Stick to hold’em algorithm for winning poker

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In retrospect, I should have known better. Hindsight is always better than foresight.

It was a lively $4-$8 limit Hold’em game with a full table of nine players. The texture of the table was loose-aggressive, with considerable raising preflop. Starting-hand selection is very important in such games. Play only those hands that satisfy the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm. With a strong starting-hand, you are more likely to catch a powerful hand, with which you can reap a huge profit.

I was a bit ahead, and confident in my ability vs. my opponents. In a middle position, I was dealt K-hearts, Q-hearts – a great starting-hand, albeit a drawing hand. Lots of possibilities! I debated whether to raise; that would be appropriate if I wanted to try to force out A-rag hands. Then, if I paired one of my holecards – that will happen one out of three times – I would have a better chance of winning the pot. Instead, I decided to try for a big pot by just calling to see the flop, keeping the hand multi-way (three or more opponents in the pot).

Five of us saw the flop: Ah-8h-6c. A very interesting and exciting flop, giving me a draw to the nut flush as well as a shot at top straight. If I made my hand, I knew any opponent holding an Ace (who now has a pair of Aces) was bound to stay in all the way, helping to build “my pot.” So, I just called the early position’s bet, along with the other players. I put him on a pair of Aces.

The turn was the 10h, giving me my nut flush! What’s more, I also had a draw to a royal (Ace-high) straight flush. This time, after the early position player made his opening bet, he was quickly raised by the next player. I decided to re-raise for value in order to further build “my pot.” The button and the other two players all called my three-bet. Nice pot! I felt so confident. Sitting calmly, I tried to show no emotion and not give any tells as to the strength of my hand.

The river was the 8-diamonds. I didn’t pay much attention to it – nor to the fact it put a pair of eights on the board. Once again, the early position opened the betting and was called by the next player. My turn to act. Unhesitating, I raised again to further build “my pot.”

Frankly, I was quite surprised when the button re-raised me. At that point, I figured him for a flush; most likely, he did not realize I could hold the nut flush with the K-hearts in the hole! The early position called his raise and the next player folded to me.

I acted too quickly (Act in haste, repent at leisure!) and did not properly evaluate the situation. Certainly, I should have considered that, with a pair of eights on the board, a full-house was quite possible. Instead, I re-raised, making it a three-bet. I was so confident. I “knew” I had the best hand! The button capped the betting with a third raise. The early position called; the next player folded to me.

Of course, I never considered folding. The pot was so huge! And, I was still confident, expecting my two opponents to showdown a flush, a set or, perhaps, two pair. Instead, they both turned up A-8; each had 8’s-full-of-Aces. As they divided up my chips, I shook my head from side to side. Darn! I had lost a bundle on that hand.

Think about it: Each of them had only two outs – one Ace and one eight. So, not only had I been rivered, but it was a Bad Beat. And it cost me too many precious chips. I should have known better.

When there is a pair on the board, a full-house is always possible. Take time to think.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [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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