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Want to be a winner? All it takes is patience, skill and your share of good luck.

It’s about patience to wait for decent starting hands. If you stay to see the flop more than one out of four hands, you lack patience and are doomed to lose over the long run. Luck is something you cannot control but, with skill, you can influence it in your favor.

It was a lively $4-$8 limit game with ½ Kill. (A player who wins two pots in a row must post a blind of 1½ the big blind, effectively raising the next hand’s limits to $6-$12.) Having suffered my share of bad beats (rivered by long-shots), I was behind when our table broke up and I was moved to another table. Somehow I sensed my luck was about to change.

Pocket aces held up: After folding several unplayable hands (as per the Hold’em Algorithm), I was dealt pocket Aces – a made hand! In a middle position, I raised to thin the field. Four opponents saw the flop with me. I would have preferred three opponents so my A-A would be a solid favorite. Let’s skip the details.

The board was never threatening. I bet all the way. On the river, the board showed a pair of deuces. I felt confident of my Aces-up and, indeed, I won the pot. My bet on the river was called by one opponent. He showed his pocket 9s after I turned up my A-A. It was a decent size pot, but I was still behind.

Playing J-J in the Hole: In the next hand I was somewhat elated, yet quite apprehensive to draw this in the hole. I am always fearful someone holding an A, K, or Q will connect on the flop. That would make my pocket Jacks a poor second-best, leaving me with only two outs. After raising to thin the field, hoping to force out opponents with higher honor cards, I was lucky again – no picture cards fell on the flop. There were two spades. Someone could be drawing to a spade flush. I assumed my J-J was still ahead.

As the hand played out, there were no overcards to my J-J, only long-shot draws to a flush or a straight. On the river, dismissing the possibility one of my two remaining opponents might have a set, I made the big bet, and got one caller. He angrily tossed his 10-10 onto the table after I showed my J-J. Two pots in a row! I smiled as I tipped the dealer. I was now ahead for the evening.

Playing the half-kill: Half-KillHalf I was delighted to put up this bet, making the next hand a $6-$12 game. Under-the-gun, I was dealt 8-9 clubs – a decent starting hand from any position. (According to the Hold’em Algorithm, I had 25 points – very playable.) Four of us stayed to see the flop – no raises. The flop came down: 9-hearts, 7-clubs, 6-diamonds.

I had top pair on the board, four-to-an-open-ended straight, and a draw to a club flush. The Big Blind opened the betting and was raised by the lady to my right – a tight player who could have flopped a set or two-pair. I pondered: With two outs to a set of nines, and eight outs to a straight, I had 10 outs – about a 40% chance of making my hand. By contrast, the pot odds were huge. Of course, I called her raise.

Four of us saw the turn – another 9, giving me a set of 9s! With nothing higher on the board, the poker gods were smiling on me again. After the lady made the $12 bet, I paused to examine my hole cards and the board, careful to avoid giving any tells.

I calmly announced, “Raise,” and counted out $24 into the pot. Another opponent and the lady called. The river was a blank. Both opponents called my $12 bet and mucked their hands when I turned up my trip 9s. Three hands in a row!

Patience, skill and good luck. That’s what it takes.

“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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