We have no control over poker gods, nor of luck

Aug 14, 2012 3:00 AM

Perhaps it is tongue-in-cheek when some players refer to the poker gods.

Since the ancient Hebrews cast aside the practice of praying to many different gods (polytheism), in favor of one God, the major religions have accepted this concept – monotheism. God is conceived of as the supernatural creator and overseer of humans and the universe.

Theologians have ascribed a variety of attributes to the many different conceptions of God: omniscience (infinite knowledge), omnipotence (unlimited power), omnipresence (present everywhere), omnibenevolence (perfect goodness), divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence (from Wikipedia).

Know-poker.com (on the Internet) has identified 13 (a lucky number?) poker gods and goddesses, a patron saint, and even a prince. To list a few:

• Hapi is the river god (censure him when you get rivered and thank  him when winning a big pot).

• Fortuna, the goddess of chance and good luck. We love her.

• Athena, the goddess of wisdom. She relates best to skill.

• Autolycus, the prince of thieves (bluffing?).

With this in mind, we all recognize that luck – along with skill – plays a big role in our success at the poker table. Often we tend to blame the poker gods when luck goes against us. How else can we explain that bad beat on the river? Likewise, we praise the poker gods when luck is in our favor.

At mercy of gods?

We have no control over the poker gods, nor of luck – good or bad. But we can influence luck so that it is more favorable to us. Then the poker gods are smiling on us.

In the final analysis, luck is little more than chance (probability). What’s the chance of being dealt pocket aces? The chance of being dealt the first Ace is 4 out of 52; that’s 1/13. To get the second Ace, the chance is 3 out of 51; that’s 1/17. 

Since we want both Aces in the hole, we multiply these chances: 1/13 x 1/17 = 1/221. On the average, in the long run, you can expect pocket Aces once out of 221 hands dealt. That’s about once every seven hours at the table. Even Doyle Brunson could not change that. Nor can you.

If you are fortunate to get pocket Aces more often, thank the poker gods for smiling on you. That’s good luck. And you had absolutely no control over it. But there are ways you can influence luck so that it is biased in your favor.

An example: Having been dealt a pair of Kings (a “made” hand), you know the odds of winning will be against you if more than four opponents stay to see the flop. So you raise before the flop to force out some opponents.

Perhaps an Ace-rag and a small pair both fold, who would have stayed in for a single bet. An Ace falls on the flop. Your K-K is still in the lead and may hold up until the river. Perhaps the small pair would have caught a set – but he had mucked his hand; you are still well ahead of the pack.

Of course, if an Ace flops, you must play cautiously, just in case. If everyone checks to you, it would be advisable to bet to see what response you get. A raise by a tight player indicates he has the Aces so you can fold, saving you the cost of more bets on the turn and river.

That’s a good example of how you can influence luck in your favor. For one extra bet pre-flop, you have reduced the playing field so the chance of winning is much greater and opponents were forced who would otherwise have won.

Do you have a good example of how you can influence luck in your favor? A prize for the best response…E-mail to [email protected]

“The Engineer, a noted author and teacher in Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame.