Mike Caro poker word is Felted

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.

Proudest hands

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.

The answer

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

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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  1. I came up with a term for something that happens a lot when playing tight – “Slipnuts”. It’s when you fold a garbage hand like 9-2 offsuit out of position preflop and it becomes the stone cold nuts once the cards are down, slipping right through your fingers. I’ve found it can be a particularly frustrating and tilt-inducing phenomenon after having several consecutive strong hands cracked, or when one is short-stacked near the bubble in a tournament with massive blinds and watches a huge multiway pot get scooped by someone with two pair when your 8-3 of clubs would have made the flush. “Crikey! I had the Slipnuts!”.

    Once I was playing two tables of limit hold’em online, and for five consecutive hands on both tables my folded garbage hands became the absolute nuts by the river. Boats were dockin’, flushes were swirlin’ straights were straightenin’, and I had no piece of any of them because I refused to throw money after these hands. My mind about collapsed trying to figure out the odds of something like that happening again. I finished the session with a profit, so it wasn’t too tragic. But I think that might have been the Slipnuts motherlode…

      1. Glad you like the term, Mike. I’d actually kind of like to hear you riff on how to deal with that phenomenon – how to maintain one’s composure after repeatedly folding the slipnuts, and conversely how to spot and exploit it when you see it happen to other players at a table and the proper circumstances present themselves. Because with enough repeat occurrences in the right context, it can put a player on cash-sprinkler super-tilt.

  2. We here in Northern Mi. have been useing the term “felted” for years. I believe it to bewell understood. When we use it it is often in reference to a bad beat or, more often, to a call that totally surprised you.

    On another note- do you offer paid consulting? Posssibly by e-mail or over the phone?

  3. Heh. First, always always ALWAYS mentally check to see if you are in a bad-beat-jackpot game. This will probably not happen if you are playing 400-800 stud, but may well be the case if you are playing 4-8 stud at the local casino. Then call.

    Otherwise, you probably have the right odds anyway to call, so call anyway.

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