Even best poker players make occasional mistakes

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Even the best of poker players can make mistakes on occasion. No one is perfect. Here’s one mistake that might be debated. What’s your opinion?

I was watching a replay of the World Poker Tour, Season XI, no-limit final table, as it was broadcast on TV. To reach that point in the WPT competition, the players must have great skill and/or be awfully lucky.

I take it for granted we all respect the skill of players who have made the final table of such a prestigious tournament. (Let’s not comment further on this aspect.)

Ultimate Poker dealt its 10-millionth hand online

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In this particular hand, two players stayed to see the flop after the others folded because of poor hands, position or raises preflop. One player held K-K in the hole; the other had A-10 suited. The flop helped neither player. The A-10 checked.

If you were the other player, holding the pocket-Kings, what action would you take at this point? Options include checking along, making a small bet or making a big bet.

Several thoughts and questions might have entered your mind after the flop while holding K-K in the hole; for example:

(1) I probably have the best hand at this point.

(2) How many chips does my opponent have? How many do I have?

(3) Is he a loose or a tight player?

(4) Is it possible my opponent has an Ace in the hole? Answer: Yes, very much so. (At a nearly full table, the odds are at least one opponent has an Ace in the hole, especially since I don’t.)

(5) Could my opponent have flopped a set or two-pair that would make my pocket-Kings a poor second-best? Answer: Not likely; the odds are much against it.

In my opinion, the worst thing would be to check on the flop; and that was a big mistake by the K-K. There are two good reasons:

(1) With no Ace falling on the flop, the odds were much against your lone opponent having a better hand. Considering all this, the best strategy would be to make a big value bet since you were relatively certain  your pocket-Kings was the best hand. At this point, you were a big favorite to take the pot if it went to a showdown.

(2) Certainly, you should give due consideration to the possibility your one remaining opponent had an Ace in the hole. After all, everyone knows poker players love Aces. On that basis, you should opt to protect your K-K by making a big bet on the flop, hoping an opponent with an Ace, would fold his hand, leaving the pot to you. That’s especially likely if he has Ace-rag.

Either way, a big bet most likely was the best option. If your opponent called your big bet, you stood to win more chips. If he folded, holding an Ace in the hole, you would have eliminated the one card that could have “sunk your ship.” There is an old proverb: “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.” That certainly applies in this case.

As it happened: The K-K decided to check along on the flop, thereby giving his opponent a free card. Perhaps he was thinking he was slow-playing, in the hope of keeping his opponent from folding, so he might win even more chips.

If that was, in fact, his thinking at that moment, perhaps he should have given more thought to the risk of giving his opponent a free card. He might have considered that an Ace on the board could be “deadly” to his K-K if his opponent had stayed to see the flop only because he held an Ace in the hole.

And, indeed, that is exactly what happened. The A-10 got a free card to see the turn. It was a big Ace! And our K-K was practically dead in the water – with only two outs to take the pot on the river.

Did the WPT player involved consider his check may have been a costly mistake?

A prize to the best comment received.

“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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