MANY PROS BELIEVE that aggressive poker is the way to go in no-limit hold 'em. By betting out, you put pressure on your opponents to have a hand or risk making a big mistake.
But sometimes, when you have a read on your opponent and you have position, your strongest move is the one that appears to be the weakest. This strategy can be particularly profitable in a deep-stack tournament such as the World Poker Tour's $15,000-buy-in Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Las Vegas' Bellagio in 2006, where players started with $30,000 in chips.
With blinds at a modest $100-$200, accomplished pro Ted Forrest limped from early position, as did two other players. Daniel Negreanu, one of the few players to own a World Poker Tour title and World Series of Poker bracelet, also limped from late position with 2-5 of clubs. Both blinds came in as well, so six players saw a flop of 10-2-2, two diamonds.
After two checks, Forrest bet $700. Two players called. The action was on Negreanu, who held trip deuces.
"It's unlikely that he has a flush draw, but he could have one," Negreanu said. "But he also could have pocket 10s or A-2. Those are possible. I'm just letting him do the pushing and see what happens."
Negreanu called and the blinds folded, so four players saw an offsuit 4 on the turn. Forrest bet about half the $4,000 pot. The next two players folded.
"I didn't see much of a reason to raise," Negreanu said. "Plus, at the same time, by smooth-calling quickly, I'll make it look like I have a draw, so maybe he'll try to bluff me on the river. If he's on a draw and he thinks I'm on a draw, he might bluff on the river and try to rob me. So, I just call it, playing really meek."
The river came: an offsuit 8. Still playing aggressively, Forrest bet out $2,500.
"At this point in a tournament like this, there's no point in raising," Negreanu said. "If I raise, he's not going to call me unless he's going to crush me, and if I do raise him and he moves all in, what am I going to do then? Call him and go broke? No, I'll probably have to fold. So, if he's bluffing, I figure I'll just call and take it."
Which is exactly what happened.
"It's a situation where a lot of amateurs would've overplayed their hands by raising on the flop, raising on the turn, raising on the river, and [they] would've exposed themselves in case Ted had a good hand and might've lost a lot more," said Negreanu, who interacts on the Full Contact Poker site.
"What I did was make the most by risking the least. I never exposed myself at any point. I controlled the pot size with position by just calling him. I'm still getting paid because he's betting for me, and he bluffed the river, whereas he wouldn't have if I had raised him on the turn. So, I maximized it by playing cautiously."