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Take advantage during idle time before poker play

April 26, 2011 6:00 AM by George Epstein

It was a typically beautiful early spring evening in L.A. when my engineering society Board of Directors’ meeting ended early at a restaurant near LAX. With a refreshing nip in the night air, I decided to drive to nearby Hollywood Park Casino to play a few hours of $3-$6 limit hold’em.

There were only two tables in play, with a long waiting list. But I made good use of my waiting time by observing the players at both tables which, conveniently, were positioned next to each other. By the time I was called to a vacated seat, I knew quite a bit about the opponents I would be facing.

My diligence was rewarded. Almost from the start, I won some good-size pots, and was well ahead with huge stacks of chips on the table in front of me. That’s when an especially interesting hand occurred – one I expect to never forget. Perhaps my success up to that point clouded my thinking process. Perhaps I was over-confident…

In a middle position, with K-10 suited in the hole, the flop brought three more of my suit, including the ace. I had flopped the nut flush plus a draw to a royal flush. Wow! To get max value out of my hand, I decided to slow-play and let the others do the betting and raising.

I just calmly called the bets on the flop. With six of us in the hand, it was already a good-size pot. Then the turn paired the board so I decided it would be best to raise when the betting got to me, and was called by three opponents.

The river appeared to be a "brick," not likely to help anyone. The early-position player checked to me, and I made the big bet. The button called. Then the early-position player raised the pot. He had check-raised!

That alone should have given me reason for caution. But I was so enamored of my nut-flush-on-the-flop (who could fault me?), I was sure I held the winning hand. Promptly, I re-raised – in my mind, certain I held the winning hand.

Now it was just the two of us. He re-raised. Playing heads-up there is no limit on raises, just the chips on the table in front of you. Without pausing to think (my error!), I re-raised again. Quickly he responded with yet another raise.

Finally, I paused to think about the hand. We all know that with a pair on the board it is possible for someone to make a full-house or better. What’s more, my opponent was not prone to bluff. Certainly he held a good hand. With the piles of chips in the pot, I had to call.

As you probably suspected, he had flopped a set of fives, and then made a full-boat when the board paired. My nut flush was second-best – "chopped liver," so to speak. That pot really cut into to my winnings. But, at least I was still well ahead. A bit later, I did manage to go home a winner!

For comments and questions, George "The Engineer" can be reached at

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