OF THE MANY factors that can help you deduce an opponent's likely holdings, his playing style and betting pattern rank perhaps as the most important, as they were for veteran British pro Joe Beevers in this hand from the 2009 World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in main event at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas.
With blinds at $100-$200, Beevers open-raised to $600 from middle position with pocket 6s. Only the big blind called.
"He has been playing too many hands," Beevers said. "I've seen him turn over rag aces. I've seen him turn over bad hands out of position. I've raised his blind a few times, and on the river he's come out betting big a few times. I think he's bluffing and trying to run over the table."
The flop came 6-7-9, all spades.
"Obviously, I like it because I flopped a set, but this is a scary board," said Beevers, who has won more than $2 million in tournament prize money. "If he has the nut-flush draw, or say he has the 9-10 of spades, or 7-8 with the 8 of spades, I'd be an underdog to get all my chips in with the best hand. But he's only bet $1,000 and I have position on him. So I do what I think is right, and I flat-call."
The turn came the jack of clubs. The big blind bet out $2,000.
"I think, 'If he's got a flush, I'm going to call him on the end, but I want to find out where I really am,' so I make it $6,000," said Beevers, a pro from the Full Tilt Poker online site. "If he immediately re-raises all in, then I have a tough decision because I know he has a flush. But he just calls."
The river came the king of hearts. The big blind bet $12,000, about three-quarters of his stack.
"He can't have a small flush, and the reason is, I've raised the turn after flat-calling on the flop, having raised pre-flop, so there's a very good chance I could have the nut flush. By betting $12,000, he's effectively moved all in, and there's no player in the world who would move all in with a small flush because of the way I've played my hand.
"If he's flopped the nut flush, then he wants to raise me on the turn. Could he have a set? Maybe. A straight? It plays the same as the small flush.
"The only hand I give him is the ace of spades - a busted flush - and now he can't win with the bare ace, so he's trying to push me off the hand."
Beevers called and took the pot when his opponent turned over the ace of spades and 8 of hearts.
"If I don't raise on the turn, I don't win such a big pot and I have a tough decision on the river, because I'll be paying off a bad flush or the nut flush," Beevers said. "But because I raised the turn, he can't have those hands."
Flat-call: To just call a bet, usually with better position.
Steve Rosenbloom is a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the author of the book "The Best Hand I Ever Played." He can be reached at