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Poker: Luck in the eye of beholder

Luck is defined as success or failure seemingly brought about by chance rather than one’s own actions. There’s an old saying that in the long run, poker is 90 percent skill and 10 percent luck – but reverse for the short term. In other words, luck can play a big role in any given hand.

Poker players are much more likely to talk about bad luck than good. They’re quick to impart their latest bad beat story, and they won’t hesitate to moan about how unlucky they get time and time again. If you’ve sat at a poker table for more than an hour, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s easy to blame bad luck when things go wrong, but do you credit good luck when things go right? Chances are you don’t, but you should always count your blessings.

There are many forms of good luck in poker. The most common form is when you get your chips in bad – say, holding pocket eights against pocket kings – and hit your miracle card. Make no mistake about it, spiking that eight was luck.

However, there are plenty of less common forms of good luck.

In a recent tournament, an opponent opened with a raise, and I looked down at pocket queens. I decided to three-bet, he called, and the flop came down 8c 10s 2h. It seemed like a safe board, so I bet after my opponent checked. He called and then checked when the Kd appeared on the turn. I moved all in, and he snap-called.

Alas, he held pocket eights for a flopped set. The 3c river was no help, and my opponent doubled up. It was bad luck that my superior pair got cracked, but at least I had enough chips to absorb the beat.

Therein lies a valuable nugget of advice, one that I guarantee will improve your game and lead to poker success: Focus on the good luck, not the bad. Don’t dwell on, or expect, negative outcomes, but instead focus on whatever positives exist. If you’re negative all the time, you will inevitably delude yourself into thinking you’re cursed with bad luck.

Another spot that initially seems like bad luck but has a silver lining is when you hold a big pocket pair – kings, for instance – and an ace comes on the flop. Sure, it’s frustrating, but if it plays out right, you can get away cheap.

Likewise, I’m always grateful when I have a hand I’d usually play hard – say, A-K or pocket jacks – and action explodes in front of me. Oftentimes I’ll ditch my hand and discover that my opponents had either aces or kings. Had action played out differently, I could have gone broke.

Finally, imagine a player moves all in, action folds to you in the big blind, and you look down at pocket aces. Is there any better luck than that?

Luck may be out of your control, but how you perceive it isn’t.

Chad Holloway is a 2013 World Series of Poker bracelet winner and managing editor for PokerNews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadAHolloway.