My biggest flaw in poker is my inability to read people. I’m not an expert with the math and game theory, but I am more than strong enough for the level I play at. I’ve never been that kind of social person, I am not that great at reading cues from body language and tone. My nerd background focuses me on actions and content, it assumes people are doing their best to communicate the truth.
Playing poker without reading people well is playing with a serious handicap. I have been playing with the same group of people for three years or so, and I don’t even try to read at least half of them, because I just can’t.
Last night was worse though. Last night I had good reads, but I didn’t trust myself.
Hand One: From the small blind, I min-raise with A-3. Three of us go to the flop, which is A-A-x. I suspect that the big blind also has an ace with a bigger kicker. Sure enough, he raises. And I can’t let go of my trip Aces. I just can’t. I manage to convince myself that he’s bluffing. Eventually he turns over A-8 and I have lost half my stack on that one hand. Ugh.
Hand Two: A conservative player raises pre-flop. I call with A-J. The flop is Q-8-5 or something. He raises again. I don’t believe him. Even with his tight playing style and two raises, I think he has nothing. Or at least not very much. I call. On the turn he goes all-in. I still don’t believe he has a Queen or a monster hand. But with nothing made in my own hand, I grudgingly fold. He turns over 7-2. (We had a 7-2 bounty.) Nyarrgghh, I almost never have a read on him, and when I did I didn’t believe myself.
Hand None: There is one player I have a strong tell on. When he has the nuts (e.g. he has Q-J, and Q-Q-J comes out) he does the same thing every time. I discovered the tell two years ago, and I haven’t been able to utilize it. Just by chance it hasn’t come up in the last two years, he’s never had a monster hand against me. That’s annoying. And even if I did get to use it, it’s not very cool to just fold. It’s much more interesting to have a tell that let’s you know when he’s bluffing.
In summary, it’s taken me three years to get a few partial reads on a few people, and I don’t trust myself to use them. Not good!