The Hidden Luck Factor in NoLimit Hold Em

Everyone knows that there's a lot of luck in poker. But not everyone appreciates exactly how much luck is involved, or the various forms that luck can take. When we see someone stay alive by hitting a 45-to-l shot on the river, we all say "What luck!" In this hand, we might think that Sam Farha was very lucky to hit trips on the flop (and indeed he was) but we might not notice some of the other big lucky swings in the hand.

For instance, let's go back and look again at my decision to just call, rather than raise, with my AVK4 before the flop. I thought at the time it was a very close play, and a couple of factors pushed me towards a call. But suppose I had been just a little impatient, or had let my concentration flag for a bit, and decided to raise instead? Here's what would have happened:

  1. I raise $150,000.
  2. Moneymaker now sees a raise and a reraise in front of him and folds his saving $140,000.
  3. Vahedi sees the same thing and folds his saving $440,000.
  4. Sam calls with his 949*.
  5. After the flop Sam checks his trips.
  6. I make a move for the pot and bet $250,000 or so. Sam comes over the top with his trip nines.
  7. I realize I'm beaten and fold, losing $400,000.
  8. Sam wins $400,000 on the hand, about $ 160,000 less than he won in the actual hand.
  9. I'm crippled, having lost almost half my chips, while Vahedi is still in the hunt.

Going the other way with my close decision would have radically affected the situation at the table — a hugely lucky (but invisible) swing for everyone concerned.

Part Two

Playing Styles and Starting Requirements

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