There's more than one path to winning at poker

Feb 18, 2014 3:00 AM

When going to the casino to play poker, of course, your goal is to go home a winner – more money in your pocket than when you entered the casino, hours earlier. There is more than one way that can happen.

Most often, you will be a winner if truly skilled and enjoy a fair share of good luck while playing your favorite poker game. Well, the other night, at the Hustler Casino in Redondo Beach, Calif., I enjoyed an alternative route to that goal.

I was in a $4-$8 limit hold’em game with ½ kill. At the start, I was doing well, and even entertained a thought of quitting before variance might catch up with me. But it was too early, I mused, and besides it was a “good” table – lots of loose-passive opponents.

Then, my luck changed for the worse. What can you say when you flop top two-pair, bet it all the way, only to lose to a small set on the river? It sure hurts to be rivered. You were practically counting your winnings when – ZAP – like a sharp slap in the face, victory is “stolen away” from you.

Sure, we all realize being rivered is a fact of life at the poker table. You can do all the right things, like betting your top two-pair all the way – and still lose on the river to a two-outer, small pair. But the game goes on.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if that were an isolated occurrence. During the course of my 6-hour poker session, not counting my four bluffs (all of which succeeded), I tallied 14 wins (about par for the course), including 11 wins that went to a showdown. Meanwhile, I suffered an equal number, 11 losers at showdown.

Of those 11 losers, I was rivered 5 times! That’s an unusually high ratio; but that’s poker. I did manage to win one hand where I rivered an opponent, getting lucky when I caught runner-runner for the nut flush while holding top pair on the board against – unbeknown to me – an opponent’s straight on the flop.

I was in the red when, out of the proverbial blue, my name was called aloud over the Hustler Casino loudspeaker. I glanced up at the big TV screen. Yup, my name was posted in big black letters! I had just won the big cash drawing. And, talk of luck, the cash-prize drawing (at selected days and hours) had just been increased from $500 to $1,000. WOW! I jumped to my feet. “I’m here! I’m here!” I shouted aloud. As I started from my table, I turned back to pick up my Player Reward Card from the table so as to better prove the winner was ME! Little old George.

There were lots of forms to be filled out – even more after I returned to my seat at the poker table. Before long the casino manager came to the table with $1,000 in chips for me. Wow! Sure, this pales compared to winning a bad-beat jackpot.

But it sure lifted my spirits. People I knew at the casino came to my table to congratulate me, as did the other players at the table. Adding “icing to the cake,” a short time later, I checked my Player Reward Card for hours played during the month. I had exceeded the required 50 hours of play during that time, and “earned” $50 in chips.

Needless to tell you, it was a great poker night for me! As my poker buddy, Byron Z. (he was a winner, too!) and I cashed out at the cashier’s cage. He suggested I store some of my winnings in the Hustler Casino player bank. Great advice!

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

 GamingToday on Facebook      and         GamingToday on Twitter