TOURNAMENT POKER seemingly lives in a hyper-aggressive state these days. The great advantages of big and consistent betting give you two ways to win: You might hold the best hand, or the pressure might force an opponent to fold a better hand. Thus, failure to capitalize on apparent weakness can cost you a pot.
At the $15,000-buy-in World Poker Tour Championship at Las Vegas' Bellagio in 2008, with blinds at $2,000-$4,000 plus a $500 ante, wildly aggressive pro Gus Hansen open-raised to $13,000 with J-4 offsuit from late position.
The player to his immediate left called, perhaps because he would have position on Hansen and perhaps because Hansen is known to play any two cards. "I just said, 'OK, I'm not trying to do anything spectacular here,' " Hansen said.
The two players took a flop of 9-4-7, two hearts, giving Hansen bottom pair but putting a flush draw on the board. "I could easily have the best hand," said Hansen, winner of four WPT titles. "I bet [$22,000] and he calls. He doesn't have deuce-trey offsuit, I know that. His range of hands is so great that he could have a flush draw, a straight draw, a middle pair, two overcards. There are plenty of hands he could have."
The turn came the ace of diamonds. "If I check and he bets, I'm probably going to give it up," said Hansen, one of the pros from the Full Tilt Poker online site. "But I didn't think he was particularly strong, so I decided to fire another time. Maybe my 4s are good if he had some kind of random draw."
Hansen bet out $55,000. His opponent called. "I was hoping it was enough to scare him away," Hansen said. "I wasn't too happy when he called. I was hoping to catch a jack or a 4 on the river."
The river came the 3 of clubs, eliminating the heart draw but completing a straight for the highly unlikely holding of 2-5.
"If it was the 10 of hearts, there's no way I could have the best hand because of the draws that get there, and then I'd just check-fold," Hansen said. "But with a 3, I'm thinking about firing another bullet, because it would be hard for him to call with a 9, if that's what he had.
"I decided to just check it because I didn't think he'd bet a 9. He might call with a 9 and he might not. I had a lot of money in the pot already with a stupid hand."
His opponent now had a chance to potentially bet Hansen off his hand, but he checked, then mucked his cards when Hansen showed his winning pair.
"If he had bet big, I'd probably have folded," Hansen said. "It was aggressive play on my part because my 4s were good, and I got lucky he didn't hit any of his draws."*
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