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Ranking players a must when playing poker

Feb 3, 2009 5:02 PM
From the Heart by 'Oklahoma' Sarah |

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Back in the Saddle Again column takes a new twist with views from both Oklahoma Johnny Hale and his daughter Sarah, an equally adept poker player and singer. It’s Sarah’s turn with the pen this week.

Today, I would like to tell you about a poker game in Las Vegas at the world famous Venetian.

When I arrive in the poker room, I put my name up on the $2-5 and the $1-2 No Limit Hold’em waiting lists. Kathy Raymond, the director of poker operations, tells me that she has a seat for me in a new $2-5 game. I sit down and help start a new must-move game, buying in for $500.

I look around the table and begin to rate the players. This is one of dad’s secrets.

When you begin to play, you must decide which of the players you think is the best and rank the others all the way down to the worst.

You rate them by the way they look, how they handle their cards, by the size of their stack, by the way they talk, and by the past history that you have had playing with them. I just make a quick rating of everybody!

Then I adjust the ratings as the game goes on. I study the pattern of play. Winning poker is not playing poker. It is working poker.

If you want to win, you have to be working all the time. You cannot sit there day dreaming. You have to use your head and gather all the information about each player as quickly as you can and adjust your thinking with each hand played.

My dad’s rule is: If one hour into the game you cannot rate yourself (honestly) to be on the top side, then quit. In other words, you must be able to give yourself a correct rating of 4, 3, 2 or 1.

If not in the top four, you cannot continue to play in this money game.

After mixing it up a little and winning a couple of small pots, I look down and see Q-Q. I am in the big blind in the No. 6 seat.

The player in Seat 7 calls and those in Seats 8, 9, and 10 fold. Seat 1, who has $1,700 in front of him raises to $15. The players in Seats 2 and 3 fold, while Seat No. 4 calls. I call too. So does the player in Seat 7.

I have given myself a rating of 2, but I rated the player who raised the pot in Seat No. 1 best at the table. I rated Seat 4 the worst and ranked the player in Seat 7 as the sixth-best.

In this pot I think I am the best except for Seat No. 1, who has me out-stacked, $1,700 to about $700. He raised the pot to $15, and I know that he is going to bet after the flop if he’s allowed to be the first to wager! The flop is Q©-2§-A¨.

I check. So does the player in Seat 7. The player in Seat No. 1 bets (as I knew he would) four times the pot, increasing it by $240. Seat 4 calls. I make a crying call, and the player in Seat No. 7 folds.

The turn is 10’s. I am first to act and check, knowing that Seat No. 1 will bet the pot for me. He over bets the pot and goes all in. Player No. 4 folds and I am forced to call all in with my set of queens.

The turn card is a blank seven of hearts. I am about a $1,000 winner, and it is time to meet that young banker from New York for a late night dinner.

I am OK-Sarah and I always stay lucky!!