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Online Poker News Archives - January 3, 2006

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Copyright 2005 Chicago Tribune

January 3, 2006

Good poker players are all eyes, ears at the table

Author: Steve Rosenbloom

Poker is a game of incomplete information, Howard Lederer is fond of saying. So many unseen cards, so much to be deduced from your opponents' betting patterns.

So much to be read into their physical look and actions, too.

Which is why the "Professor of Poker" believes you lose out by wearing sunglasses or headphones. With that weapons-grade stare of his, Lederer gives away none of the tells that players wearing sunglasses fear they show.

But he reserves special scorn for players wearing headphones.

"They slow down the action and, on the whole, I believe they hurt the people who use them," Lederer said. "When a player throws a single, large chip into the pot, he usually announces 'raise' or 'call.' But all the guys at the table wearing headphones can't hear the call.

"Invariably, they have to take off their headphones and ask the dealer what the bet is. It is annoying when the action comes to a grinding halt to clarify something that anyone without headphones already knows."

More important, Lederer contends, you lose the chance to pick up some profitable information -- a point made in a hand he wrote about on the Full Tilt Poker Web site.

With the blinds at $4,000-$8,000 in the World Poker Tour's $15,000-buy-in event at Las Vegas' Bellagio in April 2004, a tight player opened the pot for $25,000 from early position. The small blind called, as did Lederer with pocket 9s. The flop came 8-5-3, two spades. Checks all around. The turn came the 6 of clubs, putting a flush draw on board. The small blind checked.

"I felt like I must have the best hand, so I bet $50,000," Lederer said. "I was very surprised when the original opener raised all-in for a total of $175,000. The small blind folded, and now I had a big $125,000 decision to make. If I call and win, I have $550,000 and am in great shape. If I call and lose, I'm in real trouble.

"I didn't think he had a big hand, but it didn't seem like a very good bluffing situation either. The board looked really dangerous. Plus, I hadn't seen this player get out of line at all.

"But then I remembered a comment he had made to his neighbor about 10 minutes earlier. He had hardly played a hand for about an hour and said to the guy next to him that his cards had been so bad, it would have been just as well if he had stayed in his room after the last break.

"Remembering that comment, I felt there was a good chance that he was frustrated. With that factored in, I made the call."
Lederer's opponent turned over K-Q suited. The river came a 2. Lederer's overpair held up.

"I won a key hand that put me in great shape in a big tournament," Lederer said. "If I had been listening to music, I don't think I could have made the call."

Steve Rosenbloom is a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the author of the new book "The Best Hand I Ever Played," now available in bookstores. He can be reached at

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