My poker resolutions

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I much enjoyed reading Irene Edith’s poker resolutions in the Dec. 12 issue of GamingToday. And I told her so. In her resolutions, she offered some fantastic advice for poker players who would like to improve their results at the table. I could not have done nearly as well. Let me comment on a few.

• While Irene’s resolution to “avoid too many rivers to cross” is a clever play on words, more important, it reminds us a vulnerable made hand will be an underdog with three or more opponents staying to see the river. There are steps you can take to avoid that situation so you are less likely to be rivered. Also, consider a table change to one with fewer chasers.

• Fold your holecards more often, she says, when there is a raise preflop before you must act. The more opponents who raise or call raises, the stronger your starting hand must be. And, I liked her comment: “If you are consistently staying to see the flop more often than one out of four hands, your play is too loose. Tighten up to be a winner.”

• Don’t be too tight, she cautions. Once your opponents notice this, your winning pots will get much smaller; and, the cost-to-play will quickly devour those few chips – leaving you a loser.

• Irene then resolved never to play Hi-Lo hands – one high card (Ace down to 10) and one low card (7 down to 2) as your holecards. You don’t even need to take a few seconds to add up your Hold’em Algorithm score. Yet, I see so many players often staying to see the flop with Ace-rag in any position (and, sometimes, King-rag). If you pair the Ace, another player who also holds an Ace in the hole most likely has a better kicker, making you second-best – a loser. If you pair the low card, it’s too easy for an opponent to make a higher pair.

Encouraged by Irene, here are several poker New Year’s resolutions I have been thinking about.

• With a few exceptions, fold unsuited K-Q, K-J, K-10, Q-J or lower when an Ace is flopped at a full (or nearly full) table, and a tight player bets or raises before you must act. Exceptions: big flush draw; open-ended straight draw; any set; or two-pair using at least one of your hole cards. With the latter, be cautious in case an opponent has a higher two-pair or a set.

• Don’t make your limp-or-fold decisions based on your two holecards being suited. Much more important is their rank and whether they are connectors. (Using the Hold’em Agorithm, holding suited holecards adds just a little value to your starting hand. Treat it as a small bonus, recognizing that being suited adds very little value to your starting hand. (Just consider yourself lucky when suited holecards make a flush for you – and no one catches a bigger flush.)

• Quit while you are still ahead. Variability (ups and downs) are inherent in poker games. It does take more self-discipline but, in the long run, it’s well worth it. If it’s too early to go home, at very least take a long break, and consider a table change.

• Bluff more often, always using the Esther Bluff tactic. I find my bluffs win about double the break-even when you learn to be skilled at it. Sometimes, you can earn more chips by stealing pots or bluffing than by catching the best hand.

• Be cautious with a small pair in the hole. Usually it will need to improve to a set to be the winner at the showdown, And the odds are about 8-to-1 against flopping a set. Play it only if you are in a late position in a multi-way pot, and no raise before you.

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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