Tips for playing live poker

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(With special thanks to Gene Pepper.)

Gene Pepper and his wife, Marilyn, joined our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group about five years ago. They were new to the game but concentrated on the lessons and developed into winning players.

Gene was born in Salt Lake City, Utah during the early days of the Great Depression. After graduating from Stanford University in 1955, he served in Asia as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Returning to California, he and Marilyn, his wife of 52 years, now have three married children and six grandchildren.

Pepper served as president of the Glendale Kiwanis Club, founding chairman of Memorial Hospital of Glendale Foundation Board along with being vice president and director of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce. He has been a hospice volunteer for the past seven years, working with Spanish-only-speaking terminal patients and a native-born man who has suffered from MS for 15 years.

Today, Gene contributes a column on playing low-limit poker.

“I had never played poker before I met George Epstein in 2006. My dad had a poker group with which he played for years, but I never had an interest in watching or playing. Several years ago my wife and I started watching the World Poker Tour TV shows and almost immediately were hooked.

From a local newspaper, we found out about George and the Claude Pepper Senior Center. Within a few weeks we were learning and enjoying Texas Hold’em.

Here are the four biggest lessons I learned from George:

The Algorithm Method: It uses points for each hole card: An ace is worth x points; kings, queens and the other cards are worth lesser values as specified in the algorithm. Early on, Marilyn and I become skilled at the point system, which helps us decide which hands are worth playing.

Don’t be a Calling Station: Those who play every hand will eventually lose all their chips. George labels these players, “PokerPigeons.” Sometimes players might win big pots because they get lucky, but sooner or later they will lose lots of money playing dumb hands.

Watch how players bet: We’re talking from the start to the end of the hand. If it comes to a showdown, observe their hands even more for losers than winners. Make a mental note of how each of your opponents play. Play tight the first half hour getting a “sense” of each opponent and the texture of the table. It also helps if you can detect any tells.

Don’t play low kickers: That means even when coupled with an ace or king. I almost never play hands with a kicker card lower than a 7. The one exception for me is when three or more opponents stay to see the flop, and there are no raises to me. If the flop doesn’t give me four-to-the-nut flush or lots of outs, I usually will fold.

I hope these few tips will help your game, too.

And always remember George’s motto: “Absolutely, never play poker with the rent money.”

(For comments or questions contact George online 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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