Observing opponents gives you an edge in poker

GamingToday.com is an independent sports news and information service. GamingToday.com has partnerships with some of the top legal and licensed sportsbook companies in the US. When you claim a bonus offer or promotion through a link on this site, Gaming Today may receive referral compensation from the sportsbook company. Although the relationships we have with sportsbook companies may influence the order in which we place companies on the site, all reviews, recommendations, and opinions are wholly our own. They are the recommendations from our authors and contributors who are avid sports fans themselves.

For more information, please read How We Rank Sportsbooks, Privacy Policy, or Contact Us with any concerns you may have.

Gaming Today is licensed and regulated to operate in AZ, CO, CT, DC, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MD, MI, NV, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV, & WY.

As I was being seated at a 4-8 hold’em game with ½ kill, a pretty young lady to my right was buying another rack of blues.

She wasn’t very happy about it. I assumed she was losing quite a bit, and felt a bit sorry for her.

I told the dealer I would wait for the button to pass me before being dealt in. (Note: That allows me the opportunity to observe how my new opponents play their hands, to evaluate each of them. Then I am better informed when I do get into the action. And, of course, I take notes so I won’t have to remember all the details.)

While waiting to enter the fray, there was a fascinating hand I watched as it was played out. Later, as I drove home that night, I kept thinking about that particular hand. To the best of my recollection, here’s how it went.

In a late position, the pretty lady (let’s call her Jill) called to see the flop, holding J-Q of diamonds in the hole – a great starting-hand that readily meets the starting-hand criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm. Five players saw the flop. No raises. And what a flop it was: K-diamonds, 10-diamonds, 9-clubs.

Jill had flopped a King-high straight – the nut straight at this point – plus four-to-a-straight-flush, open at both ends. Wow! Apparently she decided to slow-play the hand to help build “her” pot, as she just called a bet from an early position player.

No one folded. Apparently the flop hit everyone to some degree. The pot was growing; and with five players in the hand, it would likely get considerably bigger.

The turn brought the deuce of diamonds, giving Jill the second-nut-flush, King-high. And, she still had a draw to a straight flush, maybe even a royal flush. At this point, only an opponent holding two diamonds, including the Ace, could beat her hand.

Thinking about it as I drove home from the casino, actually, with her King-high straight, she was better off before the third diamond hit the board. Still, she was bound to be a huge favorite to take the pot.

This time, after the early-position opened the betting and three others called, Jill made the raise. They all called. Now the pot was really huge. The fact no one raised before Jill, and no one re-raised her, indicated her second-nut flush was well in the lead. Silently, I rooted for her.

Everyone (including me) focused on the dealer’s hands as he deftly placed the river card on the board. It was another diamond – the six of diamonds. Jill’s King-high flush likely was still the best hand – unless someone held the Ace of diamonds.

The two early-position players both checked; and a middle-position gent with three full racks of chips in front of him (obviously a winner) made the big bet. Unhesitating, the player to his left raised; he was all-in. Oh, oh, I thought, Jill might be in trouble. Wisely, she just called the raised bet as did the middle-position bettor.

Well, I don’t think I have to tell you the rest of this story. You can easily guess at the outcome. As so often happens, even to the best of us, Jill was rivered. The raiser, smiling broadly as he showed his hand, turned up the Ace of diamonds and 10 of clubs. The only card that could beat Jill’s hand was the Ace of diamonds, and he had it! Lucky him! And what a pot! It was a monster!

I’d label this a horrible bad beat for Jill. She made no attempt to conceal her disappointment. Several others commiserated with her – while, without skipping a beat, the dealer started dealing out the next hand. The game goes on…

“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].

 GamingToday on Facebook      and         GamingToday on Twitter

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.

Get connected with us on Social Media