Every month I divulge some of the strategies that I have learned about this game. This month, I would like to share a secret that most people don't know: I am the luckiest player in poker.
It's true. I can't believe how often I get lucky at the poker table. Just recently I was playing in a tournament against other members of my website, www.InternetTexasHoldem.com. The flop came J 10 8. A player bet about two-thirds of the pot and I moved all in with the K Q. I was rather short-stacked and needed to make a move. The button called, and I instantly knew that I was in trouble. He showed the A 9. Not only did he have the best hand, but he also had the best draw. The turn was a 7, giving him a straight. But a 9 hit the river and I had the nuts. I have such great luck! I took that pot and went on to win the tournament.
At this year's World Series of Poker, I was playing in a $1,500 no-limit hold'em event. During the third and fourth hour, I was dealt K-K four times, Q-Q three times, J-J twice, and A-Konce. What a lucky run of cards! Few players have seen a run of cards like that. I must be the luckiest player in poker.
In another event at the World Series, I raised from middle position with a fairly short stack. There were about 25 players left in the tournament. I was taking a beating at the table. Every time I raised with medium strength, it seemed like someone moved over me. Was I just running into monsters every hand? Everyone folded around to the big blind, who put me all in. I thought a little while and decided that I needed to make a stand. My K-Q hit a queen and I managed to put a bad beat on my opponent, who was holding A-K. I almost felt sorry for him, as this was his third or fourth bad beat in a little more than two hours, but he should have known better than to get involved with the luckiest player in poker.
I was playing in another tournament and was rather aggressive preflop, raising with a variety of hands. I raised with 8-6 and the flop came 9-7-5. Wow! My opponents have no chance against a player as lucky as me!
In one of the first events of the World Series this year, $1,500 no-limit hold'em, I had about $1,000 in chips remaining in a three-way pot. The first player made close to a pot-sized bet. I had a flush draw, a gutshot-straight draw, and two overcards. This was a strong draw. I could have tried calling to see the turn, but I decided the pot was big enough that I would just gamble and try to pick it up right there. Unfortunately, the opponent behind me woke up with something and put me all in. I was pot-committed at that point. He had a set, but just didn't realize that luck was on my side. I hit the flush on the river and he mumbled, "What are you doing playing in the World Series of Poker?" I kept quiet. I just didn't have the heart to tell him that I am the luckiest player in poker.
I could go on and on with stories like this, but hopefully I've made my point. I am indeed a contender for the luckiest player in poker. I just had to share it with someone, and this column was the perfect opportunity to do it.
Seriously, I hope you don't really believe that I am the luckiest player in poker. I'm no more lucky or unlucky than the next guy. Whenever someone tells me a bad-beat story, I always think to myself that he doesn't know what a truly bad beat is. In fact, for every bad-beat story, there is always someone who has had worse luck at the tables. Just ask T.J. Cloutier about the 2000 WSOP main event. I always laugh inside when I tell my story about losing when deep in the main event of the WSOP and the person responds by telling me about some crazy beat he suffered in a $2-$4 limit game! Nevertheless, here is my story. Please bear with me, as there is a moral to the story.
In the 2004 WSOP main event, there were 33 players left in the tournament when I had pocket aces cracked by Al Krux's pocket tens. I exited the tournament shortly thereafter, and Krux, who would have finished 33rd, took those chips and finished in sixth place, which was good for $800,000. I still wonder today how my life might be different right now if that 10 had not fallen on the river. Maybe the poker landscape would be quite different and I would be a world champion.
There was another player who had his pocket aces cracked by pocket tens that year. His name was Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, and he did become the world champion that year. Both of our hands played out pretty much the same way. All of the money went in before the flop, and our opponents hit their sets.
But there was one major difference: Raymer had played much better poker leading up to his bad beat. His skill over several days of poker enabled him to absorb a bad beat better than me. Although I was still alive following my beat, I was short-stacked. Had I played better poker during those few days leading up to my bad beat, maybe just in one hand, having some additional chips would have given me more leverage to get back in the tournament following my bad beat.
Everyone likes to tell the bad-beat story about how he exited a tournament, but he usually doesn't think about his play before the bad beat and how he could have improved his chances to survive a bad beat and possibly changed his destiny.
The moral of the story is this: We all get lucky and unlucky, which we really can't control. What we can control is how we play each hand to maximize our winnings and minimize our losses. Do that, and maybe luck won't matter as much.
But, it's true, I am lucky; all I have to do is look at my wife and kids to know it.
This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.
Matthew is the owner of Dimat Enterprises, “Publishing Today’s Best Poker Books”. The Math of Hold’em by Collin Moshman and Douglas Zare is available now at pokerbooks.InternetTexasHoldem.com.