Monday, September 14, 2009

An unusual tell

The chip above now holds a special place in my collection: It is the only $5 chip that has ever won me $150. Let me tell you how.

I was playing last night at Bally's. I had chalked up a substantial win at Planet Hollywood next door, but after sitting down at Bally's I just couldn't get anything going. Amongst all my folding, though, I tried to pay some attention to the hands I wasn't in. While doing so, I noticed something unusual about one of the most active players at the table.

Bally's doesn't have very many commemorative chips in circulation, so they tend to stand out. This guy had the chip shown above--no, not one like it, but that very chip--on top of one of his stacks. The peculiar thing was that sometimes he put it into the pot along with other chips when he was betting, but other times he took pains to put it aside before counting out chips to go into the pot.

Eventually I figured out what he was doing. It seemed that he was intent on keeping the chip as a souvenir, and the times that he casually put it into the pot as part of his bet were the times that he was strong and felt confident that it would be coming back. Conversely, though, when he was bluffing or unsure of where he stood in a hand when making a call, he would first remove that chip from the top of the stack, then use only the regular Bally's chips for his bet or call.

I have never before either seen or heard of a tell anything like this, but it was a fine one!

It paid off in the end. I don't remember the details of the hand, but on the river I had bottom pair and a busted straight draw. He had been betting every street, as was his habit in nearly every hand he played, and I had been calling. On the river, with the pot at about $100, he took the special chip off of the top of a stack of $50 (10 red chips), replaced it with another regular chip, then shoved the stack in. Aha!

I don't know whether he had air and I actually had the best hand, or if he had a better but still mediocre hand. I was quite confident, though, that he couldn't stand the heat of an all-in raise after he had shown me his tell of weakness.

I had about $155 left. I announced "All in," and he mucked before I could even move my chips forward, without even a few seconds of thought.

So how did I get his cherished chip? Easy. When I knew that I was on my last orbit and would be leaving after a few more hands, he bet the flop using the chip. After the dealer put out the turn card and was waiting for action, I pointed to the chip in the middle of the table and asked if I could buy that one from the pot. "Sure," said the dealer, as they usually do at such requests. I quickly made the trade, and the chip was mine.

My main reason for doing that was that it was one I didn't have in my collection. A second motivation was that the guy had annoyed me. Nothing terribly rude, but he was just more exuberant in his celebrations when winning pots than I think is cricket. It was enough to make me take a bit of perverse pleasure in sneakily depriving him of his little prize. Hey, pal, if you want to keep the chip, stick it in your pocket, or keep it at the bottom of your stack. Don't keep putting it in the pot. It may not come back to you every time that you think it will.

Finally, I wanted the chip as a souvenir of my pleasure at having paid enough attention to the game to spot an unusual tell, and use it to my advantage. That pot with him got me back to even for the night. It was 1:00 in the morning, and I was too tired to try to mount another big win, so after I won one more hand, I left with a small profit.

A small profit and a good story.


Sean G said...

Looks like reading that Mike Caro column is paying off already. :) Way to observe and (more somewhat more difficultly) go with your read. And the little zing at the end there! Didn't he try to stop you or anything?

Anonymous said...

Along the same line...another tell I've discoverd in tournies is whether people call or bet with a large denom chip or with a bunch of smaller denom chips. If they use the big chip, they are more confident about their hand. Players like to keep their big chips. Nice read.

e alcantar said...

So, it's true: you are rude!

Erick said...

I've noticed that players will do the same thing in games that allow $25 or $100 chips to play, especially if they only have one or two of them.

A guy at my local casino had been trying to score a green chip all night. When he finally did, he made sure to protect it all costs. He would only bet it when he was sure he had a really strong hand. If he was on a draw, or had a weak one pair type hand, he would call or bet with reds only. It made it really easy to know when to call, fold, or push him out of a pot.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog today. Curious what villain's reaction was when you traded in for his chip...

Anonymous said...

That was petty, Grump, very petty. It doesn't surprise me, however.