Don’t let luck put you on tilt when playing poker

Dec 8, 2009 5:04 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

Ever play pinball machines? Insert a coin into the slot. Holding the sides of the machine, you tried to control the steel ball to score points as it moved about on the playing surface. Sometimes you got a bit rambunctious, and pushed the machine too far. Tilt! It shuts down. Coin lost. Frustration! Just part of the game.

The same can happen in poker.

Amazing Luck

As I joined the $3-$6 game, judging by the chip distribution, seat No. 7 was the only winner at the table. I soon realized why: He was playing almost every hand – extremely loose! But he was connecting hand after hand. Incredible!

I was dealt pocket aces. Wow! In a middle position, I raised. Four opponents including seat No. 7 called to see the flop. It didn’t seem to help anyone; I bet. Seat No. 7 and the button called. The turn brought the 4. Expecting that my pocket aces were in the lead, I was surprised when seat No. 7 raised my bet. I had figured him for a pair – second best to my pocket aces. Why was he raising? Could he have two-pair or a set?

I called, hoping the river would help my hand. It was K – no help. I checked to him; he bet. I called. He turned up K-4 off-suit in the hole. He had paired his 4 on the turn, then made two-pair on the river. He had raised on the turn with just one small pair, king kicker – while my pocket aces were favored more than 9-to-1 over him.

Luck? He had defied the poker odds to enjoy rewards that were hardly due him. It went that way almost every hand. Rarely did he fold pre-flop. With his luck, who could blame him! His garbage hole cards blossomed into giant fruits – blessed by the poker gods. No one else at the table seemed to enjoy even smiles from them.

On Tilt

A decent player to my right had the worst experience, more than anyone else at our table. He was dealt more than his share of decent starting hands. He played them well. But seat No. 7 never faltered – always calling, often raising. Starting with two small double-gapped hearts, he flopped an inside straight draw, and raised with just one opponent still in the pot. (Horrible pot odds compared to his card odds!) The turn didn’t help him; still he bet when his lone opponent, the gent to my right, checked. Guess what? The river gave him the straight, beating two-pair.

It went that way for two hours. Seat No. 7 now had five full racks plus additional stacked chips. It became a personal duel between him and the player to my right. Except for a rare small win, the player to my right went to his pocket to buy more chips every few hands. He got decent starting hands that rarely improved – or became second-best to his lucky nemesis.

You could empathize his thinking: "How long can he keep catching miracle cards? Would I ever make the best hand?" He bought more chips. His face grew ashen; his hair tussled. His grimace told it all. Desperation! Emotionally upset! He was on tilt!

He lost track of his losses, pulling out more greenbacks to buy more chips. I and the others at the table fared not much better against Lucky Lou in seat No. 7. Fortunately I had few decent starting hands, so entered few hands against him.

Avoid Tilt

When the cards keep going bad, just accept it. Don’t go on tilt. So, after losing one more good hand – starting with pocket queens and flopping a set, only to lose to seat No. 7’s inside straight on the river – it was time to call it a night. Better luck next time, George.

Comments? George "The Engineer" Epstein can be contacted at [email protected]

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