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House of Cards
by Ashley Adams

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What is the Worst Mistake?

Poker is a game of decisions. Make the right decisions and you will be a winner in the long run. But, when there are decisions to be made, mistakes are often made. We're only human. Mistakes may be momentary gaffes-blunders that are avoidable, missteps where you just take a wrong step, slip-ups, or errors in judgment. Perhaps the worst mistake a poker player can make is oversight-a failure to notice something that could be important. It may well be inadvertent, but it's avoidable-and often costly.

Of all the forms of oversight in the game of poker, the most flagrant is failing to read your hand correctly. Here's an example that occurred during a $4-$8 hold'em game at a L.A. area casino, involving a young man we'll call Sorry Solly-because that's what he was after he realized his mistake.

In the blind, he held J-9 offsuit. Several players saw the flop with no pre-flop raising. The flop gave Sorry Solly two pair, Jacks and 9s: Sorry Solly's Hole Cards: Jc-9d; The Flop: Jh-9s-7h.

He bet and was called by three opponents, including a young lady across the table who had been on a roll. Lucky Liz had been winning hand after hand, often beating Sorry Solly with a lucky draw on the river.

With two hearts on the flop, someone might have been drawing to a flush. I'm sure Sorry Solly took note of that. The turn brought a deuce of diamonds. Sorry Solly bet and was called by Lucky Liz.

The river brought the 9 of hearts, but apparently Sorry Solly only thought of it as a third heart on the board and not as a card to complete his full house. He checked and Lucky Liz bet. Solly thought a bit, obviously pondering the situation. When he called, she turned up her hole cards, revealing the heart flush that was completed on the river.

Sorry Solly immediately tossed his cards to the dealer, face down. He had folded his hand. Another player at the table asked to see his hand. The dealer touched the cards to the muck, making them "dead," and then turned them up for all to see. Everyone at the table gasped. Sorry Solly had folded a full house, three 9s and two Jacks! The table went silent. Sorry Solly moaned aloud, "I didn't notice it was another 9." He tried to explain his goof. Crestfallen-and perhaps somewhat embarrassed, he shrunk down in his seat. He went to his wallet to buy more chips while Lucky Liz smiled to herself as she stacked up her loot.

Most likely, Sorry Solly had anticipated another draw-out on the river by Lucky Liz. In his mind, his fate was sealed. He was certain that she would suck out on him again.

When the river card was another heart, he just knew that she had filled her flush, beating his two-pair. His mistake-his oversight-was not realizing that the card also gave him a full boat. When she revealed her flush, he automatically folded his hand.

Had he turned up his cards, the dealer would have read it as a full house and awarded the pot to him. After the fact, Sorry Solly realized it. Can you empathize with him?

Failing to read your own cards must be the worst mistake a poker player can make. Be aware. Avoid it.

Can you tell us about POKER MISTAKES in which you were involved?

George "The Engineer" Epstein is the author of The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners! and Hold'em or Fold'em?-An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision and teaches poker at the Claude Pepper Sr. Citizen Center in Los Angeles. Contact George at

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