HARD POKER TRUTH: You can play a hand perfectly and lose.
That's one of the toughest psychological lessons for amateurs, because they tend to be results-oriented. The top players, meanwhile, focus on having the favored hand when all the money gets in because they can't control the deck, as former champion Greg Raymer painfully discovered again in this hand from the 2010 World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in main event at the Rio Hotel.
With blinds at $50-$100, an early-position player raised to $300. Raymer called with K-Q of diamonds in middle position. The small blind reraised to $1,000. With deep stacks early, the initial raiser and Raymer called.
The flop came K-10-2, two diamonds, giving Raymer top pair and the second-nut flush draw. The small blind checked. The initial raiser made it $1,500. Raymer called. The small blind check-raised to $5,000. The initial raiser folded.
"If he's reraising out of position pre-flop, he probably has a good hand," said Raymer, winner of the 2004 main event. "But then he checks this flop. He could be trapping. When he check-raises, I decided he probably does have two aces.
"Our stacks are $30,000 deep [Raymer has his opponent covered by several thousand]. I've decided that if I shove in here, it really looks like a set. If he has two aces, I'm thinking it's the first level of the main event, and he's not going to take a chance of going broke with two aces in this spot. He seemed like he was an aware enough player.
"If he calls me with two aces, I have 14 outs twice and I'm the favorite to win. If he had called me and showed two aces and said, 'I'll trade with you,' I'd have said no because I'm over 50 percent to win with K-Q of diamonds."
Raymer shoved. His opponent called and showed pocket 10's for a set. The turn came the 8 of spades, the river came the 5 of clubs, and Raymer was crippled.
"I didn't think a pair of 10's was likely," said Raymer. "First of all, there's a 10 on the board. Now, there are three ways he can make pocket 10's and six ways he can make pocket aces, six ways he can make pockets kings. Those hands become statistically more likely.
"When you're deep-stacked like that, I hate his re-raise pre-flop with two 10's because now if the initial raiser in early position makes it $3,000, the blind has to fold two 10s . . . That's poker. Sometimes you make absolutely the wrong decision and it works out; sometimes you make the right play and you lose."
Steve Rosenbloom is a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the author of the book "The Best Hand I Ever Played." He can be reached at