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17/02/2006 No.35
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Friday February 17, 2006
How to play poker
(How to play has been running from issue 16)

Sometimes, the simplest aspects of poker need pointing out. This occurred to me last week when I was playing in the French Open at Deauville, one of the events on the European Poker Tour.

A big hand came up between two players at my table: player A, an American kid who raised with most hands but gave up if he missed the flop, and player B, a young Scandinavian who played a little more thoughtfully.

Player A raised (as usual), and player B was the only caller. The flop came Kh 5c 7s. Player A bet out, and player B raised. Player A re-raised: at this point, it becomes obvious that his hand is AK. His cards are good enough to keep betting after the raise (so he can't really have less than top pair, top kicker) but not good enough to give his opponent any cheap cards (so he can't have three of a kind). He can only have AK for a pair of kings, or possibly AA. Player B then re-raised again, putting himself all in. He must therefore have a hand which can beat AK or AA.

Player A called the all-in bet, and flipped over AK. Player B showed the lowest hand he could possibly have for his actions: two pair, sevens and fives. So that was the end of player A's tournament.

Now here is the crucial question (in this particular event, the €4,000 question): what did Player A think that Player B was holding? The answer: he simply didn't think about it. He just looked at his own two cards and the flop.

With what possible hand that is worse than AK could player B have played the way he did? He might raise on the flop with all sorts of hands - any king, or much less if he thinks Player A is bluffing. But to move all in after the reraise? He must be able to beat one pair. Unfortunately, player A was so dazzled by his own hand, he threw all his chips into the blinding glare.

So this week's message is very simple, but clearly worth mentioning: always look beyond your own two cards. Whatever they are.