Single page view By Jay Lovinger
Page 2

Would you rather be ...

1) good;

... or ...

2) lucky?

Sure, sure, you believe you'd rather be good. But think about it for a moment. What really gives you more satisfaction – getting your money in the pot as a favorite and having your hand hold up as it mathematically should, or hitting a 22-1 two-outer on the river to take a big pot that you know you didn't deserve?

I knew it! I knew it! God DOES love me!

Most players I run across get a lot more pleasure out of being lucky than good. This more than anything, I think, accounts for the frequency of players going all-in, pre-flop, especially in low-buy-in, no-limit tournaments.

So what? Well, for one thing, it makes those games rather difficult to beat, even if you are far more skillful than the competition. Going all-in at every conceivable opportunity tends to neutralize skill advantages, most of which come into play post-flop, where subtle judgments are required.

Think about it: How do you beat a game where half the players are going all-in pre-flop every time they have K-Q unsuited or better? Obviously, you can just wait until you have a good hand, call, and hope for the best. But that eliminates all bluffing, value-betting, slow-playing, check-raising, putting players on hands, etc. – in other words, everything that distinguishes poker from slot machines. The only way you can win is to get lucky – and stay lucky until all the all-in obsessives eliminate themselves.

What to do? As I returned from my self-imposed month-long exile from the game, I happened on something I'd heard of but never experienced – pot limit hold'em. Several top players – including, I believe, Daniel Negreanu – are on record as saying that pot limit hold'em is the most skillful poker game going. For one thing, you can't easily go all-in before the flop ... you have to build pots in pot limit, which is a skill in and of itself. And, of course, since you can't go all-in pre-flop, you have to be able to make good post-flop decisions to have any chance of winning.

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The first time I ever played pot limit – last week, on the much-maligned (by my readers) Captain Cooks site – I finished second in a $10 buy-in tournament (out of 270 players), winning $780, after which I could easily imagine how Columbus felt when he discovered America.

"No wonder he's so high on pot limit," you're probably thinking. "It's the first time he won anything online since the Clinton Administration."

I can't even argue with you. You are probably right. Solipsism are us.


Another salubrious feature of Captain Cooks is the occasional Beat-the-Mob tournament. That would be the four members of the Hendon Mob – the Boatman brothers, Barny and Ross, plus Joe Beevers and Ram Vaswani. In most respects, it's a typical $25 buy-in NLHE event, with the usual prize structure. However, there's also a $250 bounty for whoever knocks out one of the Mobsters.

It seems to me that if you are ever lucky enough to find yourself at a table with one of the Mobsters and have him out-chipped and should find yourself alone in a pot with the poor guy, the correct move is to go all-in, no matter what your hand. After all, you are getting 10-1 on your entry fee – and that doesn't even count the fact that you are more likely to finish in the money in the overall tournament if you should happen to win the hand, making you even better than 10-1.

I might be wrong about this – probably am, if anybody wants to check the historical record – but I'd like to hear from the technical wizards among you. (As always, I'll print the best e-mails in a Toxic Mailbag.)

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However, judging by the play of the one Mobster I ran into during the tournament – Barny Boatman, who came to my table nine minutes into the first level (each blind level lasted 12 minutes) and sat two to my left with exactly the same size chip pile as I had ($1,470; we all started with $1,500) – I'm probably right. Barny cleverly avoided any all-in situations by failing to make a single wager – at least not during the 12 minutes we shared a table, until I was moved to another table with $3,605, at the time No. 18 out of the remaining 309 players. (We started with 370.)



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