Poker Reinforces A Life Lesson

Last night I made a lousy play at free poker. If you’re not a fan of cards, you’re free to skip down to “What would you do?” and read the lesson at the end. If you’d like to learn a bit about poker follow along.

I sat down feeling loose and lucky. We were playing a free No Limit Hold ‘em poker tournament, so the consequences of losing are limited to the embarrassment of standing up and going home early. With nothing invested, the game tends to be loose and fun, so if you are a serious poker player, you need to take that into account.

I dealt and looked down at Ace, King. A premium hand.


The player under the gun (first after the blinds) raised three times the big blind. This is a standard raise from a decent, but not tight player. He said, “I have to raise.” This is a tell. Anytime a player justifies his betting or raising, he wants you to call because he has a good hand.

Play folded to me. I raised, quadrupling the initial raise. I said to the two players on my left that I was raising only to get them to fold. I was signaling them to fold, intentionally giving them a tell because I wanted them out. The reason is that I figured my opponent for Ace, Queen. With Ace, King I had a massive advantage heads-up.

The loose players to my left both called in spite of my warning not to.

The flop came Ace, Queen, Six. Two spades.

The initial raiser bet six hundred. This was another big signal. He told me that even though I raised him pre-flop, he was betting anyway.

I raised him again. Part of my reasoning in raising was to push out someone holding two spades or a straight draw.

The two loose players folded.

The initial raiser moved all-in.


I had a decision. I had a pair of Aces with a King kicker. Half my chips were in the pot on the first hand of the night. I put my opponent on Ace, Queen pre-flop. If I was right, he had two pair giving me just three outs. (I needed one of the three remaining Kings). That’s a 12% chance of winning. My only hope was that he was on Ace, Ten or Ace Jack.

What would you do?

I’m not going to tell you what his hand was in case you want to figure it out yourself. Go back, reread, and make your guess now. The answer will come in a paragraph or two.

I lost the hand, but when I got home I was really happy about it. I wasn’t happy about losing, but how I lost. I laughed it off, shook my opponent’s hand and left the bar with a smile after talking with a few friends.

This is a big departure for me. I was a good sport before, but I would beat myself up for bad decisions and make myself miserable every time I made a poor play. In the last year or so, I’ve learned that winning or losing in poker doesn’t change my value in the world. I can look at my mistakes, evaluate my actions, and move on. It’s like I’m finally a grown-up!

This may seem silly, but you’d be amazed how many poker players get ripping mad when things don’t go their way. They turn red, yell, slam the table and throw things. None of this helps of course. Emotion only clouds decision making. The best advice I can give you is not to gamble what you can’t afford to lose and to focus on having fun and playing your best. Poker has a lot to offer. Most of your decisions come with limited information just like in business and life. IMHO there is not a better laboratory for understanding human behavior. Enjoy poker for what it is: entertainment.

If you are still wondering what my opponent held, he had pocket queens. He flopped a set (3 of a kind with two hidden), and knocked me out of the game on the very first hand.

Let’s back and evaluate my play. Raising pre-flop to get the two blinds to fold was a good idea with a premium hand. Raising his bet on the flop was questionable. I felt I was behind but ignored my instincts. To be fair, folding Aces with a King kicker would have been a world-class play. The big mistake was calling after he moved all-in. I knew I was beaten and I called hoping to get lucky.

I hope you enjoyed learning vicariously from my mistake. Maybe next week I’ll have a good play to tell you about. Here’s hoping!






5 Comments on “Poker Reinforces A Life Lesson”

  1. As a poker player myself, my comment might be just as long as this post. So, I’ll just say… I coulda beat you! LOL!

  2. OMG, I was addicted to online (free) poker for about a year. Not really addicted, but I wasted a lot of time online. The human condition causes much more crazy bidding when there’s no actual money involved and it got annoying when people just started going all-in before the flop. It was just annoying, but cured my desire to play.

    But the moral of your story, it is amazing when you realize adulthood and grabbed you by the shorties. Of course, my 15 year old just told me I’m her best friend because I said, “no-no square.” So, maybe I’m not as grown up as I’d like to pretend. I’ve gotten over the short fuse though. Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time.

    Hope you kick some booty next time!

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