Mistakes poker players keep making at the poker table

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We all make mistakes. Some are worse than others. Recall when you went to school: Whoever got 100% in every quiz or exam? It’s no different in the game of poker. We all make mistakes…sometimes they are very costly.

Two types of mistakes: In the “Ignorant Mistake” you didn’t realize it. Perhaps, if you think about it, you can become conscious of the mistake and avoid it in the future. Likely, when you lose that pot you blame it on bad luck.

With the “Aware Mistake” you know you are making a mistake but go ahead anyway. You may have gotten caught up in the action, and acted too quickly. Perhaps you are on tilt – emotionally disturbed and consequently playing irrationally. But worst of all is when you knowingly make the wrong decision while you are not on tilt.

That happened to me the other night in a limit hold’em cash game. Fortunately I was well ahead at the time so I still came out ahead (thanks to the Esther Bluff) despite a relatively large loss on that hand.

In a middle position, I was dealt Q-spades, J-clubs in the hole. Pretty! These holecards, add up to 30 points, readily satisfy the numerical criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm, and certainly merit a call to see the flop.

Two limpers followed suit; then the cut-off raised. He was the type of player who would raise with a small pair from a late position, which is what I put him on. For one more small bet, there were enough chips in the pot to warrant my call.

The lady to my left, a rather loose player, quickly re-raised – a check-raise. I had not seen her do that before. She must have a strong hand – perhaps a big pair or premium drawing hand. The speed with which she bet may have been a tell.

Perhaps I was getting in too deep, I thought. But, with three opponents still in the pot after her re-raise, I decided to go along and see what the flop might bring. At that point I was hesitant. My holecards didn’t look that good anymore. The thought crossed my mind: Get out, George, before it’s too late…but I called anyway.

The flop was Q-clubs, 10-spades, 9-spades, yielding interesting possibilities for me. I had top pair on the board, an open-ended straight draw, and three-to-the-queen high flush. So I decided to “test the waters” by betting on the flop.

The lady immediately announced, “raise.” Then the cut-off re-raised. I guess I got my answer. They both had powerful hands. By now the pot was immense – the biggest since I had started about an hour earlier.

Considering the size of the pot and holding so many outs – two for the remaining queens and eight for the straight (10 in all), not even counting the draw to the spade flush – how could I not call the two raises? Surprise! The lady capped the betting with a third raise. My chips were fast disappearing into the pot.

Then the turn brought the 7-spades. Wow! Now I also had nine more outs for the spade flush. If I hit it on the river, only an Ace or King of spades could beat me. Apprehensively, I checked and then called the raises by the lady and the cut-off.

The five spades on the river gave me the flush. With no pairs on the board, my Queen-high flush was a powerful hand. I made the bet and again was raised by my two adversaries. Of course I had to call – or did I? I was sure one or both had me beaten. Last to raise, the lady showed down her K-spades, J-spades. She had flopped a King-high straight plus four-to-a-king-high flush, completing it on the turn. The cut-off had A-spades, A-diamonds in the hole, and made the nut flush on the river.

Both had me beat from the start. I knew I was making a mistake by investing so heavily with Q-spades, J-clubs in the hole.

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

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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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