Save dollars at poker table

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Playing Hold’em at your favorite B&M casino, with the rake, the drop for bad-beat jackpot, and tip to the dealer, it figures to cost each player $20 per hour. That’s a tough nut to crack, especially in low-limit games.

To go home a winner, you must make up for that “cost to play.” Winning hands is one way; the other way is to save chips on hands you would have lost.

Saving chips: Preflop, even before the betting starts, you may be able to save chips by carefully observing your opponents to your left – who will be betting after you. Suppose you have just been dealt a marginal drawing hand (based on the Hold’em Algorithm) and observe an opponent to your left picking up a huge amount of chips as he examines his holecards.

That’s a great tell; use it. Your opponent is a fairly tight, conservative player, likely to raise only with a very strong hand. Without seeing his cards, you know your hand is almost certainly a big underdog. Fold! Save yourself a bunch of valuable chips.

Giving chips away: When you invest your chips in hands that are most likely to be losers, you are giving your chips away to your opponents. Even before the betting starts, you may be able to save chips by carefully observing your opponents to your left who will be betting after you.

Suppose you have just been dealt a marginal drawing hand (based on the Hold’em Algorithm) and observe an opponent to your left picking up a huge amount of chips as he examines his holecards. You have been evaluating him during previoushands; he’s a fairly tight, conservative player, likely to raise only with a very strong hand. Without seeing his cards, you know that your hand is almost certainly a big underdog. Fold and save yourself some chips.

Who will be betting after you? Suppose you have just been dealt a marginal drawing hand (based on the Hold’em Algorithm) and observe an opponent to your left picking up a huge amount of chips as he examines his holecards. You have been evaluating him during previous hands; he’s a fairly tight, conservative player, likely to raise only with a very strong hand. Without seeing his cards, you know that your hand is almost certainly a big underdog. Fold and save yourself some chips.

The best way not to give away your chips is to avoid playing “bad” hands. Starting-hand selection is the most important decision you will need to make every hand that is dealt. There are tables in books that can help you make that decision, based on your position. Early positions require stronger hands.

I recommend the Hold’em Algorithm. (See ad for Hold’em or Fold’em? elsewhere in GT.) On the basis of the Hold’em Algorithm, you will play, on average, just one out of six hands from an early position.

Among hands to avoid are those that could easily become dominated hands. Sometimes we refer to these as Hi-Lo Hands. An A-5 offsuit for example is dominated if an Ace falls on the board. With a small (5) kicker, an opponent who also called to see the flop holding a bigger Ace, has you dominated. It may very well cost you chips all the way to the river, only to lose to your opponent’s bigger kicker.

Knowing when to fold is an excellent way to save chips. From a late position, suppose you caught a medium pair on the flop. A tight player raises an early-position bet. Save two bets and muck your hand.

In poker a dollar saved is worth MORE than a dollar earned. You are required to pay income taxes on your winnings/earnings, but not on your losses. You can avoid the taxes and the losses by saving dollars at the table.

“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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