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I always enjoy Elliot Frome’s columns in Gaming Today. Recently, he wrote a column advising casino players to “Scout paytables before sitting to play.”

He observes how difficult it is for the players to go home winners – practically impossible in the long run. The casino take is formidable. That’s true in every game you might play in the casino – in some games more so than others.

His advice is sound: “You must find the games with the higher paybacks.” Some casinos offer a higher payback and should be preferred.

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Even so, it is impossible to beat the casino! That’s how the owners became so wealthy.

Making matters worse for the players, Frome notes that “paybacks have been cut over the past 10 or 20 years.” Result: It costs all the more to play your favorite game in the casino – all the more difficult to be a winner.

He started his column by telling us about Jean Scott who recently announced that, after 30 years, she is retiring from the games she had so enjoyed. They just lost their excitement, she explained. “She meant that the casinos had been pinching the players more and more over the years (so) that they had taken the fun out of it.”

Personally, I doubt that will influence the casinos to change their ways – so long as there are so many others willing to play on their terms. The casinos do need to be profitable – at least to a reasonable extent.

For Texas hold’em players, learning to play better than your opponents could well be a viable solution to this dilemma – aside from turning to home games for your recreational poker kicks.

Learning to play better is no easy task. Here are some suggestions to become more skilled than your opponents – “the enemy”:

* Be more selective in table and seat selection. Avoid tables with several very tight players so that you can win bigger pots.

* Play cautiously against an extremely aggressive player (“maniac”); try to be seated to his left so he must act before you make your decision.

* Focus on the game – not on the football game being shown on the big TV screen up on the wall.

* Look for opponents who are on tilt. Take advantage of them whenever you can.

* Select those starting hands that offer the best chance of winning; and be sure your hand improves on the flop. (The Hold’em Algorithm will help.

* Use the pot odds and card odds to make the best decisions – to get a Positive Expectation.

* Learn when it is to your best advantage to thin the field. For winners, selective aggression is the way.

* When holding a marginal starting hand, use the Hold’em Caveat (no raise in a multiway pot.)

* Use your image to your advantage; change it occasionally to confuse “the enemy.”

* Learn when it is to your advantage to play more aggressively.

* When you catch a monster hand, build the pot using your deceptive skills.

* Learn when and how best to bluff; use the Esther Bluff tactic; never try to bluff out a Calling-Station.

* Learn to read your opponents and understand their playing traits. Take advantage of them.

* Look for tells, and how best to interpret them.

* There are times when folding a big hand makes good sense. Example: A scare card falls on the board, and a tight player opens the betting.

* Take your breaks when it is to your advantage. Examples: Don’t take a break when you are the Button or in a late position. Don’t take a break when the Aces-Cracked bonus is in play. Those are the best times to be in the hand.

Think about it. Can you add to our list of hold’em poker skills and suggestions? Drop me a line.

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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