A bet­ter way to avoid those bad beats

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - POKER - By Ed Miller

Most peo­ple ap­proach an ar­gu­ment in one of two ways. One way is to lis­ten to the other par­ties, search for com­mon ground and try to reach a con­struc­tive so­lu­tion. The other way is to re­peat­edly in­sist that you’re right. The lat­ter tends to be most peo­ple’s pre­ferred op­tion.

Poker pots are some­thing like an ar­gu­ment. Sev­eral play­ers have hands, and each player wants to make a claim to hav­ing the best one.

And, as with ar­gu­ments, peo­ple ap­proach poker pots in one of two ways. One way is to gather in­for­ma­tion, eval­u­ate the prospects of the hand as ra­tio­nally as pos­si­ble and make con­struc­tive de­ci­sions. The other way is to ig­nore much of the avail­able in­for­ma­tion, play the hand to the bit­ter end and get an­gry when things don’t work out. When

Pre­flop raiser’s hand:

Flop: peo­ple com­plain about bad beats, I know they’re likely prone to that lonely sec­ond route.

Here’s a hand I wit­nessed in a $2-$5 game in Las Vegas with $600 stacks.

One player limped in for $5, and an­other raised to $40 from two off the but­ton. The big blind called, and so did the limper. There was $122 in the pot.

The flop came Jh 7h 5s. The first two play­ers checked, and the pre­flop raiser bet $90. The big blind folded, and the limper called.

The turn was the 7c. The first player checked, and the pre­flop raiser bet $90 again. The first player check-raised to $180, and the pre­flop raiser called. There was $662 in the pot.

The river was the 2h, com­plet­ing a pos­si­ble flush. The first player bet all in for $290. The pre­flop raiser started grum­bling. “What, did you hit your flush on me?” Af­ter about 20 sec­onds, he called.

The first player showed Ad 7d for trip sev­ens. The pre­flop raiser flashed Ac As and started com­plain­ing about what a long shot beat he had taken.

In one sense, the player with aces was right. It’s a long shot for a


River: hand like A-7 to beat A-A in a pot. But on the other hand, there’s no rea­son he had to lose all his money. Most of the money he lost af­ter that sec­ond seven hit was on him.

The pre­flop raiser might as well have played his hand face up. The big pre­flop raise and big flop bet are typ­i­cal for play­ers hold­ing a big pocket pair. So the limper should have known that a hand such as A-A was a strong pos­si­bil­ity for the pre­flop raiser.

Given this knowl­edge, what could ex­plain the plays that the pre­flop limper made from the turn on? He raised a player who likely held a big pair. And on the river, af­ter the flush came, he made a fi­nal large bet. Un­less he’s crazy, he wouldn’t play this way with a hand like K-J. So ei­ther he could beat pocket aces (most likely with trip sev­ens or a full house), or he was run­ning an ex­tremely dar­ing bluff. Most peo­ple don’t bluff this way. Nor should they, since they’re likely to be called down.

That leaves one con­clu­sion: On the turn — and cer­tainly by the fi­nal river bet — pocket aces are no longer good. If the pre­flop raiser had paid at­ten­tion to his op­po­nent and in­ter­preted the in­for­ma­tion log­i­cally, he could have saved him­self a lot of money. Ed Miller is the au­thor of nine poker strat­egy books with more than a quar­ter-mil­lion copies sold. Check out his lat­est book, “The Course: Se­ri­ous Hold ’Em Strat­egy for Smart Play­ers,” at Ama­zon or at his web­site, ed­miller­poker.com.

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