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George Epstein


by George “The Engineer” Epstein

Reading the current (Dec. 3, 2012 [read the PDF]) issue of  Poker Player Newspaper (PPN), I thought, “there is  so much great info for poker players packed into 20 big pages.”  Wendeen Eolis provides a timely review of the conflict between  the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. online poker world. The Poker  Players Alliance (PPA) has been unable to get the DOJ to return the  players’ funds held by Full Tilt Poker. Suggestion: With millions of voters playing poker, perhaps the PPA could take advantage of this asset— use its “edge.”

 Mike Caro’s advice for winning at poker is always top notch. In this  issue, he focuses on “Choice.” Choose your opponents so that you are  more skillful than they are. The greater the skill gap, the better. Avoid  tables with stronger players. Sound advice, except I don’t agree that  I should “try to master several forms of poker.” As I teach my poker  classes, it is best to specialize in one variety of poker so you can  become the most skilled at that game—rather than a “Jack of all trades,  master of none.”

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Sir Francis Bacon and Poker

Money is like MUCK, not good except it be spread.” —Francis Bacon during the Age of Reason (“Of Seditions and Troubles,” Essays, 15; published in 1597)

 Sir Francis Bacon (Jan. 1561 – April 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman, spy, freemason and essayist. He was knighted in 1603. He began his career as a lawyer, but is best known as a philosophical advocate of the scientific revolution. He developed an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry—the Baconian method. His literary works include his Essays, as well as the Colours of Good and Evil, and the Meditationes Sacrae, all published in 1597. Bacon’s life goals were discovery of truth, service to his country, and service to the church. He also is famed for his widely quoted aphorism, “knowledge is power.”

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Information: Insufficient Premises...

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

“Life is the art of drawing conclusions from insufficient premises.” —Samuel Butler, British satirist (1835 - 1902)

 Butler is best known for his utopian satire, Erewhon, and The Way of All Flesh, a semi-autobiographical novel, published posthumously. What does this saying mean? How does it relate to the game of poker? “Insufficient”—lacking to some extent; too scanty; we would like more information to be really convinced.

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A Steam Raise

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

I had not been familiar with the term, “Steam Raise,” until I received a comment on my column, “Information: Fact and Conjecture,” in the September 10 issue of PPN. Just to remind you, that column began with a quote from famed British satirist, Samuel Butler (1835-1902): “Life is the art of drawing conclusions from insufficient premises.” That’s often the situation when we play poker. Following along in that vein, the column was concerned with gathering important information at the poker table to help you make the best decisions. Information can either be (1) factual (like the value of your holecards) or (2) conjectural (tells, for example) where some guesswork is necessary. We described many examples of factual information, but were able to identify only seven conjectures pertinent to the game of poker. So we invited readers to suggest others. Dan Behringer of Las Vegas submitted a bit of a mind-boggler—a “Steam Raise.” Have you ever heard that term before?

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Calling to See the Flop from an Early Position

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

Most (if not all) poker experts will agree: As you peek at your holecards, by far the most important decision is whether or not to invest your hard-earned (?) chips in that hand. The vast majority of holecards are drawing hands that must improve to win the pot. Considering all relevant factors, ask yourself: Do my two holecards warrant my making an investment? If the flop improves your hand, chances are you will invest further in that hand. Starting with an inferior hand, it is likely that, even if you make your hand, an opponent may have a better one. Second-best is costly! Example: Starting with A-rag and catching another Ace on the flop, an opponent with a better Ace (say A-10) has you “outkicked”. He is heavily favored to beat you out.

 The basic criteria for making that starting-hand decision is based on two key factors: (1) Value of your two holecards (rank, pairs, connectors, suited); and (2) Your betting position.

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On Judge Weinstein’s Poker Ruling...

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

News of U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein’s ruling regarding poker quickly spread across the nation, to the delight of poker enthusiasts.

 Specifically, on August 21, the good judge decided that a New York electronics dealer had not violated a federal gambling law by offering Texas hold’em poker games in his warehouse. The judge’s rationale: Unlike roulette or slot machines, poker is not “predominated by chance.” This ruling focused renewed interest on the age-old question: Is poker a game of skill, or chance (luck)? Which predominates?

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When Your Opponent Raises...

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

Questions cross your mind when an opponent raises. If you knew why he raised, your next decision would be much easier, and more likely in your best interest. Let’s explore some of these reasons. . . and clues that might shed light on these.

 Why did he raise rather than just call on that betting round? Why Did He Raise? To answer our question, consider the 13 Reasons for Raising as described in my column in the August 13 issue of PPN. The average player probably is not sufficiently astute to go beyond the four top reasons: (1) Build the pot (Raise for value); (2) Force out some opponents (so his made hand has a better chance of holding up to the river); (3) Steal the blinds; (4) Semi-bluff and/or bluff.

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Why Raise???, PART 2

Just to remind you, in our last column we presented “The 13 Reasons for Raising,” developed in cooperation with my Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group and discussed the first eight on the list.

 The 13 Reasons for Raising

 • Build the pot • Force out opponents – RSPF • Steal the blinds • Semi-Bluff or Bluff • Get information (How good is my hand?) • Improve betting position • Isolate a “maniac” • Get a FREE card on the next betting round • Force out a bluffer on the river • Buy more outs • Protect your hand • Create or change your image • As a psychological weapon

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Why Raise??? PART 1 13 Big Reasons...

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

An opponent bets. You raise, increasing the size of the bet. In a limit game, your raise is an additional amount equal to the size of the original bet. You may get reraised. In nolimit games the size of the bet can be many times larger than the original bet, even all of the chips in front of you— “Going all in!” Casinos generally limit the number of raises for each betting round in a fixed-limit game to three or four. A player is said to “cap” the raising when he makes the final raise allowed. But there is no limit to the number of raises if the hand becomes heads-up (just two players remaining in the pot), nor is there any limit on the number of raises in a no-limit game.

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Gambling by Definition... Maybe!

by  George “The Engineer” Epstein

Wendeen Eolis’ fascinating feature, “Who Says Poker is Skill?” (March 12 issue) drew me to her primary reference source: The Fordham Intellectual Property, Media, and Entertainment Law Journal article by Bennett M. Liebman, entitled, “Poker Flops Under New York Law” (2006, Vol. 17, Issue 1, Article 1). Liebman thoroughly researched the skill vs. chance legal issues used in defining whether poker should be considered a form of gambling—and hence illegal. Courts have ruled based on varied opinions about the relative importance of skill vs. chance (luck), or whether money is involved. Most Significant: According to Liebman, the “…courts in New York State have always stated that poker is illegal without giving the matter significant analysis or thought. For a century, the New York Courts have stated that card games, such as poker, are games of chance.” Indeed, legal citation after citation, court rulings, etc., go back and forth on the issue—but, in the final analysis, they often agree that, “Poker should not be legal because it involves chance.”

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