My last column discussed some pros and cons for playing poker in a casino vs. a home game. Semi-pro Chris Cornell offered his perspective; and I promised to give you the thoughts on this subject of another poker player who frequents both home and casino games. Arizona Stu is a senior citizen who was extremely successful as a businessman and entrepreneur - and is a PokerShark.
The other night, while seated at a hold'em table at the Bicycle Casino, an attractive older woman tapped me on the shoulder. "Can I talk to you?" she asked, with a big smile. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. (Beautiful women don't tap me on the shoulder very often.) Lynne had a copy of my recent column in Poker Player in her hand, but she really wanted to ask me about the cards used in playing poker. It seems that the design of the cards has been essentially unchanged since invented by the French some 300 years ago.
If you see Leo C., tell the big guy that this column is dedicated to him. His comment to me was the inspiration. Seven-card stud once was the top choice of poker players. During the last ten years, Texas hold'em has far surpassed it as the preference of most players. Until three years ago, 7-card stud was my game. My co-author, Dan Abrams, and Chris C. (code name: Shadow), a bright child psychologist/poker semi-pro, convinced me to try hold'em; and it quickly became my choice too. Yes, the games are similar in some respects.
Experienced poker players know that seat position at the table can make a big difference - whether you win or lose. Most important is how aggressive are the players to your left, those who bet after you.
In the January 12, 2004, issue of Poker Player, I commented on a recent column by Oklahoma Johnny Hale in which he had expressed his opinion that "senior poker players are really not playing . . . to win money. They are playing for the fun and/or sociability of the game." I had disagreed with that statement. And OK Johnny replied in his column. But something he said made me think: Why do we really play poker?
The "Esther Bluff" - What's that? Let me explain. . .
A year ago, I introduced you to my then 8-year-old granddaughter, Esther Fayla Epstein, and her almost incredible, innate talent for playing poker. She has an instinctive flair for the game; she's a natural winner. .
Well, Esther is now 9 years old and is away at overnight camp for two weeks - her first time away from home without her Mom. Before she left, she made a button for me with her picture on it, so I could remember her while she was away.
Many years ago, as I was advancing in my engineering and business career, a friend recommended I read a book entitled The Art of War by an ancient Chinese general named Sun Tzu. Indeed, I found his teachings very useful during my career. (So too was Dale Carnegies' book on How to Win Friends and Influence People.) Recently, while reading about a fierce high-school class election competition, I was reminded of Sun Tzu's teachings on how to win a war.
Was it a mere coincidence - or what? Was it a self-fullfilling or pre-ordained prophesy? Whatever. . . It was almost eerie! Could the fact that it was Friday the thirteenth have anything to do with it?
In poker it is legal to steal. If you can steal two or three pots during the course of a session, that may well be the margin of victory for you. "Making your move" is a super strategy to help you win the pot without holding the best hand. Like other bluffing strategies, there is a right time and a right way to make such a move successfully. Otherwise you would be wasting your hard-earned money ($$$).
Reading Nick Christenson's review of the new DVD, Texas Hold'em: The Winning Strategy with Mike Caro (Poker Player, June 13, 2005), caused me to contemplate that question. Since I have been teaching poker classes at a senior citizens center for three semesters, I now have a basis for addressing that question.