At the poker table, there is no way to prevent counterfeiting

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There are many poker terms that have found their way into society. “Ace up his sleeve” is an excellent one.

Likewise, there are common words we adopt in poker, often taking on special meanings when applied to the game. “Counterfeited” is a good example. According to my Merriam-Webster Dictionary, counterfeit is “something made to imitate another thing with a view to defraud.”

Like a counterfeit $100 bill. Casinos and banks take special precautions not to accept any of these. But at the poker table, there is no way to prevent counterfeiting.

In poker, your hand is counterfeited when a card falls on the board that lessens its value. Wiesenberg’s Official Dictionary of Poker explains with an example: In a high-low split community card game, your hand is counterfeited when one of your low cards is duplicated on the board. In a regular high game, a probable winning hand can be turned into a loser – or a pot split – when a particular card falls on the board. It’s not uncommon.

Example: In a limit hold’em game, in the cut-off position, you are dealt two medium/low connecting spades in the hole, and (surprise!) three more spades appear on the flop.

You have flopped a flush despite the high odds (about 100-to-1 against). In fact, you have a draw to a straight flush. Exciting! You are brimming with joy! (Just don’t let your opponents see that. You don’t want to give any tells to the “enemy.”)

What’s more, the small blind comes out betting and five other opponents limp to you in the cut-off position. (It’s almost a “family pot.”) You decide to trap your opponents by slow-playing now, and then raising on the turn when the bets are double the size.

A red card falls in the turn, and it does not pair any card on the board (so a full-house is not likely). Again the small blind leads out with his bet and four others call. Now you raise from the cut-off. They all call – building the pot you expect to win.

By not raising on the flop, your opponents may not put you on a flush, though some may be suspicious. It’s no surprise when they all call your raise. What a pot! You have every right to be excited with the anticipation of taking a huge pot. (Careful, don’t give your opponents a tell.)

Just one more card to dodge. Silently, you pray to the poker gods. “Another red card, no pairs on the river…please.” (Praying to the poker gods won’t help, but it is a natural reaction in such situations.)

Alas, after having been so good to you up to this point, the poker gods nudge the dealer to turn over a fourth spade on the board. What could be worse? With so many opponents in the pot, one or more is bound to have a spade in the hole; and it’s very likely higher than your 8 of spades.

The small blind checks, then a tight player bets and you just “know” the hand is lost. The two others call. Reluctantly, you also make the call. The pot is too big to fold for just one more bet.

Maybe you’ll be lucky and your 8 of spades will be high. Besides, the pot is so big the odds surely must be much higher than the probability/odds that your hand is beaten.

Of course, the tight player who bet turns up the ace of spades for the nut flush – on the river. Your flush was counterfeited when that fourth spade hit the board – and you lost a huge pot! It happens. and there is little if anything you can do to prevent it.

“The Engineer,” noted poker author and teacher in the West Los Angeles area, is a member of the Seniors’ Poker Hall of Fame. You can contact him on line at [email protected]

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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