The sound waves from that simple declaration reached the center of the table faster than the villain’s chips, as he slid them forward after announcing “I’m all-in.” The river card had just been dealt, and I had looked at it briefly, then checked.
Preparation and analysis and confidence and timing can create a winning image at a poker table. He was bluffing. I knew he was bluffing. I’d like to tell you how I knew, not with the certainty that comes from having the stone cold nuts, but with enough trust in my read that I don’t need to think about it for a few extra seconds before committing most of my remaining stack to a pot-sized all-in bet, holding an unimproved pocket pair.
Usually, I’m a deliberate poker player. When facing a big bet, SBRTA. Stop. Breathe. Relax. Think. Act. And all that…
Not this time.
He looked stunned, jerking his head back just a bit before he said “good call” and admitted to the bluff. I could have waited for him to show his cards before showing mine. Alternatively, he could surrender his cards face down, and after the dealer pushed the pot in my direction, I’d turn in my cards too, their relative strength or weakness forever unknown to the other players. No need for all that; I just tabled my hand.
The power comes from showing. Showing that my hand could beat a bluff but not much else. Showing that I don’t need to see his cards… I already know. Showing fearlessness. Showing that I might be two steps ahead, so y’all might want to think about that before we tangle. Showing off my A game.
Several other players said “Wow!” and other remarks about how fast I called, how I could respond to such a large bet with such a modest hand without thinking it over, how vulnerable my hand was to being beaten. The room buzzed, the entire table newly energized.
Some of those other players read this blog (Hello there!) and probably hope to read about my thought process throughout the hand. How did I know? Why was I so sure? Sorry friends, not this time. Just know that you’ve seen my A game, I’m planning to bring it more often, and you should fear it.
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