Worst blunders a poker player might make

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A friend gave me a collection of old Poker Digest magazines, going back 20 years ago. Some of my old poker columns are included, as well as columns by Dr. Alan Schoonmaker, Suzie Isaacs, Brian Alspach, Matt Lessinger and other poker celebrity writers.

There is even a photo of a younger Donald Trump advertising Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal that he owned at the time — “proud sponsor of the 2000 U.S. Poker Championship.” It ran from 1996 until 2010.

There was one issue in which John Vorhaus’ “JV’s Killer Poker” column was about Bad Beats. We all know what those are — unfortunately.

In that regard, he offered sage advice: “Don’t do stupid things.” I would label these as really bad mistakes — the worst blunders a poker player might make.

Mistakes in judgement are quite common. Although they are blunders, I would not call them “stupid things.”

As an example of a “stupid thing” in Texas Hold’em, Vorhaus asks, “Why would you want to be calling a raise with 8-4 suited ever? So you can catch top pair and a poor straight draw when the flop comes 8-7-6? Only to lose when when overcards hit on the turn and the river? So you can then scream, bad beat, bad beat.” JV then comments: “That’s not a bad beat, pal. That’s a bad play.”

No question about it, that’s an obvious stupid thing to do.

To further explain “Stupid Things” at the poker table, here’s another situation that I have often observed: You have been running well, and have three racks of chips piled up in front of you. Of course, every one of your opponents at the table takes note of the fact; so you have gained an image as a big winner.

In this particular hand, from an early position, you have been dealt A-10 offsuit. Along with three others, you see the flop: Jh-Qh-8d. You need a King to fill your Ace-high straight draw. After you check, an aggressive opponent in a middle position opens the betting and is raised by the button — a tight player. You call the raise.

The turn is a blank — not likely to help anyone, and certainly not you. Nevertheless, you decide to open the betting to see where you stand. It’s sort of a semi-bluff in your mind. The middle-position raises; and then the Button makes it a 3-bet.

You are certain that one or both have you beat at this point; but, you are so far ahead in this game, you decide to stay to see the river. You can afford it. Maybe you’ll get lucky.

Well, needless to say, the river left you with just the Ace-high. Of course, at this point, you decide to check. The middle position opens the betting and is raised by the Button. You have no doubt that your hand is beat by one or both of them.

Showdown: The Button shows two Queens in the hole for a set of Queens; you quickly muck your hand as does the middle-position. You were well behind from the flop.

You did have an inside draw to an Ace-high straight. That gave you just four outs — not enough to stay in the pot all the way. You realized that you were chasing. Chasing is a no-no, especially with raised bets and a tight player boldly raising it up.

You have been playing poker for lots of years; you knew all that. But you just kept calling along. You had a hunch. Literally, you gave away a goodly amount of your chips.

That certainly was not a bad beat. Plain and simple, it was a stupid thing to do. How could you have done it? You knew better, but you insisted on going all the way to the river. Your cards were so pretty. The fact that you were well ahead at that point in the game was hardly reason to chase all the way. You are not that stupid — are you?

If so, you are always welcome to any poker game in which I am playing.

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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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