I enjoy the poker hand analyses published in a leading poker magazine, including the writer’s perceptions of the players’ likely reasoning as they played their hands.
It was the final table with six remaining players vying for the top award. In this hand, the blinds were 4Y-8Y with a 1Y ante (where Y is 100,000), the button raised to 16Y with Ah-Kh in the hole. The Small Blind (SB) responded with a re-raise to 34Y. Then, the button went all-in for a total of 89Y; and was called by the SB.
Here’s the point: The SB held A-7 offsuit. Had he taken the trouble to learn the Hold’em Algorithm (see GT ad) he would have realized he had only 23 points; whereas, the Algorithm requires 25 points from an early position. Without hesitation, he should have mucked that hand before the flop.
Furthermore, I surmise the SB was not aware of the Hold’em Caveat that encourages folding marginal drawing hands unless there are no raises and it is a multi-way pot.
In this case, even if he regarded the A-7 as a marginal hand, the Button had made a raise (and soon after, went all-in); plus there was just one opponent staying to see the flop. Besides, you don’t have to know the Hold’em Caveat to realize the cost-to-play with A-7 offsuit, was much too high to warrant risking a major tournament win!
The SB was just giving away his chips. Fortunately for him, he had started the hand with considerably more chips than the Button. Still, that hand cost him almost 40 percent of his chips. No one can afford that kind of loss very often. It’s almost impossible to survive playing that way.
Shortly after that hand, that player was knocked out of the tournament, finishing in fifth place. (He was lucky to finish in the money for a princely sum of money – even though he had started that day with the chip lead among the six players at the final table.)
Pot odds vs. card odds: The writer of this hand analysis seemed to be trying to make an excuse for how poorly (in my opinion) the SB played that hand. The writer commented that the SB was getting 2.5-to-1 pot odds when he called the Button’s all-in bet. But there is no mention of the SB’s card odds.
I thought everyone knows the pot odds must be higher than your card odds to warrant a call; otherwise you have a Negative Expectation – a poor investment. And, at the final table of one of poker’s most prestigious tournaments, wouldn’t you expect the SB to exercise more caution against an opponent who is raising and re-raising?
Consider that the odds against the SB improving his hand to a pair of Aces on the flop were substantially higher than 2.5-to-1. What’s more, with all the raising by the Button, didn’t the SB consider his opponent might be holding a better Ace in the hole?
As for his 7 kicker, it’s really a “rag.” The SB could just as easily have paired his 7; and then there were so many combinations his opponent could hold that would demolish his pair of 7s. (Didn’t he consider the range of hands his opponent might hold?) More likely, the SB would not improve at all on the flop. Then what? (As it turned out, the board did not help either player; so the Button’s King kicker took the pot!)
In summary: I must admit I don’t think very highly of any player – whether in a limit cash game or a no-limit tournament – who calls all raises with A-rag. I go by the old adage: “The chips you save by not losing are just as valuable as those you win.”
Furthermore, playing his hand in this (reckless?) fashion, I must wonder how that player in the SB was able to make it all the way to final table of that tournament.

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I usually look for the games with the smallest house advantage when I visit the casino, but if I’m there for a long time I look for some variety in my games.
On my last trip to the Vegas Strip (yes, you can vacation in Vegas when you live here) I noticed a large increase of 3-card poker tables, which is probably my favorite of the newer “­carnival”-type games to play. You’d think I would be happy about the increased availability of the game. Eh, not so much.
The increase of 3 Card Poker tables is in line with the amount of interest of the game. Almost every 3 Card Poker table was full on this weekend. I prefer to play the game with a full table but it was difficult to get on a table with all of the people.
There was so much 3 Card Poker action that the game was made available on old blackjack tables. These are the tables with no sign but correct felt. I play 3 Card Poker for a little variety in my casino visits. There’s only so much blackjack, craps or video poker I can play.
I know the house edge on this game is around 5%. I also know I’m not playing the smartest game but it sure is fun. I’m assuming most people who gamble on the Strip don’t know or care about the house edge in 3 Card Poker. I think they just want to play a fun game that’s easy to learn. That’s their prerogative.
Maybe since the majority of cheap blackjack games on the Strip pay 6:5 they’re okay with playing a table game with a larger house advantage. The difference between 6:5 blackjack’s approximately 2% house advantage and 3 Card Poker’s 5% house advantage is less drastic than good 3:2 blackjack games.
A conspiracy theorist may think the casino is trying to force more 5% house advantage games on the floor. Perhaps the 2% house advantage isn’t enough to make a casino profitable for the operator.
That’s just a conspiracy theory. At the end of the day it’s up to the player to choose what game’s they want to play. Personally, I’m okay with the growth of 3 Card Poker.
I like to play it with a full table. It’s a fun game for all. Since other player’s moves don’t affect the cards there’s no complaining about bad moves or that the dealer always pulls out a hand that’s just barely better than the players’. The relaxed atmosphere makes 3 Card Poker fun despite its large house advantage.

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Poker is a game of decisions. Mistakes often occur as a natural consequence. Some are more serious than others, with greater impact on the results.
In early December, the Normandie Casino in Gardena, Calif., hosted our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group and friends to a very professional limit hold’em tournament with cash prizes.
While watching the game (I don’t play against my “students”), I had the opportunity to observe mistakes being made. Even top pros make mistakes. So what are the biggest mistakes?
Starting-hand selection: In my opinion, the most serious and most frequent mistake was staying to see the flop with a hand that should have been mucked. I observed several players making that mistake – a big one!
I know they were all anxious to challenge the others at the table in “mortal” hold’em poker combat. In war, the good generals know when to attack and when to retreat. Likewise, there are good times – and bad times – to pay to see the flop.
I was somewhat surprised because most of those making this mistake have been taught the hold’em algorithm and the Hold’em Caveat.
On the other hand, one of the newcomers to our group – with no prior poker experience – played really well; she took time to check her notes on 3x6-inch file cards. The other players – like it or not – waited; she was not going to be hurried. The result was she almost made it to the final table – but not quite into the money. (I was proud of her!)
Chasing: Another frequent mistake. Calling bets when the chance of connecting is poor. One player started with pocket 9s in a late position. On the flop, he did not catch a set. (The odds were over 8-to-1 against him; no surprise that he missed.) And there were two overcards on the board. An early-position player bet and was raised by the next player.
I was somewhat surprised when the pocket 9s cold-called the raised bet. Based on the cards on the board and the betting/raising, he should have surmised that one or both of his opponents had a bigger pair after the flop. (I assume he considered the types of players involved.)
On that basis, most likely, at best he had just two outs – the other two nines. Only two outs! The card odds against him were huge! No way were there enough chips in the pot to warrant a call! It would take a minor miracle for him to win that pot; and, of course, that miracle didn’t happen. Chasing cards can only cause you to lose more chips. Indeed, it wasn’t long before he was knocked out of the tournament!
Protecting vulnerable hands: A significant third mistake was when a player in a middle position, failed to raise to protect his vulnerable hand. This player had flopped bottom two-pair. With two suited cards on the flop, it was quite possible an opponent had a draw to a flush. And, of course, an opponent might be holding a small pair.
If either one connected, it would have been really bad news for the bottom two-pair. At that point, he would have just four outs to catch a full-house. A big longshot!
In this case, it would have been prudent to force out opponents who had the potential to draw out on him, by betting or raising on the flop. Instead, this player just checked along with the other players in the hand. He failed to protect his vulnerable hand!
You can easily guess the consequence of his mistake. The opponent with a small pair in the hole – who probably would have folded against a bet on the flop – caught his set on the turn. The middle two-pair called all the way to the river, suffering a huge chip reduction as he lost to the set of fours. Failing to protect his vulnerable hand: a costly mistake!
What do you regard as the biggest mistake poker players often make? A prize to the best response.

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Building on the launch of its Internet gaming platform, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City announced the addition of several exciting online promotions.
Through Jan. 1, BorgataCasino.com’s 12 Days of WIN-TER Sweepstakes will bring holiday cheer to online casino players by giving away daily cash prizes in the amount of $5,000 for the initial 11 days. On Day 12, a grand prize winner will be chosen and awarded a brand new Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
Guests may enter to win each day by simply logging into their BorgataCasino.com account, and may earn additional daily entries based on their online slot play.
In addition to its December promotion, BorgataCasino.com is offering all slot players the chance to become a millionaire with just a single spin on its $1 million progressive slots. Beginning with three games – Melon Madness, Loot ‘EnKhamun and Going Nuts – customers can hit one of five jackpots at different levels with the “Colossal Cash Jackpot” paying out over $1 million.
BorgataPoker.com is offering online players the chance to become New Jersey’s Next Poker Millionaire. Eight players will compete in an exclusive live tournament during the Borgata Winter Poker Open on Feb. 1, where the winner will take home $1 million.
Seats will be awarded to the winners of semifinal online tournaments held every Sunday at 6:30 p.m., but may also qualify via the following structure: poker.theborgata.com/promotions/.
Turning to Vegas:
Golden Nugget: Golden Saturday VIII $25,000 Poker Tournament will be held Jan. 18 in the Grand Event Center. Beginning at noon, the event will be another day of exciting poker tournament action. Buy-in is $100 plus $25 to get in on the action for the $25,000 guaranteed minimum prize pool.
Doors will open at 10 a.m. and players can register in the classy Nugget poker room, by emailing poker@goldennugget.com or by calling 702-386-8383. Registration will also be open on the day of the event. For information, visit www.goldennugget.com.
Orleans: Random “Hot Seat” drawings will be held every hour from 4-10 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday every week in January. Winners will receive $100. Poker players must be playing in a “live” Texas Hold’em game to be eligible. See a poker team member for complete details.
Caesars: Twice a month you can qualify for $20,000 Freeroll Poker Tournaments. Play 20 hours of live action poker at any Caesars Entertainment poker room to qualify. Specific qualifying dates and tournament schedules can be found in each poker room.
The top 40 places in the tournaments split the $20,000 prize pool and each receives $500. You must be clocked in with your Total Rewards card to qualify for hours played. Visit any Caesars card room for complete details.
Good luck, and may the “nuts” be with you!

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Recently, I told you about the advice I gave to a poker friend at my favorite Heavenly Poker Starry-Eye casino. Well, there is a bit more to this story.
I was taking a break from my game when he came running over. “Can you believe, I am actually well ahead!” He was so excited. “But I have started to lose back. Got rivered a few hands ago. Big pot, too. What do you think?”
“Pleased to see things are working out for you. You asked about losing back your winnings. Have you ever heard of variance? That’s the ups and downs that are bound to happen during a poker session. It’s inevitable. If I were you, I would quit while I am still ahead – and go home a winner.”
“Hmm,” he pondered that advice. “What else can you tell me about being a winner? I promise not to share it with others.”
More advice: “I suspect you know how important table and seat selection are.” He looked at me, expecting some details. “Tables that are too aggressive or too tight are no-nos.”
His eyes narrowed. “How come?” he asked. I explained, “Lots of preflop raising makes it too expensive to play drawing hands; and most of your playable hands will need to catch cards on the draw. If the table is very tight, you won’t be able to get paid off when you catch a big hand. As for seat selection, it’s important to watch out for a maniac or even a very aggressive player at your table. You want to be seated to his left so you see what he does before you have to declare.”
He interrupted, “I had beautiful pocket Kings – two big red Kings – and raised preflop. Then the flop came down with a big black Ace of clubs. The Big Blind came out betting and was raised by a middle position player. I decided to call with my K-K in the hole.
“On the turn, the Big Blind – a fairly aggressive guy with lots of chips in front of him – again opened with a bet. Then the other player raised again. I decided to fold, figuring one or both had a pair of Aces, making my pocket Kings a loser. What do you think?”
I thought just a moment. “Poker players love Aces. At a full table, it is highly likely at least one opponent has an Ace – even more so if you don’t have one. With two opponents betting on the flop after an Ace comes on the board – and especially if one raises, you wasted chips chasing with your Kings.
“I don’t blame you; Kings in the hole are so beautiful. But they’re not that much better than a pair of deuces against two Aces. There’s also the chance the raiser caught a set on the flop. If he had a pair in the hole, you can expect him to flop a set about one out of 8-1/2 times. In either case, at that point you had only two outs. Why chase? Chasing is bound to be costly.”
What about tells? He nodded in agreement, then said, “I know what tells are, but rarely see any. What do you think?”
“You have to be constantly on the lookout for tells,” I replied. “Observe your opponents whenever you can, especially those seated to your left. I always look to my left during the flop to see what reactions my opponents will show. Sometimes a player will pick up his cards, ready to muck them.
“If I see a player – especially one who is not tricky – pick up a bunch of chips, I seriously consider folding so I won’t be faced with a raised bet after I call with a medium pair or less – even with a hand like King-Jack offsuit.”
As I headed back to my table, I turned back at him and stared, “and don’t forget about variance. It’s for real!”

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Playing $4-$8 limit at the Hustler Casino, it was a good game for me: loose and fairly passive. From the beginning, I was doing well.
The poker gods seemed to be smiling on me as I won hand after hand. I tried two late-position bluffs on the flop; both succeeded. The chips were stacked high in front of me. And I felt great! This was my night.
After about two hours of play, I decided to take a break for dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed my order of chicken kabob; and was ready to return to the game.
We have all suffered from variance. As I resumed playing, it seemed the poker gods now were frowning on me. A few new players had come to the table. My cards had grown cold. And, when I was dealt a decent starting hand, it fizzled out on the flop. Before long, I had lost my winnings and was into my original buy-in.
Suddenly, out of the blue, the cards seemed to change for the better. In a late position, I looked down on pocket Kings – K of spades, K of clubs. Two middle-position players limped in. I raised with my K-K to thin the field and build the pot. Both called my raise to see the flop; all the other opponents folded.
And what a flop it was! I could hardly believe my eyes. First the dealer turned up the King of diamonds. My heart skipped a beat: I had a set of Kings! But the next two flop cards were a different story: A-J, both diamonds. Wow! While my set of Kings looked good, I realized there were potential flushes and straights out there, even a possible royal flush!
After my two opponents checked to me, I made the bet. Both called me. My guess was neither had flopped a flush or a straight, and were both on draws. Of course, there were other possibilities too, but the flush and straight draws seemed most likely.
I considered what types of players they were. The first, a middle-aged gent (call him Player A) had just joined the table, so I had not yet formed an opinion as to his style of play. The somewhat younger player to his immediate left (Player B) was rather conservative, bordering on tight, but he had shown signs of aggression on occasion.
Since both checked to me on the flop, I was sure they were each drawing to a big hand – a diamond flush or an Ace-high straight. I felt quite certain that was the case. My set of Kings looked good – so far.
The turn put a different perspective on the game. The dealer calmly placed the 6 of diamonds on the board. Now there were four-to-a-diamond flush! My set of Kings was in big trouble. Player A came out betting and was called by Player B. I called too, hoping the board would pair up on the river to give me a full-boat.
At this point, I assumed both had a diamond flush. I had nine outs to fill up. My luck had run out, it seemed. The river was a blank. Player A again opened the betting and, this time, he was raised by Player B. Now I was certain one or both of my opponents had a diamond flush. Three-of-a-kind – even Kings – does not beat a flush! I hated to muck my set of Kings, but it certainly seemed the wise move. I was already in the red, and didn’t want to add to my losses.
Showdown: Player A took the pot with two-pair, Aces and sixes. He held A-6, both spades. No flush! Player B showed his hand: A-J, both clubs. No flush!
Had I been bluffed out? Did I make a mistake by not calling on the river? Fortunately, I did manage to go home a small winner.

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