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But sometimes those same clues can change your thinking in the middle of a hand, and if you're alert, you can drag a nice pot.
An example of that comes from the 2007 World Poker Tour's $15,000-buy-in Doyle Brunson World Poker Classic at Las Vegas' Bellagio. Blinds were $50-$100, meaning players had big stacks that gave them opportunities to take more flops in hopes of outplaying opponents.
Well-known pro Burt Boutin open-raised to $300 from middle position. Erick Lindgren, winner of WPT and World Series of Poker titles, called from late position with A-7 of hearts.
"It gets around to the small blind, a woman with a big rock on her finger, so her husband is probably really rich," Lindgren said. "It looks like she kind of knows what's going on, but I'm not sure how much. She raises to $1,200. Burt calls, and I call the $1,200. I think she has a big pair here."
The flop came 8-9-10, two diamonds. The woman in the small blind bet $1,500. Boutin folded.
"I think she's protecting an overpair," Lindgren said. "Maybe she feels she has to bet; the bet is relatively small [into a $3,700 pot]. I don't think I can raise her off the pot now. I have to wait until some scary cards come. So I just call."
The turn came the 10 of diamonds, pairing the board and putting three flush cards on the board. "That's a good scare card, but I still think if she had a big diamond in her pair, then I can't bluff her out," said Lindgren, a pro from the Full Tilt Poker online site. "She checks. I bet $3,500 to build the story in case another scare card comes on the river." His opponent called. The river came the ace of clubs. "So I make an ace," Lindgren said, "and here's where the hand gets interesting. She looks at her chips, then she checks. Was she saying, 'I'm going to bet, I'm going to bet'? I think she's trying to fake me out to make me believe she likes that card, but I didn't believe she liked that card. "A lot of people in my spot would turn their hand over and hope they could take it. She might have A-K and I could already be dead. Maybe she's going to check-raise, but I was pretty sure my read was right, and I bet $5,000." Lindgren's opponent called, then mucked her cards when she saw his ace. "The greatest lesson in poker is changing on the fly," Lindgren said. "I went from bluffing with nothing and not sure I could get away with it to value-betting and knowing almost 90% that I was good."