Playing poker is exciting and mentally stimulating; it also provides a great opportunity for social interaction. That’s probably why so many people – especially senior citizens – are so attracted to the game.
Poker is great recreation for those of us who have long passed our days competing in sports. Of course, the thrill of winning is paramount – young or old. On the other hand, there are moments of depression, anger and aggravation; that’s especially the case when you hold the best hand until the river and an opponent catches the long-shot card that beats you. We all hate to get rivered.
Let’s explore this with a typical example. You were dealt 10-10 in the hole. Pocket 10’s is a good starting hand by any criteria (including the Hold’em Algorithm). Along with four others, you paid to see the flop. There were no raises. Hoping to catch a third 10 for a set, you watched anxiously as the dealer placed the flop on the board:10h-Jh-7d.
A great flop for you. The odds were about 8-to-1 against you, but the poker gods were good to you. Your set of 10s is a big favorite to win this pot.
Playing your set
You know you are heavily favored to win this pot; so you decide to try to build the pot as big as possible: Try to keep as many opponents as possible in the pot so each can contribute to it. You can just “taste” the monster pot soon to be gobbled up by you at the showdown.
You know how to slow-play: Let others do the betting for you on the flop. Don’t chase anyone out by raising. Trap your opponents. Being in a late position, you have a position-edge over most of your opponents – all except the Button. How can you best use position to build your pot?
The Button is the one player that gives you reason for concern. Easily the most skilled player at this table, he has outwitted you on several occasions. You are quite certain he bluffed you out in at least one hand.
Meanwhile, the pot – your pot! – is growing. You can feel the excitement build up within you. “I love to win monster pots,” you think to yourself. “Boy, this will put me way ahead!”
On the flop, you, the Button and two others call an early-position bet that is followed by a raise by the middle-position player. You have observed this raiser play for about two hours, so you know he is a loose-aggressive player, and not particularly deceptive. He did not raise preflop, so he probably does not have a big pair or a premium drawing hand like A-K or A-Q.
You figure him for a draw to the heart flush, or to a straight with holecards such as K-Q, overcards to the board. Meanwhile, you have no “read” on the Button, other than you know he is likely to have a strong hand whenever he stays in after the flop.
On the river you end up with your set of 10’s, but a third heart falls on the board so an opponent could very well have a flush. The middle-position comes out betting; you decide to just call. Lo and behold, the Button raises it up. Both the middle-position and you call, despite your trepidations.
The Button turns up his Queen-high flush with the 6 of hearts, and scoops the pot you thought was destined to be yours. Rivered again!
Thinking back to the flop, what if you had re-raised the middle-position instead of just calling his raise? The Button would have thought twice about calling a three-bet with such a weak starting hand. But, with four opponents staying to see the turn, and only one raise to call, the pot odds were just too attractive to muck his marginal hand.
So the Button called – and got lucky at your expense. At least, it wasn’t a bad beat.
“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [email protected].