Many pros believe that chips lost tend to be more valuable than chips won in tournaments. You can’t pull cash out of your pocket to buy them back the way you can in a ring game, so bets become a greater percentage of your stack.
When pros talk about playing a tight-aggressive style, their plan includes the discipline to protect every chip, even in a deep-stack event, and even when holding top pair, as former world champion Joe Hachem decided in this hand from the 2010 World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in main event at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas
With blinds at $50-$100 and players starting with $30,000 stacks, the player in Seat 4 raised under the gun to $225, playing the so-called “small ball’’ style of poker that involves playing more starting hands, more aggressively, but doing it with smaller bets and raises that can minimize losses at times. Action folded to Hachem, who found A-3 offsuit in the big blind.
“The table was playing pretty conservatively,’’ said Hachem, winner of the 2005 main event. “This particular player is one I played with a lot. I played with him during the 2005 World Series. He’s a good, solid player. He’s not a guy who throws his chips around.’’
But getting 3-1 odds, Hachem called the extra $125. The flop came A-9-5, rainbow. Hachem checked. Seat 4 bet $450. Getting better than 2-1 odds, Hachem called with top pair-bad kicker. The turn came the 7 of diamonds.
“That put out a straight, however unlikely, and we both checked,’’ said Hachem, who also has won a World Poker Tour event. “I know that he’s trying to control the size of the pot, as well. He doesn’t want to get check-raised. He’s a smart player.’’
The river came the 4 of spades. Hachem checked. Seat 4 made it $800, more than half the pot.
“When I check again, he knows I have something because I called him on the flop,’’ Hachem said. “He’s not betting there unless he knows he has the best hand. He’s only betting because he wants me to call. He wouldn’t put himself in a position to bet and have me check-raise and he has to fold.
“But if he knows I’ve got something, I’m less likely to check-raise him and more likely to call and pay him off.’’
But Hachem folded his top pair against a board that didn’t appear particularly threatening.
“He told me later, ‘I got there,’ which could mean anything,’’ Hachem said. “But if I think I’m beat, I have to fold. It was based on the player and the situation. If I think I’m beaten, I’m not calling.
“A lot of players think they’re beaten, but they cannot fold. Why should I give him another $800 in chips if I think I’m beaten? I’ll save it for another pot.’’
TABLE TALK Check-raise: To pass on a chance to bet to appear weak, then raise on the same round to appear strong.
Steve Rosenbloom, a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune, can be reached at email@example.com.