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Playing low-limit hold’em at a local casino the other evening, it had been a game chock-full of “variance” for me.

Ups and downs in poker are not unusual. In fact, it is more likely to occur than a steady build-up or loss of your chips. You have no control of luck (although you can influence luck with skilled playing). There will be times when the poker gods smile on you and other times when they favor your opponents.

It’s equal opportunity for everyone. There is neither rhyme nor reason. It just happens.

After a slow start, I found myself a bit ahead – only to lose back my modest winnings and then some, shrinking my buy-in chips. That seemed to be the way for me throughout the session. Later, when I took a break to enjoy my dinner, I was ahead again. Returning to the game, I quickly lost a squeaker when my two-pair fell victim to a straight on the river. Oh well, that’s poker.

I recall the lyrics of an old song: “Dark clouds are hanging all around me” – remember? There was another popular song that goes: “Dark clouds are following you. But they’ll drift away. I watched the night turning into a day.”

Recall the character in the Al Capp “Li’l Abner” comic strip of yesteryear (one of my favorites), who always had a black cloud over his head that followed him wherever he went? Well, I was a bit more fortunate: The black clouds seemed to float in the air within a sea of happy blue sky.

You may recall: “Blue Sky” was a 1994 film starring Jessica Lange, Tommy Lee Jones, Powers Boothe, Carrie Snodgress, Amy Locane and Chris O’Donnell. The film was completed in 1990, but because of the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures it sat on the shelf until 1994.

The black cloud removed itself from the scene and the movie became a great success! The film won critical praise and Lange won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. Somehow blue skies have come to signify happiness and contentment – good things. Success! Winning! Blue skies – just the opposite of the ominous “dark clouds.”

Back to the game:

After suffering a series of near “bad beats,” I had to re-buy to stay in the game. If you play much poker, that’s not unusual. And suddenly – out of the blue – the dark clouds moved off and the sky was blue again.

Hand after hand, I looked down on great starting hands that improved as the dealer placed upcards on the board. I couldn’t lose even if I tried. (Who would want to try?) I was on a “roll!”

The chips came flying to me so fast I had not even stacked half of them before another pile of chips was shoved at me. They covered the two hole cards the dealer had delivered to me when the next hand was dealt out.

An opponent complained he couldn’t see if I had any holecards. I racked them up as fast as I could. Ah, sweet mystery of life.

And then, without warning, the dark clouds returned. Ominous dark clouds again. Fortunately for me, it was getting

late and I had a meeting the next morning at the Claude Pepper Senior Center where I serve on the Ways & Means Committee and as the director of the Seniors Poker Group.

So I picked myself up – reluctantly, moved away from the dark clouds that seemed to be gathering for a storm and went home a winner for a decent night’s sleep.

It always feels good to go home a winner.

We are planning another Charity Poker Tournament to help our senior center overcome the severe budget cuts imposed by our City Council. We welcome you to participate.

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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