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Laundry, Part 1: Hindsight Is 20/20

Jeff FreemanI've been struggling with a label for you. I settled on "Laundry." That is to say: "Laundry doesn't fold itself." If I sound a little bitter in these next few installments, it's because I've lost a few hefty loads of chips to Laundry players in my casual poker playing career.

One point needs to be made clear: Laundry is not a Call Station. Laundry continues to call bets even if the hole cards they're holding are dead in the water. Call Stations at least have the common sense to fold a hand that isn't getting them anywhere.

Laundry players develop in a number of different ways. The simplest, of course, is the Laundry that just doesn't know that much about the game of poker.

Some beginner players, however, turn into Laundry by fixating on a few unimportant developments in the game.

It's impossible to consider an infinite number of possibilities and characters playing out in a hand of poker, so we'll keep it simple. Let's say you find yourself with hole cards. Someone else throws out a bet you're not comfortable with. You fold your hand. You sit back, joke with a friend, and pick up your beer.

The flop comes down: . Two pair! The knife of what-could-have-been stabs at your gut.

The turn card hits: ! Damn it -- a full house! The knife turns, and the cold beer you just swallowed suddenly has a sickly warm feel to it.

The only scenario you play out in your head is what may have transpired had you called a potentially lethal bet from a player somewhere higher up on the rail: "I should've stayed in! I would've had that gigantic pot, and I'd be chip leader. I probably would've even ended up winning the tournament!"

In other words, your fixation on your garbage folded cards blinds you to the action that developed at the table and caused you to fold in the first place.

What you're failing to realize is the disaster that could've befallen you. Dedicating a portion of your chips to a set of hole cards that are better off balancing out a rickety restaurant table is a slippery slope. You really, really want a hand to develop, but other players are forcing you to contribute more chips to the pot for the minuscule chance that your hope is actually realized.

So, you end up playing crap cards for a slim chance of striking it rich. You remain completely oblivious to the bets coming your way. You remain entirely ignorant to hands other players may be betting on. You fail to draw even the simplest correlations between the big bets and a developing table. All you want is a 6 to at least pair your hand on the river (while ignoring the size of the bets and the flush draw already on the table)!

As developing your playing style goes, it's very dangerous to ignore what you did right in order to fixate on what could have been. You may pull down a monster pot or two (and it will likely be at my expense), but the reality is that you're eventually going to make a very charitable contribution to your opponents' stacks.

Instead, consider the big picture. Was your fold really a bad decision? What hand could you have hoped for in holding ? There was a very slim chance your hole cards were going to develop into the monster that eventually played out. The correct decision shouldn't be second-guessed when you're faced with another two unimportant hole cards.

Don't dig yourself into a hole. You don't have to know poker odds to understand the sinking feeling in your gut every time you make a call means you should've folded a long time ago!

Chip Stacks, Televised Events, and You (Part 2)

Jeff FreemanThere’s no doubt that ESPN’s coverage of “World Series of Poker” is fast-paced and exciting. The series punctuates big pots, big hands, and big money. Some of the best players in the world sit flanked by monster stacks of hard-earned chips.

Players looking to up their skills may not realize that a highlights-based show set to the soundtrack of thousands of chips is a dangerous place to look for poker advice.

A more in-depth show is usually the better bet (and certainly easier on the wallet).

NBC’s “Poker After Dark” focuses on a single table tournament. The tournament is broken down into a week-long series of one-hour episodes. Most importantly, the show rolls on every single hand in the tournament. It doesn’t matter if a big pot rests on the river card or if everyone folds around to the big blind.

To a reckless, action-hungry player with unrealistic expectations, it sounds pretty boring – but those are the kinds of players that don’t stick around very long!

To a player that understands patience and discipline are two of the most important attributes of a good poker player, watching a table surrounded by pros mixing it up in big brother style coverage is a great learning tool.

The single table tournament allows you to watch every hand develop throughout the tournament. You’re offered the opportunity to analyze the tournament as a whole, not just the hand.

Why did Daniel Negreanu fold pocket kings? How did Chris “Jesus” Ferguson take down a huge pot with garbage hole cards? What sent “Poker Brat” Phil Helmuth Jr. into another of his infamous tirades?

Poker strategy is a lot easier to figure out when you’ve been watching the tournament hand after hand after hand.

As in “World Series of Poker” coverage, viewers have the advantage of seeing each player’s hole cards. However, they’ve also got the added ability to use previous hand outcomes to help them decipher what happens in hands that follow.

Take enough mental notes (or use the rewind button often on your DVR) and it becomes easier to see why a player decided on one course of action over another.

Chip Stacks, Televised Events, and You (Part 1)

Jeff Freeman"Why isn't my chip stack near the size of the guys I see on TV? I'm not playing enough hands!"

(Bet, call, bet, call, bet... bust!)

New players often wonder why they're not pulling in the giant pots they see on television. Before you go blazing through your chip stack betting on cards better suited as beer coasters, it's important to consider what kind of program you're watching.

Though there's a wide range of hold 'em poker broadcasts, we'll concentrate on the differences between two: ESPN's coverage of the "World Series of Poker" and NBC's "Poker After Dark." In this article, we'll talk about the former.

While watching ESPN's coverage, keep in mind that they hire a production company to cover the "World Series of Poker." In a nutshell, a small army of production magicians cover the days-long event. They conjure an exciting series of one-hour shows for ESPN.

As such, a vast array of hands could unfold before you: premium versus premium, a big bluff, a huge lay down, you name it.

You're probably watching a hand in which someone is going to win a huge amount of chips with very strange cards. Is the player with a horrible set of hole cards not known for bluffing? Did he hit two great hands in a row? Does he think he's got everyone at the table scared of his unpredictable play?

Truth is, you'll never know. There's an incredible number of variables that help a player decide if he's going to play a hand or fold it.

Coverage of the Main Event is very fast and masterfully edited. Rather than cover hand after hand at one table, the show focuses on highlights of the event. When the final product comes together, viewers are watching the most entertaining hands of the event.

You can still learn a lot from ESPN's coverage: commentary during the games help you understand what's developing. Segments throughout the series give you a peek into the minds of your favorite pros.

Above all, keep in mind how quickly the show moves. Nothing is worse than obliterating your stack quicker than a commercial break!