Fortune favors the brave at the poker table

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There’s a Latin proverb that’s roughly translated to “Fortune Favors the Brave.” I’m sure you’ve sat at a few poker tables and witnessed a few players whom the Poker Gods appear to favor greatly. They play like a plumber from Kenya. They make all of their flushes and run good over a marathon session. Is it really luck, though?

Let me describe a hand I recently played where the general sentiment seemed to be that I was a complete luckbox. In the first one, I was on the button and called an early position raiser with {a-Spades}{5-Spades}. I was familiar with the raiser’s play, which was fairly straight forward and predictable and, thus, easily manipulated. We saw the flop heads-up and it came {10-Diamonds}{7-Hearts}{2-Spades}. Our initial raiser made a predictable continuation bet and I decided to float, so I called with every intention of taking the pot on the turn.

The turn brought the {a-Clubs} and my opponent checked. Now, I changed gears. Whereas my original intention was to take the pot down when my opponent checked the turn, I now decided to check as well. Why? I thought my hand was good and the best way to get value was to check. I figured I was only getting called by a better hand at this point.

The river brought a blank and my opponent fired away at the pot. I called and he turned over pocket eights. I showed my hand and raked the pot. As I was stacking my chips, he made the comment that I was drawing to an ace after the flop, implying it was a weak call and I got lucky. I said. “If that’s what you think.” At that point he got indignant and said something along the line that of course I was drawing to an ace as that was the only card that could help me. Instead of arguing, I just nodded and said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

The fact is I didn’t like that ace on the turn when it first appeared. I thought it could be a trouble card for me as my opponent could easily have a bigger ace.

I was hoping for a blank that would allow me to win the pot. I was playing position and my opponent. I lucked out with the ace but just about any card other than an eight and I’m going to win that pot as I know my opponent doesn’t have the stomach to get into a battle there.

When you’re playing poker and taking calculated risks to win pots without the fortune of cards, sometimes the cards will end up bailing you out anyway. It certainly looks like fortune is shining on me. But fortune doesn’t shine on me in this hand if I give up on the flop because I missed. I wasn’t playing for a three-outer. Rather, I was playing my opponent and was most likely going to win that hand no matter what.

— David Apostolico is the author of numerous poker strategy books including Tournament Poker and The Art of War. His latest, You are the Variable is available on Kindle. Contact him at thepokerwriter@aol.com.