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Playing $4-$8 limit at the Hustler Casino, it was a good game for me: loose and fairly passive. From the beginning, I was doing well.

The poker gods seemed to be smiling on me as I won hand after hand. I tried two late-position bluffs on the flop; both succeeded. The chips were stacked high in front of me. And I felt great! This was my night.

After about two hours of play, I decided to take a break for dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed my order of chicken kabob; and was ready to return to the game.

We have all suffered from variance. As I resumed playing, it seemed the poker gods now were frowning on me. A few new players had come to the table. My cards had grown cold. And, when I was dealt a decent starting hand, it fizzled out on the flop. Before long, I had lost my winnings and was into my original buy-in.

Suddenly, out of the blue, the cards seemed to change for the better. In a late position, I looked down on pocket Kings – K of spades, K of clubs. Two middle-position players limped in. I raised with my K-K to thin the field and build the pot. Both called my raise to see the flop; all the other opponents folded.

And what a flop it was! I could hardly believe my eyes. First the dealer turned up the King of diamonds. My heart skipped a beat: I had a set of Kings! But the next two flop cards were a different story: A-J, both diamonds. Wow! While my set of Kings looked good, I realized there were potential flushes and straights out there, even a possible royal flush!

After my two opponents checked to me, I made the bet. Both called me. My guess was neither had flopped a flush or a straight, and were both on draws. Of course, there were other possibilities too, but the flush and straight draws seemed most likely.

I considered what types of players they were. The first, a middle-aged gent (call him Player A) had just joined the table, so I had not yet formed an opinion as to his style of play. The somewhat younger player to his immediate left (Player B) was rather conservative, bordering on tight, but he had shown signs of aggression on occasion.

Since both checked to me on the flop, I was sure they were each drawing to a big hand – a diamond flush or an Ace-high straight. I felt quite certain that was the case. My set of Kings looked good – so far.

The turn put a different perspective on the game. The dealer calmly placed the 6 of diamonds on the board. Now there were four-to-a-diamond flush! My set of Kings was in big trouble. Player A came out betting and was called by Player B. I called too, hoping the board would pair up on the river to give me a full-boat.

At this point, I assumed both had a diamond flush. I had nine outs to fill up. My luck had run out, it seemed. The river was a blank. Player A again opened the betting and, this time, he was raised by Player B. Now I was certain one or both of my opponents had a diamond flush. Three-of-a-kind – even Kings – does not beat a flush! I hated to muck my set of Kings, but it certainly seemed the wise move. I was already in the red, and didn’t want to add to my losses.

Showdown: Player A took the pot with two-pair, Aces and sixes. He held A-6, both spades. No flush! Player B showed his hand: A-J, both clubs. No flush!

Had I been bluffed out? Did I make a mistake by not calling on the river? Fortunately, I did manage to go home a small winner.

“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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