Enjoying a dramatic improvement in my poker results

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With all due humility, of late, I have enjoyed a dramatic improvement in my poker results. That thrills me no end.

Until several months ago, I played in $3-$6 limit games, experiencing wins in 65 percent of those sessions this year – down from 70-75 percent in previous years. Then I decided to move up to $4-$8 with 1/2 kill. What a difference! Amazingly I have won 17 out of my last 19 sessions at these slightly higher limits.

How can I explain the difference? There has not been any dramatic change in my playing strategies and tactics. I still tend to play tight-selectively aggressive, becoming more aggressive later in the session.

Sure, there may well be an element of good luck involved; still, winning 17 out of 19 sessions must be more than a lucky coincidence.

There is no significant change in my wins-per-hour or wins-vs.-losses at showdown. My bluffing statistics improved slightly from 70 percent to 74 percent success rate. This may have contributed somewhat to my improved win rate per session, but hardly enough to explain the dramatic increase in winning sessions.

As for the quality of the opposition, my “new” opponents are pretty much like those in the lower-limit game – mostly PokerPigeons who see too many flops with weak starting-hands and chase a lot. (They came to play!)

Eureka! I pondered the reason for the dramatic improvement. That, in itself, is a rather pleasant task. Aside from plain curiosity, the explanation could help me in future sessions. The answer was so obvious, I was surprised it took me so long to realize was it was.

At higher stakes, the pots are bound to be bigger.

Of course! But there is yet another factor.

Because of the higher stakes, I play somewhat more cautiously, especially when it’s a kill deal and the stakes effectively increase to $6-$12; that’s a big jump from the $3-$6 I was playing previously.

As a result, preflop, I am more inclined to pay heed to the Hold’em Caviat, as described in my Hold’em or Fold’em – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.

In case you have forgotten, the Hold’em Caveat requires you to fold hole cards that just meet or slightly exceed the starting-hand criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm if there is a raise or it is not a multi-way pot (three or more opponents staying to see the flop). And now I have extended this rule to slightly better hole cards.

Moving to even higher stakes: It stands to reason, moving further up the poker-stakes ladder – perhaps to $8-$16 or a full-kill game, would reward me with even bigger winning sessions.

Sounds plausible. But, this is where I must ask myself what my goals are. Why do I play poker? (Why do you?)

For me, and as I encourage other seniors, poker is great recreation. It challenges our minds, resulting in healthier minds (and better physical health, too); we become less susceptible to the dread Alzheimer’s Disease. (With over 200 members in our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group, not a single one has developed Alzheimer’s.)

Then too, social interaction is essential to all people (we are “social animals”). Make new friends and enjoy the company of others with a common interest. And, playing poker gets us away from the big TV – less likely to deteriorate into a “couch potato” with much reduced life-span.

And, of course, we all like to go home winners. Those extra dollars in my pocket make me happier.

But, I don’t want to be greedy. As a recreational player, I’m satisfied with an average win of, say, $100 per session (especially considering it costs me about $20 per hour to sit at the table – allowing for the casino rake, the bad-beat jackpot drop, and a toke to the dealer when I win the hand).

Besides, at higher stakes, there is also the danger I could lose more in the midst of a streak of bad luck. 

And then too, there is always the matter of variance.

“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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