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We complete our discussion of Four Basic Rules for Winning at Poker and changes that have occurred over time.

Our primary goal has been to explain significant changes that have occurred over the years.

Lack of focus?

How often do you see players who are distracted from the game as it is being played? They may be more interested in the basketball game being shown on the big TV screen mounted on the wall.

It may be an exciting basketball game, but watching it is bound to reduce your information about the poker hand in play. After all, poker is a game of partial information – the more information you can gather, the better your chances of going home a winner.

Pay close attention! Observe! Focusing on the game and on your opponents is the only way you can gather information that soon may be key to winning a hand. Any distraction can only hurt you.

I love to play at a table where my opponents are having a wonderful time – laughing, joking, drinking beer, flirting with the pretty cocktail waitress. They are there to have a good time; winning is secondary. That suits me fine! I’m there to win.

In that regard, your best option is to pay as much attention as you can to each opponent, especially when he remains in the hand. Note when he folds and raises and how often. Is he a PokerPigeon or a PokerShark? (Do you know the difference?) Is he a “maniac?” (What would you do if there was a maniac at your table?) Everyone is bound to have some tells. Look for them.

Taking Notes

There is the way to augment your focus on the game and improve your attention as well as retention of pertinent information. Recall when you were in school – note taking was essential to getting good grades. It will also help you now – at the poker table. A small piece of paper, 3×5 in., and a pen or pencil is all you need.

Along the left side, in small letters, list your opponents by seat position relative to the casino dealer. Using a code of your own creation, make note of each opponent’s traits and actions – notes that will later help you in making smart decisions as you play against each of them.

Speaking of your school days, here’s a very pertinent question for you: Which kid in your class got the good grades? One student focused on the teacher, her words and what she wrote on the blackboard; the other kept staring out the window – apparently anxious to get out and play in the schoolyard. To help his focus, the “smart kid” took lots of notes; the other kid’s desk may have been bare.

Improving with time

The more you play and take special efforts to focus on the game, the more adept at it you will become over time. Be wise. Take advantage of this opportunity.

Good luck!

“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].

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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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