The phrase “reading your opponent” usually summons up a lot of Hollywood drama about finding a physical tell in another player – shaky hands, excessive blinking, stuff like that.

Sometimes it's actually true, especially when considering not just the size of your opponent's bet but also perhaps the speed with which he makes it and the logic behind it. Patrick Antonius, an aggressive young Finnish player, put the puzzle together during the 2006 World Poker Tour Championship at Las Vegas' Bellagio in April.

With blinds at $600-$1,200, plus a $150 ante, Antonius saw the tournament chip leader limp from under the gun, then checked his hole cards to find J-10 of hearts. He made it $5,000. The player in the small blind, Mark Seif, an aggressive pro himself, called. The under-the-gun player also called.

The flop came 3-3-7, two hearts, giving Antonius a flush draw and two overcards. His two opponents checked. Antonius bet $12,000 into a pot of about $17,000. Seif called. The other player folded.

The turn came the 10 of clubs, giving Antonius a pair of 10s along with a flush draw. Seif checked. Antonius bet $32,000, a bet big enough to scare off other draws.

But Seif moved all in immediately for $111,000. He had Antonius covered by several thousand. Antonius was playing for his tournament life if he called. He had some thinking to do.

“I was thinking about it and I knew he didn't have a 3 in his hand because the guy wouldn't be calling with A-3 on a $5,000 [pre-flop] raise,” Antonius says. “He can't have something like that. I put him on a pocket pair or a flush draw.

“If he had pocket queens, he'd have me. I had one jack, so there's one jack plugged. I thought that if he had kings or aces, he would've raised pre-flop.

“So, I made a decision and looked at the guy in the eyes, and I made a read that he doesn't have a strong hand. I couldn't put him on a full house because of the way he acted. If he had an overpair, I still had a flush draw and two outs to hit a full house.”

Seif had pocket 8s. He had two outs.

The river came an offsuit jack. Antonius dragged a huge pot.

“He moved so fast and put it all in,” Antonius says. “I would think that he would think a little more about how to get more chips from me if he had a full house. Then he looked at me in the eyes and I saw a weak look. I listened to my instincts and made a call and it was a happy end.”

Antonius rode those chips and his aggressive play to second in the event.

© 2006, Chicago Tribune.

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