Avoid eating the poker Sodom apple

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You’ll never guess what a Sodom apple is – unless, perhaps, you have studied ancient biblical history and related tales of old, or have visited the Dead Sea on the border between Israel and Jordan.

The Dead Sea is more than 400 meters below sea level; it is the lowest point on dry land. Its hypersaline water makes floating easy; and its mineral-rich black mud is used for therapeutic and cosmetic treatments at area resorts.

According to various ancient biblical writings, Sodom and Gomorrah were two cities near the Dead Sea that were destroyed by God for committing serious moral sins against mankind. Thus, Sodom is associated with evil. So, too, the Sodom apple.

It has been described as a fruit that once grew in clusters on certain trees in that area. It had a beautiful exterior color, tempting to eat, but poisonous! When plucked by hand, it often exploded into smoke and ashes. Like the lands of Sodom and Gomorrah, the fruit was not fit for human consumption. It was “deadly.”

So, what does this have to do with Texas hold’em poker? Picture, if you will, that you are at the final table of a big tournament with just 10 opponents remaining in the game, fighting you for the top prize. You could win many thousands of dollars if you become one of the top five finishers.

You entered the pot with K-Q offsuit – a premium drawing hand. The flop contains a Jack and 10, giving you a big open-ended straight draw. The turn is another 10, putting a pair on the board, and no help to you.

There is a lot of betting and raising. With eight outs (four Aces and four nines), you have a good chance to make a big straight. As if responding to your silent prayer to the poker gods, the river is an Ace, giving you the Ace-high straight. Wow! An inner voice proclaims: “I have been blessed.” At least that’s what enters your mind.

Those five cards laid out on the board are so beautiful to behold – “delicious,” like the exterior of a big juicy, ripe, red apple. Together with your holecards, they make for a powerful hand. It warms the cockles of your poker heart no end. You salivate as you gaze upon it. You contemplate: You are about to feast on its beauty by betting and winning a monster pot. You love to win!

It’s a loose-aggressive table so there has been lots of betting and raising, with several opponents staying to the end. Wow! What a pot. You lick your lips in anticipation of your great victory. You can almost “taste” it.

Appearances can be deceiving. Sodom apples seek out naïve persons who believe what they see, and act accordingly. If only they actually knew the truth – the facts of the matter, they would be more cautious and certainly less likely to commit all their chips by raising all-in.

Little did you think at the showdown, when the hands are turned up, the Ace on the river would give your opponent a big full-house. Your Ace-high straight is crushed and your chips are all gone, like the dreaded Sodom apple – beautiful on the outside but deadly within.

Moral of the story: Be prepared. Consider that the board may appear so beautiful as you look upon it and examine your holecards. But, before acting on your “blurred” vision, clouded by the apparent beauty of it all, think a moment: Could my opponent have a better hand? Do I have the nuts? There are possible hands that would beat me. On that basis, it would be prudent to avoid an all-in bet. Beware of the Sodom apple!

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