Handling Poker when Loose-Passive table changes

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In last week’s column about poker expert Byron Ziman, recall he had wisely chosen to leave (“I kicked myself out – so I wouldn’t have to kick myself later for not kicking myself out”) after his table changed from a Loose-Passive game to a Tight-Aggressive one.

Not surprisingly, I had a somewhat similar experience that same night. As I sat down at the table, it was apparent this could be a “good table” for me: Loose and passive in “texture.” Believe it or not, during the first ½-hour of play, I was able to double my buy-in. There was no way I was going to leave that table.

As a matter of interest, I tallied the hands dealt to me during that time. Only one out of 16 was truly a playable hand before the flop. I was just plain lucky! Very lucky, I’ll admit.

By the end of the hour, things got closer to probability – seven playable hands out of 32 total dealt to me. (The “playable” numbers are based on the criteria for starting hands as defined in the Hold’em Algorithm – email me for more information [email protected] )

That’s pretty much what I would expect. About one out of four to five hands dealt out to you will be playable to see the flop. In fact, anytime I see an opponent consistently playing more frequently, I label that person a PokerPigeon.

No question about it, I was experiencing remarkable good luck during this time. I was getting hungry so ordered my dinner and turned away from the game enjoying a delicious meal that was reasonably priced using my Rewards Card as payment. (Chips for the tip to the food server.)


When I turned back to the table, it was apparent its “texture” had gone to the opposite – Tight-Aggressive. Not my preference, but I didn’t even consider making a change. The night was young, and after a great dinner I felt raring-to-go.

I was elated to have so many winning chips in front of me. But, just as I had been lucky before connecting on the flop, hand-after-hand everything was just the opposite. When I made queens on the flop, starting with Q-J suited, an opponent across the table had K-Q.

I got rivered several times – once by someone Phil Hellmuth probably would have called “idiot” for calling with just two outs. My pocket aces succumbed to two pair on the river – even though I played the hand “according to Hoyle.”

I usually win my bluffs about 70% of the time (about twice break-even); but even taking the precaution to use the Esther Bluff, reinforced by the Richard B. Reverse Tell, I lost two out of my three attempted bluffs. One was to a lady I knew to be a calling-station and – in retrospect – I should not have tried to bluff her out.

About then, Byron joined our table. He too had experienced that same kind of loss after his table changed its texture. But, he was smarter than me. He quit our game while still well ahead, whereas I stayed on hoping for a return to my previous good luck.


This would seem a good time for reflecting: What do we mean by “luck” when we play poker? In a word, “luck” is nothing more than “chance” – the arbitrary distribution of events or outcomes.

It’s good luck when it’s in your favor and vice versa. Call “heads” when tossing a coin. If heads comes up 10 times in a row you just had some great luck! But, in the long run, it is bound to even out (so long as it is an “honest” coin.)


Good for Byron as he displayed the “money management” skills addressed in my Poker for WINNERS! book. (See ad). For whatever reason, I failed the test. Hope to learn from my mistake. You’re never too old to learn.

“The Engineer,” noted author and teacher in West Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors’ Poker Hall of Fame. He 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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