One of the strangest things that new poker players often do is bluff into a dry side pot in a tournament when one player is all-in.
All of us were new once, we all did it. It’s no biggie, it’s just amusing and/or frustrating when it happens. Like a guy calling a river bet in Stud when he can’t even beat his opponents’ board. Not raising, calling.
Or a new guy mucking his hand in Hold’em when the nuts are on the board (broadway straight).
But the one I tend to see the most by novices, is the dry side pot bluff. This topic has been attacked ad nauseum by the top pros, so I’m not going to add my two cents on the subject.
Usually, when I see someone do this he doesn’t even know what “dry side pot bluff” means, much less that he has no side pot to win, and that another player is all-in. He thinks he’s betting to win the pot, not realizing he’s probably not going to win anything, but might put the real winner off of his hand and keep the all-in alive. You can see the look of confusion on his face when the main pot is pushed to the all-in, and he gets his bluff bet back while the rest of the table groans. Most of these guys don’t even know how many players are in the pot, much less that there is no side pot.
Sometimes, a knowledgeable player will bluff into a dry side pot, but usually he is doing it for a valid reason. It may be that he wants the all-in to survive, because he is the chip lead and having loads of fun stealing from all of the players who are too scared to bubble. He wants to keep stealing, he wants to keep as many players at the table as possible, so that he can steal with impunity, and not have the blinds as often.
Only once recently, however, have I seen an experienced player make such a bad bluff. I literally almost fell off of my chair. I usually make no verbal or non-verbal signs at the table, no matter what happens, but this one shocked me enough that my jaw literally dropped open in amazement. Even Glenn came over to the table, saying that he saw me lurch forward in my chair, in a totally odd way that he’s never seen before.
Now here is the scenario. I was in the BB with a large stack. The UTG is a player who is very tight. He is holding on to his last couple of chips looking for a good hot & cold hand to go all-in with. I have played with him a hundred times or more, and know that he is mega-tight.
In EP is the experienced player I’ve talked about. Sure, he is very LAPpy, but he has tons of table experience and doesn’t make stupid, rookie mistakes. UTG went all-in, EP called a very small raise (I think the BB was 2000 and UTG had 2800).
Folded back around to me, and I see K9s and call the 800.
Flop came Q97 rainbow. I check, EP checks.
Turn brought a second seven: Q977. I made a minimum bet to tell EP that I had something worth betting into a dry side pot. He smooth called.
River was a six. Q9776. I checked, having put EP on a draw on the turn. Sure enough, very confidently he went all-in (he was shorter stacked than me). I knew EP was capable of playing T8 or 85 easily, and his body language was very confident, no hesitation whatsoever. I knew there was no way he would bluff at a minuscule side pot. I mucked.
The first all-in player turned up his cards. EP turned up his cards. The all-in had about what I’d expected, AK. EP had KT. Yeah, nothing. He risked all of his chips on a pure bluff, for a minuscule side pot, knowing I had something worth betting and figuring I had the all-in player beat.
Now, this is when I almost fell out of my chair. I must have blubbered “You, you bet into a dry side pot as a bluff when you knew I had the all-in beat?”
He told me he was an extremely unorthodox player and would make stupid moves on every occasion. Okay, gotta like that comeback. I like witty players.
Reading it down in print like this, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. It really was a big deal. We were almost to the money, EP didn’t have a big stack, EP wasn’t going to get anything but one big blind from the side pot, yet put his whole tourney life on the line for that 2k. Odd, the whole thing was just jaw droppingly odd.
Needless to say, EP was out not long afterwards, lol. He is a decent player, which is probably what astounded me most.
Sometimes I’m in a situation where I am simply aghast. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I feel like I’m in some kind of super slow-mo car wreck. It is all happening so slowly, yet cannot be stopped. That is sort of how this felt.
No, it didn’t cost me the tourney (I won it). No, he didn’t go on to win with the little side pot he got off of me. No, it didn’t cripple me. It simply shocked me. I don’t think I said another word until he busted out, I was still so amazed.
Glenn and I talked about it on the way home. We came up with several scenarios about why he would want to bluff at that pot. I’m sure you could come up with some yourself. The most likely scenario, however, was one Glenn came up with, and one that I think is closest to correct. Glenn has played many more sessions with this player than I have, so he knows him better, as well. Glenn said that he probably just wanted the side pot, there was no thought beyond that. I guess I want to give experienced, seasoned players a little more credit.
New players usually learn after making this mistake once or twice, especially when it costs them the tournament, or even a cash.