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Kevin F. goes by the nickname, PokerFitz. That seems quite appropriate for someone who loves to play poker, which he does almost every day in Las Vegas — and wins most of the time.

For background: Kevin was born in the Bronx, started playing poker as a pre-teen and is now 71 and fully retired.

Stud was the game in those days. Kevin and his pals played on a park bench for nickels. That brings back fond memories of my own early days of playing poker back in Boston, except we played for pennies. He served during the Vietnam war, and often played poker after duty hours. After working as a teamster for 36 years, until retiring to better enjoy the game of poker.

In 2000, PokerFitz retired to Las Vegas, where he plays Texas hold’em almost every day.

I met PokerFitz via the Internet when he responded to my recent column, “Muck or stay? Every player’s dilemma,” in the Feb. 20 issue of Gaming Today. In case you don’t recall, it was a hand where I was dealt pocket 10’s while on the Button. Before the pre-flop action got to me, there were three raises. So I would have had to call a 4-bet to stay to see the flop.

In the column, I explained my rationale for finally deciding to muck my 10-10. As it turned out, the flop came down: 10-A-10.

Had I stayed in, I would have made four tens — quad 10’s! Meanwhile, an opponent with pocket Aces, took the pot with Aces full of tens. In addition to the huge pot that I would have scooped, it would have been a Bad Beat Jackpot with over $16,000 to share! “Oh my,” I asked: “Did I make a mistake by not calling?”

My decision to write this column about PokerFitz was not because of his response to this question, but rather some of the other things he had to say.

He commented on my earlier columns in which I wrote about the cost-to-play. Apparently, in Las Vegas, it is even higher than in our local casinos in Southern California: $5 for the rake + $2 promotional fees + $1 (or more) for the dealer’s toke. That adds up to $8 per hand, or about $240 per hour; and figures to cost each player (9 at the table) about $27 per hour on average (more if the table is short-handed or if more than 30 hands are dealt each hour).

Play for, say, seven hours during a session, your cost is about $189 for that session! At that cost-to-play, “It is hard to win continuously,” PokerFitz noted. How true.

Apparently, PokerFitz has solved this problem by playing against the many tourists in Las Vegas who are “Poker Pigeons” (they play much too many poor starting hands). He plays at the Mirage, Flamingo, Excalibur and Sam’s Town. He likes the fact that “every five days, new people enter the game.”

Most of these tourists bring lots of disposable dollars, and “came to play.” They are wont to stay in the pot with weak and marginal hands. And they do a lot of chasing — calling bets and staying in the pot with only a few outs with which to connect to a hand that might take the pot if they get real lucky. I always say: “Chasers are bound to be losers.”

In addition, with infrequent visits to Las Vegas, these “Pigeons” never get to become “regulars,” so they know little of their opponents’ playing traits — only what they may learn on that day (if they are skilled enough). For skilled players, those advantages (“edges”) are significant.

I’ll wager that PokerFitz will never suffer from Alzheimer’s. 

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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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