A Little Luck is Always in Order

So it happened again.

I won another poker tournament.

This time I was not up against a final player who  appeared more interested in his vodka than the game. Rather, I was up against a player who had recently made it to the final two tables of the World Series of Poker.

This was the second hold’em tournament I’ve won in the last six I’ve entered, including a 7th place finish also. Upon winning a good friend suggested I needed to do this more often, that I was a damn good poker player. I am, however, inclined to find explanation for this success, for now, in another fact that is all too easy to forget about: luck.

It’s just like the winemaker. How much luck is really involved in making a good bottle of wine? Enough to pay deference to the Gods I think. I’m thinking here of the weather. I recently heard a story about the Tennessee winemakers who not only lost a crop due to a deep freeze, but many of them lost their vineyards due to the freak cold snap. And in California at this very moment we are at the point where an untimely frost could devastate those vineyards that are now budding out just about everywhere. And this doesn’t even get us to the issue of rain in the fall. I submit that in order to make a good bottle of wine, one has to agree to put themselves in fate’s hands.

I got lucky when I was dealt two aces and two other players were dealt two kings and two queens. It was a big bet and a raise before it got to me, allowing an all in bet by me that led to two calls. I was lucky. The other two players played well, but were unlucky.

I suppose the issue is perspective. I’ve always looked curiously at those who say, "I don’t believe in luck". As though any rationalization for such a statement could ever justify its absurdity. The grapegrower is a firm believer in luck. They hope for it. The better grapegrowers are sensible enough to pray for it even if they are atheists.

For those of us who really want to see lots of very good wine on the market, but aren’t involved in growing the grapes we too should hope and pray for luck where the weather and grapegrowing is concerned. Right now across Sonoma and Napa vines are taking on that tinge of green as small buds open and spread patterns of green across the vineyards. It’s a marvelous sight. Like all spring occurrences it’s a symbol of hope. New beginning. But hope implies potential. What we are looking for this time of year is the opportunity for the grapegrowers to apply their skills and talents. But they’ll need a just a little luck for the next month to assure they get to that point.

I needed a little luck to win number 2. Skill and talent played a role but it would not have mattered had I not been lucky.

6 Responses

  1. Josh - April 1, 2008

    “It was a big bet and a raise before it got to me, allowing an all in bet by me that led to two calls. I was lucky. The other two players played well, but were unlucky.”
    You are being too kind. It is almost never correct to call when there are two raises behind you. Even with pocket Queens, you have to assume that one of the two players in front have you beat. The original bettor was foolish to stay in the hand. You made it *very* expensive to see the flop, and he was out of position. Looks like he paid for it.

  2. Tom Wark - April 1, 2008

    The action by the original better depends entirely on the size of his stack as well as those of the two raisers in front of him. If, for example, the original better had a small stack or if I had a small stack (it was a bit below average) had a small stack then it might be the right move. As it turned out, he had us both covered so he would not be exiting the tournament if he lost–which he did. But I see your point. It all depends.

  3. Agent Red - April 1, 2008

    Hey Tom, Please remind me to NEVER play poker with YOU! And, congratulations on the victory. The closest I have ever come was a few final tables.

  4. Josh Hermsmeyer - April 1, 2008

    Ok, but you’d have to have a VERY small stack.
    Here’s the proof:
    If you’re smart and you figure that one of the two players in front of you has a high likelihood of having you beat right now (and a raise and an all-in should make you consider this possibility pretty keenly), you have only 3 outs. That means you have an 8% chance of making a hand that *might* will win on the next two cards. If an overcard falls, you’re totally screwed. Putting that in odds, and you are 12:1 to make your set.
    The pot odds would have to be bigger than 12:1 for this to be a good bet. You could try and factor in implied odds, but since you are all-in, there likely won’t be any more action after the flop.
    Your all-in would have to have been so small that, for example, it would have only took the guy with queens 10 bucks to call on a 120 dollar pot. You almost never get 12:1 pot odds after someone has gone all-in.
    Bad play.

  5. Josh - April 1, 2008

    That should read 2 outs, not 3.

  6. Jerry Murray - April 2, 2008

    Nice analogy to convey the nature of grape growing to non-growers. Spring is the scariest time, bad weather can be totally devastating.
    I have always said ” I would rather be lucky than good “. However, like poker, there is an element of skill and experience. I think Louis Pasteur said it best; ” chance favors a prepared mind “.

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