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Indy Lifestyle Online
THE golden rule of poker, as everyone should know, is to start with the best hand. This fine principle is often turned upside-down, of course, when someone else improves with a worse hand to beat you. I lost two big hands recently in that way. The first occasion was at Hold 'em (two cards in the hand and five dealt face-up in common).

After playing rubbish for three hours, I was dealt aces back to back. First to speak, I opened, caught a raise from the man in the sixth seat, and re-raised. He came back at me, as I hoped, so I got all my chips in - pounds 300. He had a pair of kings in the hole. Now I am the favourite. This time, however, my opponent caught four clubs in a row, to make a king-high flush. 'Good hand,' I congratulated him, through gritted teeth.

The next outdraw came at Omaha, the four-card version of Hold 'em (you have to use any two from your hand with three from the five face-up in common). I was dealt double-ace suited, Ad 6d Ah 6h. This is a big hand, because in addition to top pair, I have two chances to hit a flush. Again I bet, caught a raise and re-raised.

Out came the flop: 6c 10h Qs, which pre-empted my flush draw, but gave me trip 6s. So I bet out. I was mildly perturbed when one player raised me. Pretty obviously, he was drawing to hit a straight on the next two flop cards.

A: A A 6 6

Flop: 6 10 Q

B: 8 9 J K

My opponent has not even a pair and I have trips. Yet, as it happens, he is a 6-4 favourite to win. He needs only an A, K, J, 9, 8 or 7 to make a straight, and has two chances to hit it. When a jack came next card, I still had 9 'outs' on the fifth flop card, either to make a full house if one of the flop card pairs, or catch the case 6. In went my last chips. Last card, nothing.

If poker were just a game of percentages, no one would ever play.