Did Greg Merson know when his poker opponents were bluffing?

My young son has become a fan of Texas Hold’em, but that’s a game about which I know nothing. We just watched the Final Table of the 2012 WSOP Main Event. We certainly found it exciting, but I was never sure exactly what was happening. There were a few hands where Greg Merson made amazing-looking calls with bad hands, but won the hands. Was he reading the opponents’ bluffs successfully?

Sometimes the odds are such that calling with a “bad” hand is your best bet.

It’s not necessarily that Merson “knew” his opponents were bluffing; it’s that given the information he had at the time (which is a lot of information) the odds he was being given, and the likelihood his own hand would work out, it was just the right thing to do. Of course, since you’re referring to the guy who won the event, it will happen that his odds worked out. Lots of people might have played perfectly good poker and you didn’t see them because the breaks did not go their way.

At some point earlier in the tournament, at least once person - and probably more, given the thousands of people at the WSOP - was holding a pair of aces, called an all-in bet, and watched in horror as the other idiot’s awful hand miraculously hit a ridiculously unlikely couple of cards to blow the A-A out of the water. The guy did nothing wrong, but lost anyway. They don’t show that on TV.

Getting sucked out on the river when you’re holding pocket aces makes for great TV. Here’s one such instance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhOenfmhpg4

I rewatched the Youtube and now wonder what I was talking about. :smack: I think that to build suspense and shared enjoyment with my 11-year old son I was over-emoting (“Wow! Look at that guy bluff!” etc.)

On one hand, Merson had Q-J suited vs Q-10; Merson called Balsinger’s bets as the Board received 3 9 8 ; 4 ; 6. Merson had flush and straight possibilities after the 4 but finished with only QJ high – which was good enough to beat Balsinger’s QT high. But there was no showdown: Merson raised all-in.

On the very final hand (with Merson having 65% of the chips), Merson bet with K-5 suited; Sylvia raised with Q-J suited; Sylvia called when Merson reraised all-in. Merson won, K versus Q.

For a moment, I thought I was watching Timothy McVeigh playing poker. Very weird.

That’s the kind of hand that makes me believe that winning the WSOP is more about luck than anything else. I know there are people that say you don’t play the cards, you play the other players. If that’s true, you shouldn’t have to even look at your cards… Just look at the faces of everyone else as they look at their cards and play each hand “blind”. If luck is not involved, this should work, right?

Well you can do it without even being able to see your opponents if you are Annette Obrestad

Did you mistype? Because she did the opposite: she didn’t look at her cards, but she definitely looked at her opponents.

The post I am replying to and have quoted says (emphasis added)

Ok, this is impressive. But how is it possible?

How can you never look at your cards and decide whether to stay in or not before the flop? I cant understand this, even if she COULD read everyone. All she would know is the relative strength of her opponents hand without any idea what her own hand was. So, whe could easily go all in against pocket aces, and she has a 7-2 off suit. If she actually did that for a whole tourney like the article says, I am amazed! Wow, jist wowe.

Why couldn’t she see her opponents?

He has made his life out of reading peoples faces and knowing what the cards are by the way they hold their eyes. Also, he knows what to throw away, and what to keep.

Well played, sir. Well played.

The other thing to think about is that heads-up play is a very, very different animal from regular full-ring play. Re-raising K-5 all-in is suicide in a regular game, but could be a very standard play in the tail end of a tournament. The different dynamics in tournament play in general (and heads-up in particular) are why tournament players routinely butcher AK when they play full-ring cash games…