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Take my word for it. Play a lot of poker and one day you will flop the nuts – or very close to it. Sure, it’s rare; but it does happen.

The other night I was playing in the $3-$6 limit hold’em game at the elegant Hustler Casino in Gardena, California. (It’s a beautiful and pleasant venue with good dealers and floormen, excellent food service and tasty dishes.) Best of all, the texture of the game was ideal for me – loose and passive with occasional raises.

I was in the blind (only one blind in this game at the Hustler; I like that too). Looking down at 3-3 in the hole, I knew it was a drawing hand. It needed to improve to have a chance at winning the pot. Most of the players simply limped to see the flop – no raises.

Good. I could see the flop for “free” and it was a multi-way pot so I could expect a good-size pot if I was lucky to connect on the flop. (That satisfies my Hold’em Caveat, as described in my booklet, Hold’em or Fold’em?)

What a Flop: I could hardly believe my eyes! The flop came down 3-5-5. A full-house for me, with my pocket treys! Now that’s almost the nuts, isn’t it! The only hands that could beat my hand at this point were pocket 5s for quads, or 5-3 for fives-full-of-treys.

If you were in my seat, what’s the best way to play this hand? Now your goal should be to build the pot as big as possible. It’s 90%-plus certain the full-house will take this pot. Slow-playing is the wise strategy in this case. Let others do the betting for you. Try to keep as many opponents as possible in the hand. It’s often called trapping. Wait for a later street when the bets double to raise or, better yet, check-raise. Build the pot as big as possible. That was my game plan for this hand.

The turn brought a 10-spades, putting a possible flush on the board. Good! Let’s hope someone does make the flush. But, be mindful that an opponent holding 10-10 in the hole would now have our treys-full-of-fives full-boat beat. The odds were much against that; so we should feel quite comfortable with our hand.

I checked. The player to my left bet and almost everyone called to me. Let’s just call along – slow-playing our big hand. The turn brought a 6-diamonds so there was also a possible draw to a straight – all to our liking as long as no one had a corresponding pair in the hole.

This was the time for a check-raise. I checked to the player to my left who again opened the betting. Bless him! Now, on the turn, the bets were doubled. Several others called his bet to me. At that point, I completed the check-raise; and they all called my raise. With so many still in the pot, it was easily the biggest of the night. I struggled to remain calm; no tells from me!

I don’t recall the river card. As far as I was concerned, it was a brick. Having check-raised on the turn, I knew my opponents would be apprehensive. If I checked – hoping to make another check-raise – almost certainly they would all check behind me. So I bet out and three opponents called to see me. (That’s an extra $18 in our $3-$6 game.)

As I scooped in the monster pot, I shouted aloud: “Baby, Baby!” That hand put me well ahead for the evening. Shortly after, I racked up my chips and went home a big winner for the evening. I knew I was lucky, but I also played the hand so as to maximize my pot.

“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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