But this hand also gives some insight into the kind of mental games some pros will play, perhaps getting less money out of a big hand in order to get into a player's head, leading to a bigger payoff later. At the World Poker Tour's L.A. Poker Classic in February 2006, the blinds were $200-$400 with a $50 ante when a player from the middle position made the standard raise of three times the big blind.
On the button, Mike Matusow, an aggressive pro who made the final table of the 2005 World Series of Poker main event and later won the 2005 WSOP Tournament of Champions, called the $1,200.
Bill Gazes, a quality pro himself, called an extra $800 from the big blind with pocket 8s.
The flop came 8-8-3. Gazes had the nuts, and his quad 8s figured to be the absolute nuts unless another player held, say, J-J and the turn and the river came J-J.
As the first player to act, Gazes checked his monster hand, partly because he couldn't make any money on this hand unless he let his opponents catch up and partly because of something else.
“It depends on the sequence you've had with that person,” says Gazes, who knew Matusow's game from their time at the table together and Matusow's recent TV appearances. “I thought on that flop, Mike was capable of being aggressive. I checked because I thought if the [original raiser] bet, Mike was capable of trying to take it away by putting a big bet out there, maybe going a little crazy.”
The original raiser checked behind Gazes.
Matusow fired out $6,000. Gazes was getting some of the action he was looking for, so he smooth-called. The original raiser folded. The turn came an off suit jack. Gazes checked, again hoping Matusow would try to run him out of the hand with a big bet. But Matusow also checked.
The river came an off suit king, assuring Gazes of the nuts. Now what?
If he checked in hopes of inducing a bluff, Gazes risked making nothing more on the hand if Matusow again checked behind him. If he came in for a pot-sized bet, Gazes might run Matusow off. So, Gazes had to find an amount that would get a call from Matusow.
This is the type of thinking that goes on regularly when a player holds the nuts. But Gazes had other motives.
“I'm thinking, ‘How do I embarrass Mike the most?'” Gazes says with a smile. “I had to get him to pay at least $10,000 on the end and had to be able to show down my hand. Even if I made less, I had to be able to make Mike pay off quads on the end. I'm just messing around.”
The messing around worked. Gazes bet $10,000, a bet of almost two-thirds the pot. Matusow paid it off, mucking his hand as Gazes showed his four 8s.
Perhaps Gazes could've gotten another couple thousand out of Matusow on the river, but he settled for the psychological satisfaction of getting a call out of an opponent that will always give him something to think about.