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No matter how skilled you are, luck remains a significant factor when playing poker. The same is true in many aspects of life.

Luck is nothing more than chance. Something happens, over which you have no control. On the other hand, you can influence luck by using your poker skills.

In the long term, highly skilled players will emerge victorious over those who depend more on luck. But in the final analysis, we are living – and playing poker – in the “now.”  The “long term” can go off into infinity.

Luck can be good or bad.  If luck is with you and you win the pot, you might very well consider yourself lucky – and vice versa. There will be streaks of both good and bad luck.

I like the definition of luck as presented by Michael Wiesenberg in his book, “The Official Dictionary of Poker. (Note:  For a limited time, we will give you a free copy of this book when you purchase my two books;  see ad.)  “Luck is an illusory factor that losers think is the only reason for winning, and that winners know is the main determinant for winning only in the short run.”

The fact is that while you cannot control luck, you may be able to influence it so that you experience less bad luck and thus enjoy a greater share of good luck. Skill can do that for you.

Here are some examples:

Table selection: Texture is important. If you play at tables that are either too tight (no money in the pot) or too aggressive (too expensive to enter into the hand), you are bound to experience more bad luck than you can afford.

If you don’t like your table, ask for a table change. While waiting, play conservatively. Thus, you will have influenced luck in your favor.

Seating position:  In addition to betting position – early, middle, or late, the types of players seated near you can make a big difference.

Often you will find yourself seated just before a very aggressive player (a “maniac”) who is wont to raise quite often. You have been dealt two good starting cards in the hole.  You call the Big Blind to see the flop, hoping for improvement. Then, the aggressive player to your left raises the pot.

Now what?  Your hand is not worth a double bet pre-flop. Since you already have one bet invested in this hand, you call the raise. Had you been seated to maniac’s left, you would have mucked your two hole cards, and saved two bets, thereby reducing bad luck.

Starting hand selection: Avoiding poor starting hands is the best way to reduce bad luck – such as when your hand improves on the flop, but an opponent has connected with a better hand – making you second-best.

Calling raise by tight player: In an early position, you were dealt two big honor cards in the hole. Of course, you stay to see the flop – three cards placed face-up on the board that can substantially improve your hand.

The flop pairs one of your cards. You open the betting. One player calls; but the next player makes a raise.

You have labelled him as a tight player: he plays only very strong hands. This must be one such…  avoid the bad luck; muck your hand and save a bunch of chips.

Get the idea?



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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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