In a recent column, I told you about the advice I gave to a poker friend at my favorite Heavenly Poker Starry-Eye casino. Well, there is a bit more to this story.
I was taking a break from my game when he came running over. “Can you believe I am actually well ahead!” He was so excited. “But I have started to lose back. Got rivered a few hands ago. Big pot, too. What do you think?”
“Pleased to see things are working out for you. You asked about losing back your winnings. Have you ever heard of variance? That’s the ups and downs that are bound to happen during a poker session. It’s inevitable. If I were you, I would quit while I am still ahead – and go home a winner.”
“Hmm,” he pondered that advice. “What else can you tell me about being a winner? I promise not to share it with others.”
More advice: “Well, OK, just a few more words of advice. I suspect you know how important table and seat selection are.” He looked at me, expecting some details. “Tables that are too aggressive or too tight, are no-nos.”
Eyes narrowed he asked, “How come?”
I explained, “Lots of preflop raising makes it too expensive to play drawing hands; and most of your playable hands will need to catch cards on the draw. If the table is very tight, you won’t be able to get paid off when you catch a big hand.
“As for seat selection, it’s important to watch out for a maniac or even a very aggressive player at your table. You want to be seated to his left so you see what he does before you have to declare.”
He interrupted, “I had beautiful pocket kings – two big red Kings – and raised preflop. Then the flop came down with a big black Ace of clubs. The Big Blind came out betting and was raised by a middle position player. I decided to call with my K-K in the hole.
“On the turn, the Big Blind – a fairly aggressive guy with lots of chips in front of him – again opened with a bet. Then the other player raised again. I decided to fold, figuring one or both had a pair of Aces, making my pocket Kings a loser. What do you think?”
I thought just a moment. “Poker players love Aces. At a full table, it is highly likely at least one opponent has an Ace – even more so if you don’t have one. With two opponents betting on the flop after an Ace comes on the board – and especially if one raises, you wasted chips chasing with your Kings.
I don’t blame you; Kings in the hole are so beautiful. But they’re not that much better than a pair of deuces against two Aces. There’s also the chance the raiser caught a set on the flop. If he had a pair in the hole, you can expect him to flop a set about one out of 8½ times. In either case, at that point you had only two outs. Why chase? Chasing is bound to be costly.”
What about tells? He nodded in agreement, then said, “I know what tells are, but rarely see any. What do you think?”
“You have to be constantly on the lookout for tells,” I replied. “Observe your opponents whenever you can, especially those seated to your left. I always look to my left during the flop to see what reactions my opponents will show. Sometimes a player will pick up his cards, ready to muck them.
“If I see a player – especially one who is not tricky – pick up a bunch of chips, I seriously consider folding so I won’t be faced with a raised bet after I call with a medium pair or less – even with a hand like King-Jack offsuit. Well, I have to get back to my table.”
As I headed back to my table, I turned back at him and stared, “and don’t forget about variance. It’s for real!!!”
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