How does ‘luck’ play in poker?

Dec 1, 2009 5:04 PM
Back in the Saddle by Johnny Hale |

Folks, today I am a little concerned about the subject of luck versus skill in the playing of poker.

I have been asked many times: have you ever had a run of bad luck for a long period of time when you were playing poker?

The answer is yes, of course. I put my pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else. But in Oklahoma we have many sayings, and the one that comes to mind when I am asked that question is, "If the horse throws you off, get right back on it and ride!"

Then, I am often asked if I win all the time when I play poker.

The answer is no. My wife, Carol, is still working and I haven’t yet quit my day job.

Then I am asked if I believe in luck.

The answer is, of course, yes.

As usual, I talk slow and write long so I do not have room in this column to repeat all of my thoughts about luck. But I will reiterate a couple of things.

First, I am the seventh son of an only son and that makes me so lucky that I just think I will win and that I will stay lucky.

You must recognize luck when it taps you on the shoulder. It is surprising how lucky people can become when they work hard.

I think the best player in the world of no-limit hold’em poker is Doyle Brunson, who is a member in good standing of The Poker Hall of Fame.

Brunson is just one of the reasons I believe in luck, skill and hard work.

"Texas Dolly," as he is often called, won two world championships at the World Series of Poker with a terrible starting hand – 10 and deuce, off suit!

That is why the 10-2 poker hand is often called the "Texas Dolly."

Doyle was lucky enough to see the beauty in those two cards and worked hard enough to attain a skillful poker reputation.

I hear this statement sometimes when a player wins a nice pot. "Well, I would rather be lucky than good!"

And I am sometimes asked this question: Would you rather be a lucky player or a good player?

My answer is: I try hard to be both – lucky and good.

Then I am asked what I can do to change my luck. The answer is many things but this is a family newspaper so I will not go there!

If you think you are unlucky and Lady Luck is not being good to you when you a lose few hands of poker, don’t give up. You have to get back on that horse and ride him!

Think of it this way. The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Oklahoma, Jason White, once put the ball up 50 times and completed five of them for touchdowns. So, you could say he was lucky (or skillful) just 10 percent of the time, and that he was unlucky (or unskillful) 90 percent of the time.

If Jason had not tried 50 times he could not have completed those five touchdown passes.

The moral is you have to keep pitching. You won’t make a touchdown without risking the pass.

Poker Tip of the Week

One of our greatest presidents was old Abe Lincoln, and he was so unlucky that he lost every time he ran for office until he won the presidency.

Get back on the horse and ride him. You will get lucky and then you can take the money home and count it there.

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Johnny Hale

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