Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2007) in Poker Player newspaper. This was the first instance in which questions were numbered in a sequence continued from the previous column. Since the questions were all independent and you didn’t need to read the previous ones to get full benefit from the new ones, that method was later abandoned. This entry actually has only one new question.
Fourteen months ago, I was playing in a WSOP event against one of poker’s superstars, Phil Laak (a.k.a. the Unabomber). He suggested that I use as “Today’s Word” in this column something he had coined. I laughed and said it was a good word, but up until now, I’ve ignored his suggestion.
His word is “felted,” and it means being forced to go all-in, leaving no more chips on the table in front of you. His word has even more impact when you use it to convey that the pot was subsequently lost and you finished the hand chipless. If this happens to you, you’ve been felted.
Phil Laak’s word sanctioned
Well, for more than a year Phil’s word has echoed in my head whenever I’ve written such things as “Doyle moved all-in and was called by Dewey” or “Chip took him down to the cloth.” The Phil Laak inspired alternatives, “Dewey was felted by Doyle” and “Chip felted him” cry out as colorful options. The poker lexicon needs a simple term to describe being forced all-in.
So, Phil, as of today, August 31, 2007, I’m giving your word acknowledgment and nominating it for inclusion in the MCU/Michael Wiesenberg Official Dictionary of Poker. Wiesenberg has been notified of this request, and I hope that “felted” will become a common word used by poker writers and announcers worldwide, along with words like “rivered,” and “counterfeited.” Consider Phil Laak’s “felted” — along with “has been felted,” “I shall felt thee,” and related usage — to be officially sanctioned by me and MCU.
One more self-interview question in the sequence
In my most-recent column, I asked and answered three important poker questions. I’m not done.
Here is one more for today, and others will follow. Don’t be confused by the nature of the question. Although it uses seven-card stud for the example, the concept applies to all forms of poker.
Question 4: You’re playing seven-card stud. On the last round of betting, you have 8♥ 8♦ 8♣ K♦ on the board and Q♠ 8♠ 3♦ hidden — four eights. Your opponent’s board is 7♥ 6♥ 4♥ 3♥. You bet and are raised. What should you do — fold, call, or reraise?
Amateurs will reraise routinely and some of the most astute experts recommend folding. The reason weak players raise is that they’re deciding purely in relation to the strength of their hand. Four eights is a monster. So they reraise. Their analysis is just that simple.
Many of the more cerebral poker experts treat the game like chess. They use profound logic to deduce that your opponent can see your three eights with their own eyes. They are on your exposed board, and you have three hidden cards that could make the hand much more powerful.
These experts will explain that your opponent knows you won’t bet just three obvious eights, because there’s little purpose in doing so. You don’t need to bluff, so by betting, you’re letting an opponent know that you have a full house or four-of-a-kind and are hoping for a call from a straight or flush.
When your opponent — who knows this — raises, he must have a hand that can beat your full house. And, in this case, that probably means specifically a straight flush (although a small four-of-a-kind could also handle a full house). Knowing that an opponent isn’t going to try to bluff a full house out of the pot, you must give him credit for holding something better. And therefore, you must fold.
Two wrong approaches
What’s wrong with these two approaches?
The amateur approach doesn’t take into consideration the opponent’s perspective. In this situation, there’s a good likelihood that your opponent’s raise means your four eights are beat by a straight flush. So reraising is ludicrous.
The expert approach neglects to account for mental meltdown on the part of the opponent. In the real world, opponents routinely play hands illogically. Also, shouldn’t the expert’s logic be extended to both players, not just you?
If the opponent really does recognize that you must have at least a full house and thinks you’re an astute player, he knows his raise will signify a superior hand. So, he could raise as a bluff!
Those experts who say you must automatically fold aren’t projecting the same analytical ability to your opponent that they apply to you. Either that opponent is wholly rational, or he isn’t. If he is, he might try to bluff your full house out of the pot. If he isn’t, you shouldn’t give him credit for needing a straight flush to raise.
In one of my proudest hands years ago, I actually did bluff four-of-a-kind showing in seven-card stud out of a seven-card stud pot! He held, coincidentally, four eights (like in the example), but they were all exposed. Even though he had no reason to bet, because I could see exactly the huge hand I was facing, he did. He laughed, throwing in his bet egotistically and said, “If you can beat it, raise it.”
My board was a paltry A-7-6-3, including the 7-6 of hearts. I raised. My first two secret hole cards had been 5-4 of hearts. On the river, I had missed everything. No, I didn’t expect my bluff to work — although I thought there was a remote chance that it might. My real objective was to enhance my carefree image by showing down this nonsensical bluff after he called.
Well, he thought and thought and finally made what must have seemed to him as the best laydown of his life. He wanted to show how astute he was. After he folded his four eights, I laughed along with him and showed my hand — no pair, nothing. Ah, you live for moments like that in poker.
But, back to the issue: You should call with your four eights. That’s the answer. Although you’re probably going to be beat, there’s a good chance your opponent has raised with just a flush or straight, after being caught up in the emotion of the moment. You don’t need to win most of the time to call on the river. You just need to win often enough to earn an overall profit. Always factor mental meltdown into your formula. Call.
Remember, if you play poker like chess, you’ll frequently think yourself into trouble and out of pots. That’s because those “obviously logical” poker decisions aren’t always right. – MC