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Two ways to approach poker pot argument

Most people approach an argument in one of two ways. One way is to listen to the other parties, search for common ground and try to reach a constructive solution. The other way is to repeatedly insist that you’re right. The latter tends to be most people’s preferred option.

Poker pots are something like an argument. Several players have hands, and each player wants to make a claim to having the best one.

And, as with arguments, people approach poker pots in one of two ways.

One way is to gather information, evaluate the prospects of the hand as rationally as possible and make constructive decisions. The other way is to ignore much of the available information, play the hand to the bitter end and get angry when things don’t work out.

When people complain about bad beats, I know they’re likely prone to that lonely second route.

Here’s a hand I witnessed in a $2-$5 game in Las Vegas with $600 stacks.

One player limped in for $5, and another raised to $40 from two off the button.

The big blind called, and so did the limper. There was $122 in the pot.

The flop came J™ 7™ 5´. The first two players checked, and the preflop raiser bet $90. The big blind folded, and the limper called.

The turn was the 7®.

The first player checked, and the preflop raiser bet $90 again. The first player check-raised to $180, and the preflop raiser called. There was $662 in the pot.

The river was the 2™, completing a possible flush.

The first player bet all in for $290. The preflop raiser started grumbling.

“What, did you hit your flush on me?” After about 20 seconds, he called.

The first player showed A© 7© for trip sevens. The preflop raiser flashed A® A® and started complaining about what a long shot beat he had taken.

In one sense, the player with aces was right. It’s a long shot for a hand like A-7 to beat A-A in a pot. But on the other hand, there’s no reason he had to lose all his money. Most of the money he lost after that second seven hit was on him.

The preflop raiser might as well have played his hand face up.

The big preflop raise and big flop bet are typical for players holding a big pocket pair. So the limper should have known that a hand such as A-A was a strong possibility for the preflop raiser.

Given this knowledge, what could explain the plays that the preflop limper made from the turn on? He raised a player who likely held a big pair. And on the river, after the flush came, he made a final large bet. Unless he’s crazy, he wouldn’t play this way with a hand like K-J. So either he could beat pocket aces (most likely with trip sevens or a full house), or he was running an extremely daring bluff. Most people don’t bluff this way. Nor should they, since they’re likely to be called down.

That leaves one conclusion: On the turn – and certainly by the final river bet – pocket aces are no longer good. If the preflop raiser had paid attention to his opponent and interpreted the information logically, he could have saved himself a lot of money.

Ed Miller is the author of nine poker strategy books with more than a quarter-million copies sold. Check out his latest book, “The Course: Serious Hold ‘Em Strategy for Smart Players,” at Amazon or at his website, edmillerpoker.com.)