Poker

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A player in a no-limit Hold 'em game had a fantastic lucky streak. When the game started he had been in desperate financial straits. First he won enough to pay the rent, then to pay back the money he owed left, right and centre. At his high-water mark, his whole life had turned around. His wife could even be treated to a new dress.

At this point he picked up two aces. The betting before the flop before it even got to him was very fierce. There was a bet and three raises. The correct poker move was to commit all his money. He pondered and dwelt, but the threat of financial ruin was too strong. He mucked the aces and quit the game.

Bravo! I say. But that is not the view of Stewart Reuben and Bob Ciaffone in their new book, Pot-Limit And No-Limit Poker. "Clearly," they say, "he should have gone home earlier."

Why so? Poker, when all is said and done, is only part of life, not more important than life. This player, who had so spectacularly rescued his life, could well celebrate by continuing to play, both for pleasure and profit. But not on the kind of hand described above, especially as, later in their book, the authors note that in certain four-way hands (against three other flush draws, for example), aces wired are only 68 per cent favourite to win. Would you want to risk your entire financial stability on that kind of odds?

The Hold 'em story quoted above comes from the first of the 10 commandments set out in the book: "Never Play With Money You Can't Afford to Lose". This is, of course, wise advice which (when young) we have all flouted.

Reuben and Ciaffone are well known English and American pros and their new book, which covers Hold 'em, Omaha, Seven card stud, High-low split, Lowball draw and London lowball, is essential reading. There are many books on limit play, the style of game favoured in Las Vegas, which are correct but tedious. Pot-limit, as played in Britain, is far more exciting and offers far more scope for imaginative and daring play.

Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker is available from Stewart Reuben at 11 Haversham Close, Cambridge Park, Twickenham, TW1 2JP, price pounds 13 including postage.

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