EPT12 Prague: How to play the man who isn't always there
You can keep your LAGs and your TAGs. The hardest player to play against is the one who shows no indication that they know what's going on. Poster boy for this breed is Abdelkader Benhalima.
Benhalima doesn't care about protocol. He speaks French until told it's English only. He lets the dealer take his cards when he folds. He goes for cigarette breaks regardless of his big blind. He doesn't give a damn. How exactly do you play against someone like that?
As Fabrice Soulier, Sam Chartier and Jimmy Kebe discovered yesterday, Benhalima is a bundle of, well, I'm not sure what you would call him. But even while not understanding him, he was entertaining enough to make vaulting the language barrier worth the effort.
Because somehow Benhalima had more than 200,000 chips at the close last night. Way above average, to the exasperation at everyone at his table.
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Eshkar Eyal, who was next to Soulier, felt inclined to tell a story about the last time he'd played Benhalima, designed to back up suspicions of everyone.
"I'll never forget..." started Eyal, before making Soulier laugh with a story of a previous entanglement with the Algerian. While he did so Benhalima spotted something he found funny.
"And I said to myself," continued Eyal to Soulier, "how the f*** did he make that call?"
Benhalima might be the player to make opponents ask that sort of question, perhaps while they watch him swagger his way into the money. It's his genius - because he does swagger. And how do you play against a man who leaves the table, with blinds at 1,000/2,000 (and a 300 ante) to have a cigarette?
It's rare that you see something like this, but Benhalima got up, put his coat on and disappeared for six hands, each costing his an ante. Then he came back, but not in any kind of hurry. Instead I watched him enter the tournament room as his big blind came up. The dealer shuffled, but Benhalima showed no sign of hurry. In fact he stopped to talk to someone on his way back. He arrived five second after the dealer mucked his cards.
"No problem, no problem," he said. As far as he could see there was no problem, and he said so again. "No problem!"
So he took his seat again, projecting strength by appearing to have no regard for anything. How exactly do you play against someone like that?
By the looks of Sam Chartier laughing, Kebe annoyed, and Soulier with his headphones on, I'm not sure they knew what he was doing. More may think the same as he plays on into Day 3.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.