Last night, I got all my chips in out-of-position in a multiway pot at a NYC club; Dawn was in the pot. I held the 5 3 on a 5 5 J board with two clubs. I moved in because we had one all-in-preflop player for the main pot, and I had a bet and a large raise (from Dawn) in the sidepot ahead of me. I decided that I would represent a weak flush draw by check-raising all-in. I had Dawn, based on previous action, on either AJ or QQ (she claimed later it was QQ). I figured she'd call most of the time with QQ and fold AJ. I expected the very tight player in between to fold his flush draw or jack. There was a reasonably good chance I'd win the side pot and end up heads up against the all-in-preflop player
It came out as I expected, the tight player folded, and Dawn thought for a while. Now, I am totally against soft-playing, so I wouldn't have told Dawn to fold or otherwise given her any direct information. However, I really wanted Dawn to fold because I knew what she probably had and knew she'd have trouble folding QQ.
I should interrupt my story to note that I'm typically the type to give off false tells. I've noticed a few tells common with players who have big hands — there's the classic hand-shaking, but also they tend to breathe heavier when they've made a big bet with a strong holding than they do with a bluff.
I try to use a reverse tell in these instances. When I don't want a call, I get myself all excited and breathing heavier, and if I can get it going (usually I can't), I get my hands shaking a bit. I do the reverse when I have a hand.
However, in this situation, I suddenly found myself shaking a bit and breathing heavy. I am usually in total control of this tell and frequently reverse it or otherwise mix it up. And here I am, up against Dawn, knowing that I don't want to see her lose, and I'm inadvertently giving off the correct signals of a big hand.
Dawn folded after much deliberation, and I haven't yet had a chance to ask her if the tell was a factor. I sure hope it wasn't, because I feel somewhat that effectively I made a subconscious soft-play. I agree that a soft-play of any kind is 100% cheating. I think two articles recently on the subject get that point across well.
So, did I subconsciously soft-play? Should I feel bad about it? I know that I am consciously in control of that tell because I used it three other times that night to give the wrong signal to other opponents. But, heads-up with Dawn with a player all-in and one folded, I let it come out as a straight-up signal. By the time I was breathing heavy and shaking a bit and realized it, I couldn't get control of it to stop it, so I let it go. Did I cheat? Should I try to avoid playing at the table with Dawn in the future anywhere but home games?
I think I'm helped by the fact that Dawn likely didn't pick up on the tell one way or the other, but she'll probably comment here to say. Still, that doesn't excuse it if I was, even subconsciously, trying to give her a signal to fold.
Oh, finally, for those who want to know how it turned out, Dawn folded, I claimed the side pot, and had to show my hand to show it down with the all-in player who had committed his chips preflop with Q 8 and caught the K on the turn.