My thoughts on ‘chip burning’ topics

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Robert (“Chip Burner”) Turner is a poker celebrity, famed for introducing Omaha poker to Nevada and California. He created the Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino, and helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.  

And, he has often volunteered to help many of us seniors become better recreational players. We appreciate his efforts. Poker is more fun when you win!

Recently, in GamingToday, Robert shared his insights for becoming a better player, and deciding whether to become a poker pro. Allow me to reiterate and comment on his suggestions.

Want to become a pro – and rely on the game of poker to provide your living? Considering all expenses, you need a net annual poker income of at least $90,000 to $120,000, Robert warns. That’s hardly possible in low- or middle-limit games.

So you must plan on gradually moving up to higher limit games; and to “parlay tournament wins into buy-ins into bigger tournaments.” Robert points out you “need enough courage and discipline to elevate your game in steps.”

Secondly, Robert notes, to become a pro, it is important to understand your potential profits and losses. “Ask yourself what you can win in this game.” And, be fully aware of the cost to play, especially the casino’s rake.

Note: Considering the rake, the drop for the Bad Beat bonus, and tips to dealers, even low-limit games cost each player about $20 per hour. As a matter of interest, that relatively high cost-to-play has resulted in many of my Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group players abandoning casinos, and turning to home games and the new Pub League games.

Robert cites an old friend, Ray Hall, as they were hastily departing an offending casino many years ago: “Robert, they are raking the game $5 a hand. No poker player alive can beat that rake.”

My comment: It’s OK only if you are highly selective in starting-hand selection; play fewer hands; try to build big pots when you are favored to win; and are disciplined to quit while you are ahead. Then, you may be able to beat the casino’s rake even in low-limit games.

“Pay attention to what is on the table (how many chips), what’s coming off the table, and what your chances are of beating that game,” Robert advises. (This is getting a Positive Expectation based on pot odds vs. your card odds.) “If you don’t do that, you’re drawing dead.”

Robert’s third piece of advice for would-be pros: “Choose your opponents wisely.” That’s something I have been telling my students for years. I make it standard practice, even in low-limit games, to check out the texture of a table when I am first seated.

The rake and blinds will literally devour all your chips if you stay too long at a tight table. Also, it’s wise to avoid playing at a very aggressive table, with lots of raising preflop; it is much too costly – unless you get very lucky.

Robert offers advice: “I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing your game wisely and matching up with your opponents carefully to maintain an edge.”

For those aspiring to be pros, he cites the case of a friend who was doing well – for a while – as a pro, but neglected to prepare for the future when his fortunes “went south.” His ego convinced him he would always win. Robert calls that “the Achilles heel.”

As Robert suggests, skill is a key factor if you want to go home a winner. You must be more skilled than your opponents – at least most of them at your table.

You gain an edge over the other players when you are familiar with all the strategies and tactics for winning, such as the Hold’em Algorithm for starting-hand selection; the Esther Bluff to force opponents out of the pot; slow-play or check-raise; observing opponents’ tells; evaluating your opponents and adjusting your play accordingly; how to get a Positive Expectation; playing against a maniac; using position to your advantage; and betting for value.

“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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