Hand selection

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(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article of a three-part series from “The Engineer” on Gaining The Edge over competitors.) Part I. Part II.

You will be interested to learn that the concept of gaining the edge is also important to our U.S. Air Force.

A recent issue of Aviation Week magazine reported that Air Force leaders are pursuing “improved automation, human-machine interfaces,” and other technologies to “give the Air Force a disproportionate edge over adversaries.” Makes good sense.

How can you gain edge – an advantage – over your poker opponents by smart hand selection?

Hand Selection: After peeking at your hole cards, you must make what is arguably the most important decision during a hand of hold’em:

Should I stay in to see the flop? If so, then you are about to make your first investment in that hand. (We will not consider whether to raise or just call.) Simply stated: Are these two cards worthy of my investing in this hand?

If you make the “right” decision, it can avoid countless lost chips and add to your profits. By making the right decision, you gain a huge edge over your adversaries who lack your skill in hand selection.

The key factors: Should I hold’em or fold’em? To make that decision, there are several important factors to consider:

Value of two hole cards: How big are they? (Aces are best!) Are they paired? Connectors? Suited? Value is most important. My Hold’em Algorithm helps you to establish a numerical score to facilitate that decision. (See ad in GamingToday.)

Betting position: In late position, you often can call the blind with a somewhat weaker hand, including marginal drawing hands.

Raises: Have there been any raises or is the pot likely to be raised after you declare? Drawing hands are best played at the least cost to see the flop.

Players left: The number of opponents staying in and remaining to declare. (Multi-way pots usually are preferred with drawing hands.)

Texture: Loose-passive games make it easier to call when you are not in a late position.

Mistakes losers make: You gain edge when you avoid errors. Playing Ace-rag or King-rag is a common error that many poker players make. (The ultimate Pigeon never saw an ace he didn’t like.)

At a nine-handed table, we can expect at least one ace and one king to be in someone’s hole cards. If you have neither, then chances are one of your opponents has one (or both).

Almost half the time, the ace (and/or king) will be accompanied by a low card – a “rag.” Losers (Poker Pigeons) often play these hands even from an early position. Occasionally they will take a pot with A-rag; but over the long haul, these are losers.

If an ace flops, the Pigeon has a problem: If anyone else also has an ace in the hole, that Pigeon has “kicker trouble.” The opponent with an ace probably has the higher kicker – and takes the pot. The kicker makes a big difference!

The smart player avoids this problem by folding A-rag. One exception is A-rag suited. He can call from a late position provided there have been no raises and it is a multi-way pot. The player hopes to make the nut flush – a powerful hand.

Chances are the player is more likely to pair up on the flop than to catch two of his suit. In that case, he proceeds with due caution. Likewise, losers are prone to play other marginal drawing hands that winners usually fold from early positions, thereby gain edge.

Next week: Examining another way to gain the edge.

Comments? George “The Engineer” can be reached at [email protected].


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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