Playing the Player: He never met a flop he didn't love

I was playing in a low-limit game last night, and one of my opponents had an interesting little habit: not only did he play too many hands (a pretty common thing at low limits) but he bet literally EVERY flop that he saw! He never met a flop he didn’t like. Even though he was a terrible player, he was actually making money because in poker, as in life, fortune favors the bold… aggressive play is rewarded.

I’m a big fan of aggression… but no matter what his cards were, when the flop came, he was right there with a bet. It didn’t take me long to notice this– maybe once around the table. Players should be aggressive, but if you bet EVERY flop, people will have your number in minutes.

I was getting frustrated, because I never seemed to have a hand good enough to call a bluff against this guy, until finally it came…

I was in the small blind with ace-trey suited. I limped in, since it was only half a bet to see a flop with a nice speculative hand, and with only the big blind left to act, a raise was unlikely. Also, Mr. “I love every flop” was in the pot, so I was hoping to get a few more spades to make a monster hand.

The flop came Ace-Trey-Jack rainbow in a 4-way pot. Now normally, I would NEVER risk a check-raise with a hand this weak– the risk of giving a free card that pairs the board and counterfeits my treys is just too high.

However, since I KNEW this guy would bet, it was safe. So I checked my two pair, and sure enough, he came out with a bet behind me. Everyone called around to me, because they knew his bet was meaningless… and I raised! Because I had an image at the table of always having the goods when I’m in a pot, I only got two callers. So instead of betting out and getting 3 bets, I check-raised, and got 6– AND there were fewer players seeing the turn and river than there would have been had I bet out. My check-raise, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without knowing my opponents, accomplished two goals: it built the pot, AND it protected my hand. In the end, I wound up dragging a pot that was 12 big bets.

Watching your opponents is always worth while, but it’s even more fun when you can punish them for their mistakes without any real risk.