The 9 Commandments ; Law of Probability ; Origins of Omaha Hi/Lo Poker

don't tilt

The Nine Poker Commandments came to me in a dream
by George Epstein
Use the nine poker commandments to win!

Close your eyes and imagine if you can: Dense smoke billowing up to the clouds! Fire racing to the sky! The ground trembles! A series of earthquakes!

Then, silence…followed by the loud blast of a trumpet as God gives his flock the 10 Commandments from Mount Sinai. It was during the Israelis’ (then known as the Hebrews) Exodus from Egypt as they sought the Promised Land, estimated to have occurred between the 15th and 13th century BCE.

Their leader, Moses, recorded God’s words in Exodus 20 and then recounted the event again in Deuteronomy 5. These 10 beneficial laws were given by the Creator to show mankind how to live a better life in the present and to please God forever.


One morning several years ago I woke up from a sound sleep and found nine of another set of commandments – the Poker Commandments – vividly embossed in my memory bank.
Not trusting my memory, I leaped out of bed and quickly wrote them down.

A few days later, I introduced them to our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group during a Friday afternoon meeting. Lacking the 10th Commandment, the group quickly created it: “Learn from Mistakes.” Great!

Imagine if the poker gods were to advise their loyal poker flock, “Here are the Ten Commandments for Poker. Religiously abide by these and you will enjoy poker winnings forever and ever. Amen.” Thus spoke the poker gods.

Thou Shalt…

• Obey the Four Basic Rules for Winning at Poker.

• Preflop, Use the Hold’em Algorithm.

• Use Betting Position

• Assess Your Opponents

• Never Play for the “Rent” Money

• After the Flop, Use Positive Expectation

• Have Patience; Don’t Go on Tilt

• Use the Esther Bluff

• Relax/Smile

• Learn from Mistakes

Let’s elaborate on some of these Poker Commandments:

“Preflop, Use the Hold’em Algorithm” may well be the most important of the Poker Commandments. (But, fact is, they all have much merit.) The algorithm was developed with one goal in mind: To make it much easier to formulate your preflop decision – Should I fold or stay to see the flop?

“Never Play for the ‘Rent’ Money” simply means you should never play poker using money you cannot afford to lose. For one thing, that would put stress on you, and you are then likely to err more often. Variance and luck are key factors in playing poker. You will experience ups and downs; and you cannot control luck. You can influence luck in your favor when you are skilled – i.e., use the Poker Commandments.

“Use Betting Position” is also an important Commandment. The later you must declare, the more info you can gather from how your opponents bet before the flop. You can see how many are staying to see the flop. If there is a raise before you, you now have the option to fold without investing even a thin dime. That info will help you to make better decisions; and, it gives you an edge over those who declare before you.

“Assess Your Opponents” – Learn how each plays his hand; try to “read” his hand. (The best you can do is to guess at his range of hands; then try to narrow down the range as the hand plays out.) If you use this info along with the other skill requirements, you will make better decisions in your own favor. Again, you gain edge over your opponents.

Bluffing is essential in winning poker. The Esther Bluff offers a second tactic. It’s a route into your opponent’s mind to convince him to muck his cards. Take advantage of it.
While playing poker, “Learn from Mistakes” – both yours and others’. Amen.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at


theory of prob

Use the law of probability to entice Lady Luck
by Irene Edith

Math has much to do with luckWhat would you say if I told you luck is closely related to math? Let me guess: Your most likely response is, “She’s daft. She must be kidding.” Allow me to explain.

Always, we seek good luck – good fortune. You catch the nut flush on the River, and beat out the guy who flopped a set; you sure were lucky! Your raise on the flop with top pair on the board forced out a tight opponent with pocket deuces in the hole. And then, on the Turn, the dealer dropped another deuce – a would-have-been third deuce for your opponent; you would have lost that hand! His folding was good luck for you.

There is a mathematical basis for these good-luck happenstances. Yes, they were chance occurrences, but there is more to it. In all this discourse, there is a key word: Chance.
Luck is a form of chance – the likelihood or possibility an event will occur. That’s exactly what we mean when we speak of probability – definitely a mathematical concept. Here’s an example to prove the point: Toss a single six-sided die (that’s one dice).

What is the probability – the chance – the one-spot comes out on top? We all know it’s 1 out of 6. And, the odds are 5-to-1 against. Try it with a deck of cards. Draw out one card at random. What is the probability it will be the Ace of spades? One out of 52 cards. The odds against it are 51-to-1.

Drawing to the nut spade flush on the River, the odds are about 4-to-1 against you. But you were lucky and another spade fell on the board. You won a healthy pot. The pot odds were higher than your card odds, so, of course, you called to see the River. And, luck was with you.

Common denominator

Both luck and probability are closely related to chance. We can view probability – a well-respected mathematical concept – as chance in the long-term. The odds simply inform us how often we can expect that occurrence. On the other hand, luck is simply a short-term manifestation of chance – what happens in the short-term – right now, as the dealer places another card on the board.

Luck (short term); Chance greater than probability (long term).


Like drawing the Ace of spades out of the deck, you had absolutely no control (no matter how hard you wished it) over another spade falling on the board on the River. But, there was a finite probability – a chance. Good luck for you; bad luck for your opponent, even with his once-beautiful flopped set.
Skill to influence luck

Poker involves a variety of opportunities to develop valuable skills. Perhaps the most common mistake poor players make is starting-hand selection. Playing too many poor hands will cost a lot of chips. Avoid these losers, and bad luck cannot hurt you.

If you are not skilled in playing against a maniac, you are bound to be a loser in the long run. Probability assures us luck will not be with you in the long run. On the contrary, learning to isolate the maniac is likely to gain you lots of his chips – good luck on your side.

Without the requisite skills, you cannot expect to bluff out your opponents. Luck is with you more often. Being skilled, you are adept at pulling off a check-raise; so you increase the size of your win. More chips in your stacks! And, of course, luck was your partner.
After playing for about half-an-hour, you have been losing and realize the table has too many aggressive players for your likes, so you decide to change tables.
Then luck smiles on you and you become a big winner. You earned it. Good luck!

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omaha hi low

The origins of Omaha Hi/Lo poker
by Robert Turner


Robert Turner credited with Omaha Hi/Lo pokerI get asked all the time, “Did you really invent Omaha poker?” Well, here is the true story. I am credited with inventing the game, and this is how it came about.

In the South during the sixties we played some crazy games like Greek Hold’em at the Greek club in Memphis and Spit in the Ocean, both early versions of today’s Omaha.

I like to tell the story that everyone cheated in the South, and in our Hold’em games so many players were holding out that we did not have enough cards to deal. So I came up with the idea of giving everyone two extra cards so they could practice holding out. But the trick was they had to use two cards at the end.

That’s not quite the truth, but it is close.

I went to work for Bill Boyd as a poker host at the Golden Nugget in 1977 or 1978. We had become good friends, so he told me just pick out any job in the casino I wanted. I love poker, so a host position was perfect.

Fast forward to 1982. I was at a table talking to a friend of mine named Gwen from Seattle who had come out for the WSOP. We began talking about games that were more fun than Hold’em.
We both agreed four cards were better than two. You could use anywhere from two, three or all four from your hand. I said I like to use two, so we decided to see if the Nugget would let us promote the game just for fun.

Bill told me he had to call the Gaming Control Board to get it approved. That very same day he said the Board wanted to send a couple of agents to watch the game, so we started playing, and they soon arrived and sat behind me while I explained the game.

We started playing $5/$10 limit high only, and the game grew to five-handed, but after a few hours everyone was bored, so we raised the stakes to $10/$20, which was a better game. Someone suggested we play it pot limit. So around 7 p.m. it became pot limit and something very strange happened; the game filled up, and we had a board. The timing was perfect.
The players were from all over the country because the WSOP was starting in a day or so. The game never broke up, and it kept going for 30 days.

After the WSOP concluded, the game stopped, but Boyd liked it so well he said he would keep it going and promote it as a $2/$4 limit game and call it Nugget hold’em.

Around 1983 at the Super Bowl of Poker in Lake Tahoe, I met Poker Hall of Fame member Fred “Sarge” Ferris who asked if I would have a cup of coffee with him. He said, “Robert, see if you can get that four-card game started, and I will back you. Try to play as high as you want.”

Ferris handed me $10,000, which was a lot of money for that time. We started a $3/$5 pot limit game that created enormous action with a dentist from Arkansas who won $40,000. The game became a huge hit at the Super Bowl of Poker.

A few years later in 1986 when I was the general manager of a card club in Gardena, California, called the Horseshoe, I got approval for Omaha poker. I started a $1/$2 game with a round of high and one round of high-low split.

We had players coming from all over to play hold’em in California, so I spread the first pot limit hold’em game in the state and the first Omaha games.

We had players like Phil Hellmuth and Freddie Deeb playing on a regular basis. A young Phil would fly in to L.A., take a taxi to Gardena just to play Omaha and fly back the same day. In fact, the first World Championship of Omaha was a $500 buy-in tournament held in Gardena.

Omaha has become the second most popular form of poker in the world. I have only one regret: I didn’t patent the game I have promoted all my life. Nevertheless, the game has been good to me for over 30 years.

I have not stopped promoting Omaha. I convinced Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles to host a small buy-in Omaha tournament every Saturday, and they will soon be spreading a pot limit Omaha game.

I owe a huge thanks to all the Omaha players who have been true to the game we love. I hope to see my friends at the table, both old and new.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry and is co- founder of Crown Digital Games. Twitter @thechipburnerRobert can be reached at robertt

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