Missing my trips to casino

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It was Feb. 22 — the last time that I had played poker in a casino. It was so vivid in my mind; yet actually it was months ago, just before the coronavirus pandemic struck and closed the casino.

It was my usual $4-$8 limit Texas hold’em game at the Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif. I had lost the previous two sessions and was anxious to make it up and then some. At least I was hopeful, and I was determined to play by my revised basic rules for winning: start with hands that meet the Hold’em Algorithm; stay in after the flop when my hand improves, play a bit more aggressively, semi-bluff more often, plus no chasing.

After several hours at the table, I was a bit ahead but still had a long way to go to make up for those two losing sessions. In the Cut-Off position, I looked down at 10-Jack of hearts. No question, that was a good starting hand with lots of possibilities. With three opponents calling before the action reached me, I decided to limp along and see what the flop would bring: Queen of hearts-9 of hearts-2 of clubs.

That gave me four-to-a-straight flush, open at both ends. I could not have asked for more. There were three or four bets before me. With 15 good outs, I decided to go for a monster pot. I decided to raise it up. The texture of this table was such that I was sure most, if not all, of them would call my raise. And, indeed, they all called, making it a good-sized pot with more betting yet to come.

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The turn brought the King of spades. It was not a straight flush, but I was confident that my big straight was well in the lead. A loose-aggressive player in the Big Blind position opened the betting. After three callers, I decided to raise it up again. They all called my two-bet. And the pot grew.

The river was the 9 of clubs, putting a pair on the board. The only hand that could beat my big straight was a full boat or quad nines — highly unlikely. My opponents all checked to me, so I opened the betting. Only the Big Blind called this time.

Showdown: He had two pair, Queens-and-9s. My straight got me a huge pot.

As the dealer prepared to deal the next hand, I did a quick count of my chips. I was well ahead for this session, but not enough to make up for those losses the two earlier sessions. As the session progressed, I won a few and lost a few — like the see-saw we often use to describe variance where the ups and downs pretty well balance out.

It was time to go home. I had enjoyed a nice winning session but had failed to make up for my two previous losing sessions — close, but not quite there yet.

I looked forward to my next session. But, alas, the virus hit us before I could return. Now, I am longing for the time when we can get back to normal and return to the casinos.

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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