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Lying in bed, a recurring thought kept crossing my mind as I vainly tried to fall asleep. I tossed and turned. Just before going to bed, I had been caught up in playing solitaire on my computer.

As I became more adept at the game, I realized an intriguing relationship between solitaire and Texas Hold’em – and thought I should share this with the GamingToday readers. Eventually, I admitted defeat in my attempt to fall asleep. So I got up out of bed to sit down at my computer to tell you how playing solitaire can help you to become a winner at Texas Hold’em.

Solitaire hardly resembles any game of poker. For one thing, you play against yourself – no opponents. To start, there are seven piles of cards on the table, containing from one to seven cards in sequence, with the top card face-up in each pile.

We won’t go through the details of playing solitaire except to explain that the initial seven face-up cards must be carefully scrutinized to make you a winner. If you have played the game, I would venture a guess some of you have already made the same observation, as follows:

At least four of the initial face-up cards must be related in some way. If your face-up cards do not meet this criteria, then you are solely dependent on luck and bound to be a loser in the long run. The same is true in poker.

Playing solitaire on my computer, with a quick click of my mouse, I can bring up another random “hand.” So why waste my time playing inferior starting hands. Patience is a virtue. Likewise in poker; wait for a better hand to be dealt to you.

This criteria in playing solitaire is the equivalent to starting-hand selection in poker. As you peek at your holecards, you must decide whether or not to play this hand. Likewise in solitaire.

As in poker, you have no control over the cards buried in each pile that are revealed as you move the face-up cards elsewhere on the table according to the rules of the game –replacing them with the next card in the pile that is then turned face-up.

One problem in Texas Hold’em is you get to see only your two holecards before making the vital decision whether or not to invest your chips to see the flop. To help make up for this limitation, it is wise to use either Start Charts (available in many poker books) or the Hold’em Algorithm that permits you to remember just a few key numbers. It’s so easy!

The charts and the algorithm consider not only the nature and value of your two holecards, but also your betting position. The Hold’em Algorithm provides easy-to-remember numerical criteria for starting-hand selection. In addition, it applies the Hold’em Caveat, your evaluation of your opponents, and consideration of the game texture.

In summary: Starting-hand selection is critical in both solitaire and poker. It is important to give due consideration to your holecards in poker and your initial face-up cards in solitaire. If you do not, and then play hands dealt to you without regard for the relationships among your cards, I can guarantee you will be a loser.

Intelligent, well-informed starting-hand selection is essential to being a winner in both games. Surely, there must be other games containing elements that also apply to the game of Texas Hold’em. Can you suggest any? There will be a prize for the best entry.

“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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