Focus on game

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Seated at the poker table, do you focus on the game – or would you rather watch the basketball game on the big-screen TV up on the wall facing your table? Where is your focus? Our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Lab voted Lack of Focus as 8th of the Top 10 Mistakes.

Once again, one of the Top 10 Mistakes as determined by our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Lab relates to one of the Four Basic Rules for Winning (Ref. The Greatest Book of Poker for WINNERS!; see ad elsewhere in GamingToday). Our Basic Poker Rule No. 4 is: Be Alert!

The subheading for this Basic Poker Rule is, appropriately, “Don’t drink alcoholic beverages or use drugs while playing poker; don’t play if you are tired or disturbed.” If so, you cannot give the game your full attention. Your thinking won’t be as sharp as it could be otherwise. And the game will not be in full focus for you – the center of your attention.

To be a winner, it is essential to focus all your attention on the game. Be aware of the cards on the board and how they affect your hand. Consider the card odds and pot odds. Be able to decide if this a good time to try for a bluff.

Observe your opponents – carefully. Assess their style of play: tight, loose, aggressive, passive, deceptive. What kind of starting hands do they play? Are they staying to see the flop considerably more often than prudent hand selection would warrant? Is there a “maniac” at your table – betting, raising, re-raising almost every hand?

Look for “involuntary tells” – sometimes displayed by a player in response to a card dealt out. (Did he seem to choke up when a third club was dealt on the river? Did his hand suddenly start shaking? Did he suddenly reach for his chips as the turn card fell on the board?)

If you are not ALERT, it is impossible to focus effectively on the game. That’s a big mistake. Without giving full attention to the game at hand, you are bound to miss out on gaining valuable information. That will almost surely cost you chips. . .

A Game of Information

Like many other activities and endeavors in life, poker is a game of information. Actually it is a game of partial information; you can never gain all the information you’d like. But, the more information you can gather, the better will be your decisions – the more pots you will win; and the more chips will be in the pots you win.

The information you need may be staring you in the face, but if you aren’t paying attention, if you aren’t focusing on the game, you could easily miss some if not most of it.

Focusing on the game is essential to gathering that information. While playing poker, the game, the cards dealt out and the players – your opponents – must be the center of your attention. Focus …

Words to play by

“If you find faults (in your game), you should correct them.

When you find none, you should try even harder.”

Israel Zangwill (1864-1926; famed English humorist, novelist, playwright)

Based on your own experience, we invite you to submit your candidate for one of the Top 10 Mistakes at limit hold’em; briefly describe how to avoid making that mistake. A copy of my Hold’em Algorithm booklet will be awarded to the winner. (There may be several!) Contact George “The Engineer” Epstein at [email protected] Please include your name, address, and where you play poker. We may use your name in a column if your “mistake” is selected for one of the Top 10.

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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