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DAVID CHIU played a couple of spectacular hands on his way to winning the recent Tournament of Champions, held in Las Vegas.

One of these was folding a pair of kings against a pair of aces at no- limit Hold 'em. Almost as good was winning a big hand with just a king high.

Here's how it happened. Six players were left (out of a total of 664), and the antes had risen to $2,000, with blinds of $15,000 and $30,000.

Chiu on the button called a $40,000 pre-flop raise from Lynn Bauer. The flop was !2 #2 !4. They both checked. The 210 fell on the turn. They both checked again. On the river the !8 fell. With $57,000 in blinds and antes in the pot, there was $137,000 for the taking. Now Bauer weighed in with a bet of $100,000. What did he have?

(? ?) !2 #2d !4 210c !8.

Chiu started thinking. Was Bauer playing a flush draw? If he had an ace or a flush draw, he would have tried to win the hand early on. Did he hit a pair on the river? He could have made a pair. But Chiu thought that he must be bluffing. "I knew he couldn't beat me with K-J or K-9, because he wouldn't bet those hands," he told Card Player. "I put him on Q-J."

Chiu decided to call. Bauer shook his head: "Queen high." Chiu said: "King high", and showed 2K-27. This was a very classy play, which only players of the highest calibre can make.

Such coups are not flukes, or death-or-glory gambles. They come from very close analysis of betting patterns in which the question "Why did he do that? or not do that?" can sometimes provide a reasoned answer.

This sort of thing can't be done in a low-stakes game, or against "recreational" players, who do not think in such sophisticated terms.

But be warned. Don't try it unless you have enough chips left to avoid being busted if you are proved wrong.

Play poker with the author Jesse May and me at Borders bookshop, 197 Oxford Street, London W1, tonight at 6.30pm