Poker lessons at the Canter's deli

Feb 2, 2016 3:00 AM

My friend Lucy and I were having lunch at Canter’s world-famous deli on Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles – our favorite deli.

I had ordered my favorite lunch, which came with a half bowl of my favorite soup, served with bagel chips. (No, you can’t use bagel chips as if they were poker chips!)

After the usual amenities, inquiring as to each other’s health and families, and a few complaints about the horrible traffic congestion on our heavily potholed roads, we soon delved into the topic we both really get great pleasure from discussing: How to win at poker!

Both Lucy and I enjoy playing poker for recreation. Our goal is always to win as much as possible in low/middle limit cash games. Lucy smiled as she asked me, “Irene, what do you think is the biggest mistake poker players usually make?”

As I prepared to take a bite of my monster corned-beef sandwich, I replied with confidence: “Lucy, I think you know that poor starting hand selection is the most serious mistake a player can make.” That’s when you make your initial investment. I always use the Hold’em Algorithm to make it easier for me. Losers trust to guesses and pray for good luck on the flop.

Of course, Lucy agreed. She too uses the Hold’em Algorithm. Referring to it, she commented: “It’s so convenient,” and then she added, “taking into account not just the rank of my hole cards, but also whether they are connectors or suited, betting position, any raises, the number of opponents staying to see the flop, and what kind of players they are.”

Money management

Then, as I chomped on my sandwich, she nodded while narrowing her eyes: “Irene, recently I have come to believe poor money management is one of if not the biggest mistakes players make.”

That took me by surprise. “Oh,” I asked, “How so?” She looked up from her plate of Matzah brie, and responded: “Well, for one thing, if you don’t have a reasonable supply of money, you are bound to play too scared. You hesitate to take control of the hand by raising and are less likely to raise or bluff when it would be to your advantage. In short, you are less likely to play your A-game.”

She paused to let me digest those words (and the bite from my mouth-watering sandwich). Going on: “Money management is also important during your poker session.”

I looked up at her, seeking more details. “Well,” she explained, “as you know, variance is an integral part of the game. There will be times when you are losing and times when you are well ahead. There is always a danger you will lose back your winnings and more – no matter how skilled you are or how poorly your opponents play. Luck can swing either way – and it does.”

I put down my fork-full of coleslaw, and asked: “OK, Lucy, explain to me what that has to do with money management.”

“When I am well ahead, I use the money management scheme your friend, George ‘The Engineer’ has advocated in one of his poker books,” she said without batting one of her long eyelashes.

“I rack up my starting buy-in and about half of my winnings, and move them a bit to my left; that’s what George calls his ‘money in the bank;’ and I stack up the rest of my winnings a bit to my right to serve as my ‘play money.’

“Then, as the game goes on, and I win a pot, I replenish my ‘play money’ and add the rest of the chips to my ‘money in the bank.’ Eventually, I know I will lose my ‘play money.’ That’s when it’s time to go home or take a long break. Often, I’ll go back to the game, but at a different table.”

I nodded.

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