The Nine Poker Commandments came to me in a dream

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Close your eyes and imagine if you can: Dense smoke billowing up to the clouds! Fire racing to the sky! The ground trembles! A series of earthquakes!

Then, silence…followed by the loud blast of a trumpet as God gives his flock the 10 Commandments from Mount Sinai. It was during the Israelis’ (then known as the Hebrews) Exodus from Egypt as they sought the Promised Land, estimated to have occurred between the 15th and 13th century BCE.

Their leader, Moses, recorded God’s words in Exodus 20 and then recounted the event again in Deuteronomy 5. These 10 beneficial laws were given by the Creator to show mankind how to live a better life in the present and to please God forever.

Fast-forward…

One morning several years ago I woke up from a sound sleep and found nine of another set of commandments – the Poker Commandments – vividly embossed in my memory bank.

Not trusting my memory, I leaped out of bed and quickly wrote them down.

A few days later, I introduced them to our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group during a Friday afternoon meeting. Lacking the 10th Commandment, the group quickly created it: “Learn from Mistakes.” Great!

Imagine if the poker gods were to advise their loyal poker flock, “Here are the Ten Commandments for Poker. Religiously abide by these and you will enjoy poker winnings forever and ever. Amen.” Thus spoke the poker gods.

Thou Shalt…

• Obey the Four Basic Rules for Winning at Poker.

• Preflop, Use the Hold’em Algorithm.

• Use Betting Position

• Assess Your Opponents

• Never Play for the “Rent” Money

• After the Flop, Use Positive Expectation

• Have Patience; Don’t Go on Tilt

• Use the Esther Bluff

• Relax/Smile

• Learn from Mistakes

Let’s elaborate on some of these Poker Commandments:

“Preflop, Use the Hold’em Algorithm” may well be the most important of the Poker Commandments. (But, fact is, they all have much merit.) The algorithm was developed with one goal in mind: To make it much easier to formulate your preflop decision – Should I fold or stay to see the flop?

“Never Play for the ‘Rent’ Money” simply means you should never play poker using money you cannot afford to lose. For one thing, that would put stress on you, and you are then likely to err more often. Variance and luck are key factors in playing poker. You will experience ups and downs; and you cannot control luck. You can influence luck in your favor when you are skilled – i.e., use the Poker Commandments.

“Use Betting Position” is also an important Commandment. The later you must declare, the more info you can gather from how your opponents bet before the flop. You can see how many are staying to see the flop. If there is a raise before you, you now have the option to fold without investing even a thin dime. That info will help you to make better decisions; and, it gives you an edge over those who declare before you.

“Assess Your Opponents” – Learn how each plays his hand; try to “read” his hand. (The best you can do is to guess at his range of hands; then try to narrow down the range as the hand plays out.) If you use this info along with the other skill requirements, you will make better decisions in your own favor. Again, you gain edge over your opponents.

Bluffing is essential in winning poker. The Esther Bluff offers a second tactic. It’s a route into your opponent’s mind to convince him to muck his cards. Take advantage of it.

While playing poker, “Learn from Mistakes” – both yours and others’. Amen.

“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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