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Did you know the majority of Americans are overweight? Our doctors constantly warn us against being overweight – it’s not good for our health.

I am enrolled in a weight loss class at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. To lose weight, you do it by eating foods with fewer calories, eating smaller portions, and exercising.

Lost weight = poker wins: Yes, it is true, poker and weight loss have much in common. At our weight-loss class the other day, Sandy discussed (among other things) how self-talk can help you shed unwanted body fat.

As she explained the concept, it amazed me that this is so relevant to the game of poker. Often, at the poker table, I talk to my self under my breath – silently, without moving my lips – so my opponents don’t know what I am thinking or considering.

Self-Talk: Drink a glass of water before dinner is served (helps to fill your tummy so you don’t feel the need to eat as much). Do I really need that dinner roll? Chew my food better, really taste it and savor the flavor. Put my fork down while I am chewing the food in my mouth. Slow down; don’t rush. Have I eaten enough to satisfy myself? Ask the waiter for a doggie bag for the rest of the food.

Likewise, at the poker table we should self-talk. Think about it. Let’s say you are playing low-limit hold’em at your local casino.

• Early on, ask yourself if this a good table for you to play at. If there is a “maniac” at that table, warn yourself to be cautious and try to get seated to his left so he bets or raises before you must declare. Do you want to change tables?

 • As the hole cards are dealt, remind yourself to observe the facial expressions and body motions (tells) your opponents display – especially those seated to your left who will declare after you. (That information can be valuable.)

• As you peek at your hole cards, ask yourself: “Is this a playable hand or should I fold?” (Use the criteria in our hold’em algorithm to make it easier.)

•Then ask yourself whether you should raise. Silently whisper: “I have a made hand; so, to put the laws of probability on my side, I will raise to force out some opponents.”

 • On the other hand, if you have been dealt a drawing hand (that must improve to become a winner at the showdown), ask yourself: “Can I stay to see the flop for a minimum (one small bet) investment and is it a multi-way pot (three or more opponents staying in) so the implied pot odds will be more favorable?”

 • As the dealer places the flop on the table, remind yourself to observe your opponents first – and then look at the flop. Those tells can be valuable.

 • Silently ask yourself: “Did the flop help my hand? If so, do I want to bet for value or slow-play to keep opponents in the hand and later build a bigger pot when the bets are doubled?” If you still have a drawing hand, remind yourself to estimate your card odds and pot odds before you respond to an opponent’s bet or raise. (If the pot odds are higher than the card odds, it’s a positive expectation bet and a favorable investment for you.)

• If the flop helps just a bit – perhaps you made middle pair and have an overcard – remind yourself you would like to see the turn only if there are no raises and it’s a multi-way pot (in case you get lucky and connect on the turn).

Indeed, there are lots of questions and reminders you can “self-talk” during the play of each hand – just as you might do to lose weight and get trimmer and healthier. Self-talk will give you a big edge over your opponents who don’t understand its value … and help you be a winner!

(For questions, comments e-mail George “The Engineer” at [email protected]).

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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