Dreaming of cashing in on a big pot

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Sally is a very good poker player. She is highly skilled at the game. Her focus is on Texas hold’em cash games; rarely does she enter a tournament.

Recently, Sally and her husband, both senior citizens who love playing low-limit hold’em, flew into Las Vegas for a vacation to which they had long looked forward. After checking into the hotel and enjoying an elegant buffet lunch, they rushed to the card room to play poker.

They could hardly wait. Actually, she was the player; he enjoyed sitting behind her and rooting for her to win.

Shortly after signing in, she was seated at a table. She observed that the opponent to her right had several racks of chips piled high in front of him — considerably more than any other player; so she assumed Mt. Big Stacks was the big winner at the table. She paid special attention to his play while waiting until being dealt into the game after the button passed her, and then afterwards while waiting for a playable starting hand.

She used that time to observe her opponents so as to learn their playing traits; and, thereby be better prepared to make decisions in her favor as the game progressed. 

After mucking several hands preflop, Sally was dealt pocket deuces. She was in the Big Blind and there were no raises, so she got to see the flop for “free.” Otherwise she would have mucked her hand, knowing that her 2-2 in the hole was a big longshot to improve on the flop. The odds were about 8-to-1 against flopping a set. And, then too, any other player making a set would be far ahead of her — leaving her with only two outs to make quads.

Surprise! The flop was 2c — 4d — Ac. A set of deuces is a strong hand, and has a good chance of holding up to take the pot on the showdown.

Sally’s husband, seated behind her, managed to keep a straight face; no tells from him. Sally opened the betting and was called by three opponents, including Mr. Big Stacks. She was hoping to thin the field while increasing the size of the pot.

The turn brought the 5c. With three clubs on the board, an opponent could be drawing to a flush or a small straight.

Sally was sure that she was still in the lead, so she opened by betting for value to build the pot. Two opponents called, including Mr. Big Stacks.

Slowly, the dealer turned up the 8h on the river. In the Big Blind, Sally mulled over the situation: With three clubs on the board, an opponent could have a club flush. And, a small straight also was possible. But she felt confident that her set of deuces was still well ahead. So she opened the betting once again.

The player to her immediate left, after hesitating a bit, called her bet. But then, Mr. Big Stacks raised it up.

She thought for several seconds. He was a fairly tight player and had shown himself to be somewhat aggressive. He may very well have caught his flush, but the pot was too big to abandon at this point. The pot odds were attractive.

So she called — and was delighted when he turned up Ad-8s, for two-pair.

Her three deuces had stood up until the end. And she started off with a healthy win — as she happily racked up her winnings. A good start for their vacation.

But it could have gone the other way. Was she just a bit luckier than her opponents? Well, that’s poker.

And then, out of the blue, the alarm clock next to my bed rang aloud.

Yes, it was just another poker dream — but so vivid.  

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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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