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Two Out of Three Ain't bad

Poker is EXACTLY like sports handicapping. Every situation has a statistical probability of success and every reward is gained through risk. Whenever the probability is greater than risk then you have a play. When the risk is greater than the probability then you don't. It's that simple.

Identifying and quantifying situations and probabilities is the job of the handicapper and/or poker player. You cannot predict the next 5 cards no more than you can predict the next 4 quarters of a football game. It's not about psychic abilities or predicting the future. It's about playing high percentage situations when value is present. Presented with enough of these situations you collect profits over time. You will not win every game or every hand, but if you always make the right plays you will win. Period.
 
Losses are a simple, unpleasant but necessary step in the winning process. We cannot win 59% of our selections without losing 41% of our selections. They go hand in hand. The only way to avoid losses altogether is to not play at all. One you understand and accept this, then you have found the Golden Gambling Goose.
 
I was playing at an online poker room this past Sunday while watching Jeff Fisher severely mismanage the Tennessee Titans (and my wager) against the Indianapolis Colts. A call with 4th and an inch and he called for a hand-off 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage instead of thrusting McNair forward to keep the drive alive. Later, a 4th and 9 gamble from the 27 yard line instead of putting up 3 points. The Titans dominated the first half of play but managed just a single score lead at the half.

They weren't getting much help from the zebras either. At one point early in the game the Titans had chalked up 7 penalties for 75 yards while the Colts weren't flagged for even one. Most of the flags came on the no contact rule after 5 yards. Not that there was much contact, but the Titans drew the laundry while Colts corner backs were mugging Tennessee receivers right in front of the referees with no consequence. Lady luck favored the Colts as well, taking a TD pass right out of the hands of a Titans receiver and into the hands of a defender who had all but given up on the play.
 
In the games final minutes, an unlikely Tennessee comeback was snubbed by a review from upstairs and a new interpretation of NFL rules which stripped Tennessee of a first and goal catch. It was a Murphy's Law sort of game on a Murphy's law sort of day. The kind that gets your blood pressure rising and renews your faith in conspiracy theories.Any ways, my poker game wasn't going much better.

I was playing a 10 man sit-and-go, practicing the end game strategy I hope to employ at the upcoming World Poker Classic in Aruba. I had been chip leader most of the game but a few bad beats had me as the short stack in the final 4 players. The event paid only top 3, so I needed to survive one more position, or double up on a high percentage hand.

The blinds were 400/200. I had 900 chips and was sitting under the gun and dealt KK. For those who don't play, KK is a very high percentage hand, in fact, the second best starting hand in poker and one of only two hands that most professionals would consider going 'All In' early in a tournament situation. Late in the event, the play is even higher percentage, especially if ante's are involved and in my situation in this particular game, KK was nothing less than a gift from God.

I went 'All In'. The player to my left folded, as did the small blind and the big blind called. We flipped our cards and my KK was challenged by his A7 off suit. The flop came J-6-Q then an A fell on the turn and then a 2 on the river. My KKQJ6 was beat by an AAQJ7. I finished 4th and out of the money in the sit-and-go.

That said, I'd play that KK again the same way today, and tomorrow and the next day and all day forever, because it's the RIGHT PLAY. A high probability situation with rewards that far out-weight the risk. It didn't win this time. It might not win next time. Or the time after or even the time after. But it will ALWAYS be the RIGHT PLAY and if we get 1000 opportunities to make the right play and we make them every time then we have a winning program. That's the Golden Gambling Goose.

Bottom line - don't over-react to setbacks. They not only happen, but they are expected to happen, as even the Golden Goose lays a rotten egg every now and then.

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