dougtales I just looked at buying a quad-plex in Las Vegas so that Kat, Comrade Vape and I could form a little poker commune. We want to be within two miles of the office (the Strip) so that pretty much means we are going to be in a neighborhood that would be improved by a bulldozer.

We went and visited the place and the owner showed up at the tour. I am sure this was against the advice of the seller’s agent because this landlord was super sketchy. That is an occupational hazard of selling rental property in Las Vegas, your sellers are often super sketchy.

The occupational hazard of being a poker professional is that you attract the unluckiest people in the world. One of my first clients was from California and his story is reconstructed below.

“Hi Doug, I need to know how to play given the fact that I am unlucky. I have been tracking for four years and I get less than half as many pocket pairs as I should. When I come to the casino, people change tables so they can be at my table because statistically they get more pocket pairs and they know I get less. I know this is true because my opponents know me and tell me ‘I am the unluckiest person they have ever seen.’ What can we do?”

I “fired” him as a client after the second session. He would not let this idea go: “There is just a dark cloud over my head and I need to learn how to deal with it.” I spent most of the second session showing him a simple statistical model that showed that he would literally need to be the unluckiest player among a billion players if his story was true. He insisted he was, so I walked away.

Occam’s razor says there is a simpler explanation: He is terrible at poker and his opponents wisely encourage this world-view.

Now, as a more seasoned poker coach, I think I could work with a person like this. I could “teach him how to play through his bad luck” and eventually as he gets better at poker he would come to “get luckier”.

This California guy was an extreme example, but I get lesser versions of this thinking quite frequently. I was playing recently and a student showed up at the same table. Kind of a free demonstration of what it is I do. We are taking a break and he tells me how lucky I am. “Doug, you always have a hand when they call you down for a big pot.”

How did that happen?

There were bet sizing tells and betting patterns that allowed me to maximize those times when I was ahead. It might be overbetting and shoving when I flop a miracle straight and the opponent clearly has an overpair he is going with. It might be knowing I can go for thin value with middle pair on a different board texture. It might be knowing I have Villain’s out-kicked and getting stacks in with large bets because they can not fold top pair against me.

Overall this happens because of a fundamental misunderstanding my opponents have:

Doug raises “all the time” (pre-flop) so he must be bluffing (post flop).

Again: “Doug, you always have a hand when they call you down for a big pot.”

Well, yeah, that is the point.

Even though he witnessed the entire session, he only “saw” the “coolers” where I had a better hand. What he “did not see” was the times I won the pot without showdown or folded an inferior hand without much fanfare.

The table folded a ton when I pressured their weak ranges. He never saw my holdings then, but if he did, he would have seen a variety of 7 high gut-shots, middle pairs turned into bluffs, three straight three-flushes that caught good bluffing cards. (PRO members can access Doug’s video on this topic.) He’d see check-raises on the turn with open-enders, and bet sizing tells from the Villain that allowed me to run them over.

What else did he not see?

He did not see me quietly giving up on a bunch of tempting middle-strength hands. He did not see me declining to c-bet on boards where the range advantage was with the opponent. He did not see me declining to “bet when I was ahead” on boards where the run-out was going to be miserable for my one pair hand.

This student mentioned that Tim Acker is lucky too. Just like me, he always has it at the big showdowns.

We must me the two luckiest guys in the Mirage poker room. We should try roulette.

Showing 7 comments
  • bigburge10

    Who doesn’t love playing with the World’s Unluckiest Player?

    It seems that this player exists at every table–there’s always one that claims to hold this spot. To me, I usually spot them by overhearing them say “I’m the unluckiest player in the world” or listening in on their “bad beat story”.

    There’s a guy that visits the games I play in, and he’s this guy. Last time I saw him, he held 97o, flopped two pair, overbet the pot by a mile on a 987 flush draw board. The turn brought a J of the flush card. He then bet about 1/10 of the pot, got raised very big & all in, and he called it off. The river brought a brick, and of course, 97o wasn’t a winner. His opponent held KT of the flush suit. Our World’s Luckiest Guy tabled his hand and said something along the lines of “does everyone see how unlucky I am?”. Yeah buddy, go buy in again, you’re luck is due to turn around!

    Like you said, most players aren’t going to dispute that this guy is the World’s Unluckiest Player. You want this player to continue with that thought so that when they sit down and lose, they can blame the losses on their bad luck, and they can keep coming back. Nobody is going to explain to them that their play is bad which bring this “bad luck”. I know I’ll let them know that I can’t wait to see how they get outdrawn next!

  • Doug Hull


    I think you nailed it!

  • Bruce

    Yeah Doug,

    Haven’t even finished reading this, but when you said you fired your client, lol, that’s exactly what happens with me. Somebody seems like they wanna learn something, and good Samaritan that I am, then they start talking about how they always get bad cards, I just don’t bother with them, lost cause.

  • Jimmy D.

    Hey Doug,nice article.My opinion is that some players tend to be luckier than others.I dont mean long run or statistical impropabilities.I mean pure luck.Let me explain.In a regfest poker room,they seem to always sit with the worst regs,or fish gamblers.Just because they arrived when a seat just opened the right time ath the right table.They seem to always run good durring sessions that matter,like when a top pro athlete,drunk and in a mood to spew tons of money,sits at their table.Or when fishy businessmen filthy rich,got in amood to gamble away from the blackjack table.I swear man,3 out of 4 times i sit at such dream tables,im card dead.Or never flop any equity vs calling stations of the sort i mentioned.And when they get tired or go broke and leave,im running better than Fedor Holz and Dank Colemman combined…to earn spare change money from short stackers and dudes who buy in min and go when loose.I just seem to always be at the worst place at the worst time.And when its my turn to change table,im always moved at the nit/toughreg table.Am i getting paranoid?Or should i accept that these kind of things happen at small poker rooms?

  • Ronald

    Lol! Some players do run better in life and in poker. However, if your good you will beat this game. Lucky you makes 75 hour and binks a huge tourney or two and never looks back and poker is easy and good. Unlucky version struggles to make $35 an hour and loses 20% of that on tourney buy ins and always loses the huge pot late in tourney that would secure a final table with the chip lead. However, less lucky you should win overall. Some people do run better. Some hit Bad Beat Jack pots etc Bink tourneys and run like God when whales are giving out cars and houses.

  • Paul

    A guy exactly like this sat next to me in a room I play at yesterday and said the same thing while donking off $500.00 , a guy pulled me aside after and said he was the worst poker player in the room….you are right on the money , great article

  • Artie

    I find that the more I play this game,the luckier I get!!!