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Discussing basic poker rules, setting a goal is the easiest to understand and follow; and yet, most players avoid it.

How much do I want to win? If you play well, follow the rules, and enjoy your share of good luck, you are more likely to be a winner in the long run. (Short-term results don’t really count – and that’s a fact.) The real problem is luck can go either with or against you at the moment. You could easily become a loser – and it’s beyond your control.

On the other hand, while you cannot control luck, you can, in fact, influence it in many ways. Doing so will give you an edge over your opponents. While not measureable, it could be quite significant. The greater your edge, the more you are likely to win. And, after all, isn’t that our ultimate goal: To win as many chips as possible.

Variability: Ups and downs in your chip count – variability – are bound to occur. Even before you sit down to play at a table, it is prudent to have set your goal – a reasonable one, of course. How can you influence luck to help you? Here’s a good example.

Perhaps it is not a good table for you, and it would be wise to quit before you lose your entire stake. Recall that it is the players who determine the character of your table. It is no longer to your liking. (In our next column, we will discuss my preferences – and why).

Should I quit when I achieve my winning goal? It is a good game – passive and tight with very little raising pre-flop – just the way I like it. (And I suggest that would be best for you, too, especially if you play low-limit recreational Hold’em.)

You don’t want to lose back all of your winnings! Here’s one way that might help you; I often use this scheme. Make an adjustment in how you stack your chips in front of you: stack them in two (hopefully) large piles. One pile will contain half of your winning chips and all of your starting chips. Let’s call this your “money in the bank.”

The remaining chips (the second half of your winnings) become your “play money.” As the game progresses, restore any chips that may have been lost from your “play money” pile, and put the remainder of your chips in your “bank.”

If the character of the table and/or the players change substantially, you may want to quit that game for the evening and go home a winner. Alternatively, consider changing tables or simply taking a break from the game. Changing poker tables is but one way. Certainly, there are many other ways you can influence luck. Perhaps the very best is to learn and use the Hold’em Algorithm.

Don’t Avoid It! Even before being seated at your table, have a winning goal in mind. Some players may also have a “loss-limit.” The stakes you play should depend on your poker cash resources. We only risk money we can well afford to lose. (Never play for the “rent money.”) The other Basic Rules also provide opportunities to influence luck.

“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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