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Many recreational players enjoy low/middle limit Texas hold’em. Few go home from the casino as winners. I would estimate 80-90 percent are losers.

Even highly skilled players have trouble trying to overcome the high cost to play. Figure it out: For each hand, the rake is $5; the Bad Beat Jackpot drop is $1; and allow a $1 tip for the dealer. That’s $7 in all the table shells out. Estimating 30 hands are played each hour (it could be more), that’s a total of $210 shared by the nine players at the table – an average of $23 per hour for each player.

Assume a poker session of 7 hours; that is a total cost of about $160 for the average player. Sure, the casinos are in business to make a profit. Why else are they there? They could try reducing the rake; probably more poker players would go there – rather than play in home games.

What Can You Do?

Instead of asking the casino to cut its rake, how about asking yourself: What can I do to improve my results – and go home a winner much more often? One good thing about playing poker is you are fully in control of the decisions you make at the table.

You can be more cautious in table and seat selection; learn to “read” your opponents; observe their tells; play only the better starting-hands; become more expert in bluffing (including use of the Esther Bluff tactic); use the poker odds to your advantage (fold if you are not getting a Positive Expectation); bet for value; use deception when appropriate, check-raise and slow-play to build the pot when you have connected with a monster… and improve your results by avoiding big losses.

For example, avoid getting involved with a poor starting-hand. (The Hold’em Algorithm can help you.) After the flop, don’t play marginal hands unless the Hold’em Caveat is satisfied (multi-way hand with no raise before the flop); and, don’t chase when you have few outs. (More than six outs is essential.)

Here is a common and very costly mistake so many of us often make. You have a very good made hand, one that wins the pot most of the time. Say you started with pocket Kings. You have been betting all the way with several callers. The pot is huge. The River is an Ace.

An opponent holding an Ace in the hole, has you beat. You decide to check from the Under-the-Gun position. A middle-position thinks a moment and then makes the bet. He is then raised by a late position. You conclude one or both probably has an Ace in the hole. Your hand is a loser. But the pot is so big; so tempting!

Think About It

You rationalize: One of them is deceptive player – possibly trying to steal the pot, representing a pair of Aces. You have already “invested” heavily in the pot. So you call the raised bet. Lo and behold, the late-position was trying to steal the pot; but the middle-position has the goods. “Nice catch,” you say to him as you muck your cards – sad and disappointed. Now you buy more chips to stay in the game.

This sort of thing happens so often. But you could have saved a pile of chips had you folded your hand after the raised bet on the River. Next time you are in such a predicament, ask yourself this question: Is there reason for me not to believe the original bettor or the raiser?

Think about it – before investing two more big bets on the River. Are they both deceptive players? “Well, the raiser has been deceptive in the past; but, I don’t know about the original bettor. As he came out betting, did he seem somewhat excited (as you would when showing the same sort of positive emotions while using the Esther Bluff tactic)? “Yes, he did.” Believe him. Fold your hand and save lots of chips.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [email protected]

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [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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