Benton Blakeman Runs a Bluff
Maybe I’ve told you about my friend, Benton Blakeman. Benton is a professional poker player in Las Vegas, mostly playing the $5/10 and $10/20 NLHE games. Unlike many professional players, Benton is able to clearly describe what he does, and why he might zig in one situation but zag in another that looks very similar to the first one.
I hang out in a hand discussion group Benton moderates, and I learn a ton from his analyses. But man, he had me shaking my head last week. He described a hand he played in the Bellagio $5/10 NLHE game, and the more I read it, the more confused I got. Here’s his summary:
UTG1 decent regular opens $30
UTG2 calls $30
SB calls $30
I call $20 more from BB with Tc9d.
In English: the player one to the left of under-the-gun (UTG1) opened for $30, next player called, the small blind (SB) called, and now Benton calls with T-9-offsuit.
I had to check it wasn’t April Fool’s. Benton is calling in a 4-way pot, out of position, with a hand that flops miserably. But hey, he provides a comfortable lifestyle for his family with his poker playing, whereas I do not play professionally. I tend to give Benton the benefit of the doubt.
Flop 954 rainbow
I lead $50 (can check here but fine to lead four ways to thin field/get info)
UTG1 raiser regular calls $50
Benton has flopped a mediocre top pair, with a crappy kicker, and he decides to lead 40% pot into three other players, including a “decent [$5/$10] regular”? Also, as Andrew Brokos and others remind us, “Betting for information” really isn’t a thing. You bet for one of two reasons: (a) to make worse hands call, or (b) to make better hands fold. You almost never “get information” worth the price you paid for it.
Turn 3h putting two hearts
I check (his call seems rather strong with players to act I think?)
UTG1 bets $90
River Kh completing backdoor flush
He bets $300
As is the practice in good hand history discussion, Benton left his last action unstated. He presents the problem to us as he faced it. Now it’s our turn.
Honestly, I was conflicted. I have enormous respect for Benton’s poker game. I’ve known him for over two years now and he gets the poker problems right every time. So when he says, “zig” where I would think, “zag,” my immediate thought is, “Hmm, what do I not understand about this situation?” But no matter how long I stared at this hand, all I could think was that Benton had started digging a hole preflop, and just kept digging for four streets.
On the other hand, a couple of people in the Hand History Lounge commented that everything seemed normal up until the river, and then gave their recommended action there. So I was in the minority.
But if I’m to be a useful member of our community, I have to say what I think. So I composed a post, summarizing everything that I wrote above. That included writing about the flop action:
I was prepared to get roasted, but I clicked the “Send” button anyway. That’s when things got interesting. A while later, Benton wrote:
I was the “decent regular” UTG1. This is, of course, debatable. I wanted to see if my line was believable. I had AcQc and flopped overcards and a backdoor flush draw but mostly just knew he was leading top pair and he should be folding his hand a lot. He ended up calling on the river and I personally just thought it was pretty dusty, but obviously I have a vested interest in the hand. I wanted unbiased opinions on what you guys would do in this spot with his hand facing my line.
I could have kicked myself; I should have spotted this. Benton had turned the hand around and put us in the villain’s shoes. That way, he forced us to look at his line objectively. After all, as I noted above, when Benton plays a hand, those of us in the Lounge assume it’s correct. We start questioning our own questions! This presentation guaranteed the most honest answers from the community.
No, I was not happy with myself. I was even less happy when Scott, another long-time member of the community, and very solid player, wrote:
Bah. Scott spotted it and I should have. It’s not the first time somebody has posted a hand from the villain’s perspective, and that idea should have been in my head after the first two paragraphs.
The lesson here—for me as much as anybody—is to use your brain, and not let assumptions get in your way. “It’s Benton; he doesn’t make mistakes, so surely I’m missing something.” Don’t let the crowd-voice or your own biases drown out your brain.
Even when a poker player as good as Benton Blakeman tries to run a bluff past you.
Lee Jones has been in the poker industry for over 30 years. He writes at the Global Poker blog, plays poker every chance he gets, and coaches poker. You can contact him at www.leejones.com.