It’s late second round or early third round. The players have hunkered down to a real game and the chips may (or may not) be flowing in a clockwise direction by now. You’ve bided your time, seen very few flops — and you sacrificed three small blinds, each one after a thoughtful pause. Although some of your opponents may be too busy playing multiple tables to study you, you can fully expect them to notice the second time you decline to complete the SB. Those who noticed it will assess you as an ultra-tight player. But are you tight-solid or tight-weak?
Don’t advertise your bluffs. Instead, advertise your weakness!
If you ever raised in a decisive manner on any hand by this point, you can expect the player(s) in that hand now view you as tight-solid. You don’t want that image. Instead of making a move with a bluff, try to make an "inverse move" with a fold-not-check option. You get into a situation — say you checked from the BB with a 23 offsuit — and on the river you have a 0% chance of winning. Instead of checking, you order the software to fold. The player(s) in the hand will assess you as weak and may try to take advantage of you with mediocre holdings. Even better, this "inverse move" can help set up a well-timed bluff! (But don’t bluff in an ULBPC event until you know the remaining players will respect you. Even then, you should severely limit your bluffs. The big stacks will sometimes reward your river bet just to satisfy their curiosity.)
Consider folding instead of checking if (1) you called to the river on a draw, (2) two or more opponents will show down, and (3) you’ve got no pair. Not only does it show weakness, it also prevents the other players from seeing your hole cards.
Okay, now you’re on the bubble with muck in the SB and you’d love to spark some aggression among the players. The act of sacrificing your SB after a thoughtful pause — yet another sign of weakness on your part — will sometimes bolster the BB to make a move when he might have just checked. This sacrifice works best when the BB is either the short stack or the chip leader. It also works extraordinarily well on the very first two hands if you find yourself in the SB with limpers. Failing to complete the blind often triggers monstrous aggression from the BB!
I like to set up what I call a "BB/SB/button weakness play" when the game reaches the bubble. The players on either side of me may notice my weakness when I (1) force-fold after the flop in the BB, then (2) fail to complete the SB, then (3) refuse to play on the button. I do it to inspire aggression & greed on the bubble.
Heads up, all in, "got to go"
You’ve played a friendly heads-up session for a half-dozen hands. The blinds are still small and you’ve got a 2:1 chip lead. The other guy pushes all in before the flop; you fold. He pushes all in again; you fold. On the third hand he says "got to go" and pushes all in again. This is an all-too-common tactic. The game is no longer fun for your opponent — and he probably figured out you want to win — so he wants to immediately take the lead or take second.
If you go to the flop with four or more opponents, and you get called to the river, then suddenly face a strong re-raise, you need to ask "what can I beat here?" If you can beat the majority of plausible holdings, then call. If you can’t beat the majority of plausible holdings, then fold.
If you keep on folding, he may start announcing his cards — and if he does so, you can be certain he has those cards. I’ve never encountered a liar in this situation. You might think "that’s suicide," but from his perspective the fun is already dead. If I can’t call the very first announcement, I’ll respond with "Thank you, I’ll go with my first good hand" and then I’ll fold. My response passively and politely encourages him to keep announcing his cards. (Note: announcing is allowed under PokerStars tournament rule #16 once you reach heads-up.)
Far more often, though, your opponent won’t announce his cards. This means you’ve got three basic options. First, the blinds will still be small, so you can fold until you pick up a comfortable all-in hand. Second, you can fold glacially slow until he sits out. Third … you can sit out for a short while. (I use this time to check if my opponent is playing at other tables.) If he hangs around to steal your blinds, then you know his "got to go" was a lie. In these situations, I like to return to the game and chide the player for lying. "Got to go, eh?" Then I fold glacially slow on every all in. The game once again is no longer fun for him.
Those annoying "zzzzzz" speed demons
Watch the chat box for anyone who spouts “zzzzzzz” at a slow player. These people clearly want to play first, win second, and you can fluster them with slow play. Know this:
- You get eight seconds on every betting decision before the alarm buzz.
- You get 15 seconds on every betting decision before the clock starts.
- You get a grand total of 60 seconds on your tournament clock.
Chips only flow clockwise when players recognize the value of position — and a raise only isolates when players recognize the value of a hand. A counter-Sklansky strategy works extraordinarily well in this chaotic situation.
In other words, you can stall for up to 23 seconds on every betting decision and you’ll never dig into your tournament clock. It takes great patience to do this — but you can frustrate any speed demon when you master the art of the glacially slow play. If he yells at you in the chat box, just remember: he wants to play and you want to win.
In some cases a speed demon will grow vulgar or may even threaten violence. If it happens, immediately stop talking to him and use the "call moderator" feature.
- #1: Do you want to play or do you want to win?
- #2: Those very first two hands
- #3: Betting patterns
- #4: Unique to ULBPC events
- #5: Why are there so many bad beats?