Bill Perkins is often billed as a “business man” on poker broadcasts because he isn’t a professional poker player and made his money in the business world. And that phrase “business man” used to be code for “food for the sharks” but not anymore. Players like Perkins have come a long way and they give the pros a run for their money now.
In a recent episode of High Stakes Poker on Poker Go, we get a very simple lesson from Mr. Perkins, one that every player should remember.
“Until you see a reason to believe otherwise, when you are the preflop aggressor, the pot belongs to you.”
The hand occurs at the very start of Season 10 Episode 7, with blinds at $200/400/400. Tech entrepreneur Roger Sippl raises from early position with a pair of nines, making it $2,000 to play. Antonio Esfandiari folds and Bobby ‘The Owl’ Baldwin calls with a pair of sixes in late position. Action folds around to Perkins in the big blind who looks down at the seven and the eight of hearts.
Seven-eight suited is a nice hand to see a flop with. And that is how most players would see this spot. They get to see a three-way flop, closing the action, by just calling a fairly small (for this game anyway) raise. From the newest fish to the working $2/5 professional, the vast majority of players call this raise and hope to hit a big flop. But not Bill Perkins.
Bill Perkins raises it up
Perkins raises to $7,000. While most players would be afraid of opening up the betting and facing an expensive four-bet, Perkins isn’t terribly worried about this. He knows his opponents, and the game dynamic. He will fold to a big reraise and call a small one, but a reraise just won’t be that common.
First, he knows that Baldwin is almost never slow-playing a big hand here, because he can’t expect a raise from behind very often. So he’s assuming that Baldwin just wants to see a flop.
Perkins also knows that these aren’t full ring games with ten players, and there is an awful lot of aggression. While the raise from early position indicates a real hand, the majority of those hands are still not strong enough to four-bet when facing a reraise from the big blind – it just looks too strong.
Perkins also chooses his raise size carefully. If he faces a big reraise it will be from Sippl with a very big hand. And if that happens, he doesn’t lose too much on the occasions that he is forced to fold. But $7,000 is just big enough to put some force behind his bet and tell a believable story. His opponents have to give him credit for at least the possibility of a big pair.
Sippl and Baldwin just call along
Sipple knows that he can’t reraise with his pair of nines, nor can he fold them. This decision is easy. And, unfortunately for him, he gives that away with an instant call. Baldwin calls as well, and Perkins even comments on how fast the calls flew into the pot. This is great news for Perkins. It means that his opponents have hands that see flops well but don’t have any real power at the moment.
The flop is Ace-King-deuce rainbow. Some players would see this as a horrible flop for seven-eight suited. And sometimes it would be. But not here. Because Perkins knows that neither of his opponents has aces, kings, or Ace-King. They just can’t have these hands with the way the action went, especially with the instant calls after his reraise.
Perkins bets $7,000 into a pot of $21,600. This may seem small to a recreational player, but it makes sense here and also isn’t out of line with a typical bet size in a high stakes game.
The first reason this bet makes sense is because it is not uncommon to see small flop bets these days, especially among experts. Solvers recommend it on many boards, and it works.
The second reason is that it may be big enough to win the pot. If his opponents don’t have an ace or a king on their hand, it will be tough for them to call, no matter how small he bets. And if they raise, just like his preflop raise, it’s small enough that he can fold without losing too much.
The third reason is the most important. Perkins has told the story of a big hand. And with the range he can expect his opponent’s to hold, the majority of the time that he is called he will be facing an ace without a big kicker, often a suited ace. So if he is called, the smallish flop bet gives him a chance to really put the heat on when the turn comes.
Are either of these opponents likely to put in a large portion of their stack in a three bet pot with top pair and no kicker? Sippl and Baldwin are both fairly conservative players, and it is unlikely that either of them will call all the way with a hand like ATo or A5s if they don’t improve. So, if his bet is called, Perkins can feel pretty good about betting big on the turn and winning the pot.
Aggression wins again
In this case we never find out if he would have bet big on the turn, because his opponents both folded to the flop bet and Perkins made $15,000 simply because he was aggressive. The value of aggression is so important that it is very tough to defeat this tactic. And nearly impossible when you give away the strength of your hand by snap-calling a three-bet without a second thought to a possible reraise.
I don’t know what Perkinds was thinking for sure. But I know that this is a spot I would be looking for myself. Both Sippl and Baldwin have been playing a long time and they aren’t young guns who will stall for no reason. While Baldwin was once a world-class player, and still plays very well, he’s a potential target for a timing tell and Sippl is the real target of this play because it’s already fairly certain that Baldwin doesn’t have a strong hand before Perkinds makes his reraise.
If you are looking for this kind of timing tell, target older players, those who seem bored, or inexperienced players who don’t know better and will give away a ton of information. Avoid making this kind of play against a very tight player in early position, or a tricky aggressive player who will be tough to handle out of position.
And when in doubt, bet out, just like Bill Perkins.