Games: Poker

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"You are relentless," I teased poker author Lou Krieger. He was sitting in on a little old ladies' game of Hold 'em, with $2-$4 raises. Sure enough, he caught a pair of 3s in the hole, hit trips on the flop, then waited for the turn to check-raise, and won a $32 pot. It was not too long, though, before he got his come-uppance. Playing in a tourists' $10-$20 Hold 'em game, his full house aces got cracked by a straight flush. The woman who won the pot leaped to her feet in joy. "I beat Lou Krieger with a straight flush!" she whooped. Lou sat there, looking blank. "Smile!" I told him.

Krieger has made a speciality of low limit Hold 'em. His new book, More Hold 'em Excellence, follows up his previous effort, Hold 'em Excellence. Like his unobtrusive presence at the table, watching everything but saying little, Krieger has a quiet style based on solid values. Anyone wanting to understand the American limit game (as opposed to the British pot-limit style) would benefit from his advice.

Catching the right cards is the least of it. Right Game, Right Table, Right Seat, is his formula. "The most important decision in poker is game selection. As long as you can play it well, choose the game with the weakest opponents ... Once you're in the right game at the right table, choose your seat carefully. Players who are tight, timid and easy to bluff belong on your left. Loose, skilful, aggressive players, as well as those with lots of chips, belong on your right."

This is sound enough, in the sense that a good player will win much more money from a game full of weak players than an expert can win in a game full of other winning players. But as you cannot always pick and choose in this way, good technique remains the foundation of Hold 'em. The point here is that these days just about everyone knows the opening values, the significance of position, and the importance of taking the initiative in Hold 'em. Everyone has read the books and learned from the masters.

So what is left? The ability, I suppose, to read yourself. Krieger's biggest flaw, he says, is playing when tired or psychologically weakened and then, when losing, denying to himself that he's not in top form.

`More Hold'em Excellence' is available from B & F enterprises, 2375, East Tropicana Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119, price $30 including postage.

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