Clicking Buttons Like A Fox

Sometimes you’re in a poker game, and you spot the person at the table who’s obviously a crusher. They never get out of line, they put their opponents in tough spots, and they avoid getting into tough spots themselves. You find yourself saying, “I think I’m just going to stay out of that person’s way.”

You know what? That’s a great attitude. You don’t need to mix it up with the best player at the table. And for that matter, if you are the best player at table, 1. congratulations on excellent game selection; that will serve you well, and 2. you don’t need to mix it up with the second-best player at the table. There are between 4–7 other, weaker players to pick on; choose them.

Which brings me to the topic of this hand I just saw. A guy in my hand history group just posted an interesting situation. I thought perhaps I saw a fox slip by on the edge of the forest.

It’s a $3/5 live game playing 8-handed, and the crazy guy at the table makes it $15 from the hijack seat. The button calls, as does the big blind (“BigBlind”). $48 in the pot, and the flop comes Kd-Td-5h. “BigBlind” and ““CrazyGuy”,” as I’ll call him—the preflop raiser—both check and now the button (“TheButton”)—a strong player—bets half the pot. $25. Both players call. The pot is $123. Importantly, “CrazyGuy” and the button started $400 effective, but the big blind started with $150.

Now the turn is the Qh, making the board Kd-Td-5h—Qh; about as wet a board as you could ask for. Suddenly out of nowhere, “BigBlind” bets $5.

That’s not a typo; $5. One. Red. Chip. That’s when things turn weird. Both “CrazyGuy” and “TheButton” call.

I don’t like either of them doing this. “CrazyGuy” in particular may well be walking into it. “TheButton” bet the flop, and now “CrazyGuy” has him to act behind. The queen on the turn actually hits a lot of hands that “TheButton” might have cold-called preflop, then bet on the flop. If he has a strong made hand, there’s no way he’s going to let a river card peel off for $5 with that many draws available. There’s a good chance “CrazyGuy” is just lighting that nickel on fire.

However, the play that bothers me most is made by “TheButton.” I know this person and he’s a tough enough player. But I think he whiffed this pitch. If “BigBlind” really did turn (or flop) a strong hand, would he bet 4% of the pot when every draw in the universe was out there? Yeah, I don’t think so either. Similarly, if “CrazyGuy” had a real hand, would he let that $5 bet just slip by? No, he wouldn’t. So he’s capped to a weak made hand or a draw. However, “TheButton” had already staked a claim as having the best hand by betting half-pot on the flop. The silly one-nickel bet on the turn shouldn’t change the narrative at all, and this is a chance for him to end the proceedings right here. He treats both the $5 bet and call as checks. Given how short “BigBlind” is ($100) and the pot size ($137), he should just rip his stack in. There’s a very good chance both opponents fold; a far better chance than mathematically necessary to make this a good shove.

This is a reward for “TheButton” being, well, the button. He gets to see all this silly behavior in front of him, and pounce on it for fun and profit.

Now, there are two things I don’t know that might make it correct for “TheButton” to flat call:

  1. If “BigBlind” is notorious for putting out tiny bets to induce raises from his opponents, then it’s a mistake to fall for his trap. But such players are rare. A majority of the time, those weak bets mean exactly what they sound like—weakness.
  2. If “TheButton” really has nothing. No value, no draw. But if that’s true, then I don’t like his bet on the flop. Betting no value and no draw on the flop into two players, including the preflop raiser, is rarely profitable.

Only “TheButton” knows about #2, and maybe he knows about #1; I don’t.

Anyway, as we hand history junkies are so fond of saying—“As played…” The river card is the 4d, making the board Kd-Td-5h—Qh—4d, and completing the front door flush. “BigBlind” checks, and now “CrazyGuy” bets $140; the full pot. “TheButton” folds, and “BigBlind” calls. “CrazyGuy” has A6 offsuit (no diamonds) for, um, ace-high. “BigBlind” shows JTo (no diamonds) for third pair. And a $350 pot.

Now you know they call him “CrazyGuy.” But more importantly, look at what “BigBlind” did. With a pair and an open-end draw to Broadway on the turn, he got to see a river card for 4% of the pot. The people in my hand history group were making fun of him “just clicking buttons,” but I’m not so sure.

Yes, his weak bet on the turn meant just what it looked like; that he wanted to set his own price to see a river card. But man, he did that damn well; when you pay 4% of the pot to draw at 6-10 outs, you’re printing Sklansky$. Maybe he really was just clicking buttons. But maybe, just maybe, he had a suspicion that “CrazyGuy” and “TheButton” would let him get away with shenanigans like jumping out of flow to bet a nickel.

Clicking buttons like a fox.


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.