Tight poker players have edge over those who play loose

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It was a lively $3-$6 limit game at Hollywood Park Casino with lots of loose players, including quite a few poker pigeons who liked to play ace-rag and king-rag in any position. Those of us who are primarily tight, selectively aggressive players have a big edge over such players.

I was dealt Qx-Jx in the big blind. Five opponents stayed to see the flop with no raises, the ideal situation with such a great drawing hand to start:

My holecards: Q(spade), J(spade),

The flop: A(spade), 3(diamond), A(spade),

With two over cards on the board and five opponents in the pot, there was bound to be at least a pair of aces or kings out against me. But I had a four-to-the-nut flush, including the 10 of spades for the royal straight flush (nine outs), and any of the remaining three 10’s to the nut straight – 12 outs in all.

Using the 4-2 Rule, I quickly estimated my hand was about even-money (50-50) to connect with a most-probable winner on either the turn or the river – great card odds.

Of course, I still had to connect, but with five opponents in the pot, I had a positive expectation based on the pot odds being so much larger than the card odds.

With such attractive card odds, it would be wise to maximize the size of the pot. The player to my immediate left – a very loose and somewhat aggressive player – had been leading the betting. I decided to slow-play and see what the turn would bring.

True to form, he made the bet on the flop, and was called by three of the other opponents. I called, too. I’ll admit to thoughts of raising but decided I could build a bigger pot by waiting until the turn when the bets would be doubled.

As I prayed to the poker gods for a 10 – any 10 would do, the dealer (perhaps sensing the tension in the air) calmly and deliberately burned the top card in the deck. He then slowly and dramatically delivered up the turn card.

Somehow I just “knew” (ESP? Lucky?) it would be a 10. It was the 10(heart), giving me the nut straight! Sure, I would have preferred the 10(spade), for a royal straight flush; but I was quite satisfied.

Of course! It was hardly likely another player held Q-J in the hole; at worst, I would split the pot. This was most likely to be my pot and it was beginning to look like a whopper.

Based on how he had been playing, I put my neighbor-on-the-left on a big or middle pair, perhaps two-pair or a set.

There was little reason for him to fear my hand. Expecting him to continue betting, I decided to check-raise.

Again he made the bet and was called by the three remaining opponents. And they all called my raise. What a pot!

Now I hoped the board would not pair up, which could give an opponent a full-house and render my nut straight as second-best.

Fortunately, the river was the 9(diamond), giving me a six-card straight for a little extra icing on my luscious “cake.” I had the nuts.

Having raised on the turn, now I bet out on the river, and was called only by the gent to my left. After I showed my straight, he turned up his two-pair, aces and kings.

Yes, I know I was lucky. That beautiful 10(heart).

For comments or questions contact “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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