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Mistakes Help Us Learn

13 January 2006

By now, you've probably guessed that I didn't win that poker tournament. You know, the Texas Hold'em poker tournament at Grand Casino Biloxi, the one I entered just to gain some playing experience. You know I didn't win it because, otherwise, I would have shouted it out from the beginning.

But I didn't do too badly. I lasted three hours and made it to the last two tables. I played very tightly and won 80 percent of the pots I went after.

Not bad for a newbie, huh? But you gotta' remember, I studied some before I sat down at the table. I didn't get as far into studying as I wanted, but what I did study helped.

For example, I watched only the first third of a video, the part about a few good power hands that beginners should start with. Then I learned how to evaluate my hand after the community cards were turned over. But that's as far as I got with the video. Evaluating a hand told me only to keep going or not. It didn't give me a clue as to whether to call or bet or raise or re-raise; in other words, how aggressively I should play the hand that I had been dealt.

A book I started was more detailed and discussed what I was aiming for with each hand, but I didn't get to the raising section of the book. I stopped the video tape at calling versus betting, and in computer practice, whenever the computer said that it was time to raise, I thought, "Naw, I'm not ready for that." And my ignorance on that subject showed.

Because of all this, when it came time to play at a real poker table at a real casino, I played very passively. More than once, the whole table became rather aggravated at me for not raising and re-raising enough. If I had raised more, then the pots that I did win would have been larger. Everyone told me that I had to start playing more aggressively, but how could I tell these guys that I hadn't read that chapter of the book yet?

Also, I did read and re-read the chapter on poker table etiquette but in the heat of battle still managed to violate almost every rule. I bet out of turn, and I wasn't ready to bet when it was my turn. I almost folded my hand when there was no bet out and showed my hand before it was time.

I lost track of all my mistakes; I apologized so many times that I started to sound like a broken record.

But with all that, every single dealer at the Grand was very patient and courteous; no one yelled at me, not even other players. There was not a single grumpy old codger in the group, and I was very fortunate in that respect.

I just hope that, ten years from now, when I'm playing professional level poker and making hundreds of thousands of dollars at this game, I can be just as gracious and encouraging toward beginners as those players were to me.

What I hope to do with this series on poker is to tell you of the learning process from a student's point of view; I'm certainly not in a teaching mode yet. I want to convince you that poker is doable and to inspire you to pick up a book about this very sociable game. I'll define some poker terms and explore the history of poker and present some fun facts and trivia. Maybe I'll even do an interview with a real life professional gambler.

For a first try, I think I did okay. Yes, I did a lot of stupid things that embarrassed me greatly, and in my younger days I would have been mortified to ever show my face at a poker table again, but now I don't allow myself to be intimidated by my own mistakes.

After all that's how you learn - by making mistakes - and that's why I'm so smart now, because I've sure made a lot of mistakes in my lifetime. This lesson was inexpensive, and as Scarlett O'Hara was fond of saying, "Oh well, fiddle dee dee, there's always tomorrow."

Until next week, aces and faces to you.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com