Tough thing, laying it down.
But if you can put your opponent on a hand that's better than yours, then having the discipline and smarts to fold is the kind of thing that can help you advance in a no-limit hold ‘em tournament.
In this example from the $10,000-buy-in Ultimate Poker Challenge main event at the Plaza in Las Vegas in November 2005, the blinds were $300-$600 with a $50 ante when “Captain” Tom Franklin opened for $2,000 from early position with pocket 9s.
Blair Rodman, co-author of Kill Phil , a hot strategy book for tournament newcomers, called from late position with 7-7.
“He had enough chips left – about $24,000 – to justify taking a shot in position with 7-7,” Rodman says. “If he had a big pair, I could bust him if I hit a set. If he had A-K and missed the flop, I could probably win it on the flop.”
The flop came 8-7-6, rainbow. With an overpair and an up-and-down straight draw, Franklin bet out $2,600. Hitting a set of 7s, Rodman raised to $7,500, “hoping he would think that I wouldn't raise that much with a set, rather, putting me on a draw. If he had a big pair, I thought he would go all in right there. If he had A-K, he would fold, but I didn't figure to win much more from him anyway.
“Instead, he just called, which was totally unexpected. He obviously had something and was pretty much committed to the pot, but why just call with a live board like that?”
The turn came an offsuit 10. Franklin moved in for his last $16,000. Rodman replayed the hand in his mind.
“I knew if he had a pair bigger than 10s, he would have moved in on the flop, or folded,” Rodman says. “He couldn't just call and let me draw to that board. Two 10s was a possibility, but again, I don't think he would just call my raise on the flop. Then it hit me what I was up against: two 9s! It was the only hand that made sense.
“He'd figured that he had four 5s and four 10s to make a straight, or if he hit one of the other 9s, he'd have me beat if I had a set or bigger pair. If he missed and I made a big bet on the turn, he could get away from the hand.
“The pot was laying me a little over 2-1, but I was over a 3-1 underdog to fill up on the river, so I folded. This was one of the biggest laydowns I've ever made, but I was so sure my read was right that I went with it.”
Franklin took the pot, but Rodman would go on to take sixth place in the event.
“In tournament poker,” Rodman says, “it's not always about the chips you win. Sometimes it's about the chips you save.”