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Yes, the “Two-Step” is a dance, but believe it or not also a strategy for playing your “A Game” in poker.

Time was when I used to silently promise myself I would play my “A Game” as I entered the casino. Maybe you do that as well.

Then I asked myself: “George, what does that mean? What is your “A Game”? After much thought, I answered, “The Two-Step.”

To the extent that I use the “Two-Step” and my opponents fail to do so, I have a big advantage – an edge – over them. That’s bound to help me to be a winner when we compete at the poker table.

The Two-Step in Poker

We have always said hand selection is essential to winning. The hold’em algorithm as described in the Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision booklet was developed to make the selection much easier.

It takes into consideration most of the key factors like card value, betting position, connectors, suited hole cards, texture of the table, raises, and the number of players staying to see the flop.

Step One: Stay to see the flop only with a hand that can reasonably lead to the best hand at the showdown.

That’s the first place most of your opponents are likely to stumble. More often than not, they start with hands that do not meet the starting hand criteria of our hold’em algorithm.

Just watch to see how many opponents love to play ace-rag unsuited – often from an early position. Perhaps they do not understand the concept of “dominated hands” as explained in the Hold’em or Fold’em? booklet.

Step Two: If you don’t start with a “made” hand in the hole – A-A, K-K, or Q-Q – you should improve the hand on the flop so you either have improved it (e.g., a set, trips, two-pair, or top pair) or have lots of solid outs.

Here are some examples – 9 outs for a flush draw; 8 outs for a draw to a straight, open at both ends; 5 outs for a pair with a big kicker.

Four outs – like a draw to an inside straight – is a fold unless you also have two overcards to the board and there is no raising.

But even Q-Q can be a problem. Sure, it’s a “made” hand in so far as it can win without further improvement. However, if an ace or king falls on the board, your Q-Q may be second-best – and that can be very costly.

If you have reason to believe an opponent has connected with a higher pair, consider folding. The only exception is if the pot odds are HUGE, it is a multi-way pot (giving you high implied pot odds should you be lucky and make a set of Queens), there is no raising on the flop; and you’re praying to the poker gods for a third queen. With only two outs, the odds are 20-1 against it falling on the turn.

It takes patience

When we discussed the “Two-Step” during our poker class/poker lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center, one of my more conscientious poker students, commented that it takes a lot of patience.

I agree: Winning requires considerable patience, considering the majority of hands dealt to you will not be playable. It also requires a lot of self-discipline. Our natural instinct encourages us to get into the fray – rather than sit on the sidelines as an observer.

It takes a conscious effort to overcome that predisposition. A smart player – a winner – uses that time to evaluate his opponents, and observe how they play their hands.

But there is no denying it: To best play your “A Game,” you must use the poker “Two-Step.”

NOTE: Comments? “The Engineer” can be reached 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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