they would not have put their tournament at risk on the bubble calling an all in bet with a gut shot draw. It is a tough predicament but one that we face constantly in tournaments these days.

John “The Greek” Leontakianakos is a professional poker player with 27 years of experience.

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