Don’t cry over missed hands when playing poker

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According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Don’t cry over spilt milk” is a metaphor that was written centuries ago by James Howell (1594-1666), a highly regarded Welsh writer.  Its meaning is “Don’t be upset over something that has already happened and cannot be changed.”

An incident occurred to me recently at the Hustler Casino in Gardena, California, that upset me no end. I had just been seated at a $4-$8 limit hold’em table. After waiting for the Button to pass me, I was about to be dealt into the game on the very next hand.

But, just at that moment, seat no. 5 became available, right across from the dealer, where I would be able to see the cards on the board much better. I have special “poker eyeglasses,” but still have trouble viewing the cards dealt out on the board.

So, with the dealer’s permission, I promptly moved into that preferred seat; then I had to wait a few more hands to be dealt in. No big deal, I thought. I’ll use the extra time to study my opponents, and thus be better off for the rest of the session.

As I watched the game, that very hand became a Bad-Beat Jackpot hand when one player caught 4 Kings and the other had Aces-full-of-Kings. All the players at the table — all except me — jumped up from their seats, clapped their hands in the air, and shouted aloud as they congratulated the two players who had caught those fantastic hands.

They all shared in the $16,000 award — all except me, as I sat quietly in deep despair and gloom. You can imagine how upset I was! Yes indeed. I could hardly contain myself.

I was angry, and silently whispered to myself, “Why didn’t I wait until after that ‘magic hand’ to change my seat?”

Can you blame me?  I estimated that I would have won well over $1000.  Oh, so close!

Later, after I calmed down and came to my senses, I thought of the popular metaphor, “don’t cry over spilt milk.” Otherwise, that event could easily have put me on tilt. I’m only human. There was nothing I could do to change what had happened. Just accept it and go on, always playing my best, I told myself, using every skill I had acquired over the years.

Rule: Don’t play when on tilt. If you do, you are bound to make costly errors in judgment, and become a big loser.

What about tilt? Let’s digress a bit and discuss tilt as applied to the game of poker. According to Wikipedia, tilt is a state of mental or emotional confusion or frustration, as a result of which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in becoming over-aggressive.

Tilt is closely associated with another poker term, “steam.” We may not always realize it, but it can occur relatively frequently. It may be caused by frustration, animosity against other players or experience tilt, and don’t allow it to influence your play.

Suffering a few bad beats — especially on the river — can easily put the best of us on tilt.  Another common cause is bad manners from other players causing frustration which eventually leads to tilting. That can also happen when suffering with a bad dealer — one who pays little attention to the players or makes careless mistakes that effect the results.

But, now, let’s get back to our tale of woe when I missed out on receiving a share of the Bad-Beat Jackpot.

As the game progressed, out of the blue, it suddenly occurred to me that there would not have been that jackpot hand had I stayed at that first seat and been dealt into the game. For that hand, with eight players (including me) at the table instead of seven, the deal would have been totally different. And there would not have been a Bad-Beat Jackpot at all.

When I realized this fact, I sighed with relief.

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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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