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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, Aug. 29, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 172       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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eBay posting for land
Posting on eBay says that a buyer can get a lot instantly for a bit less than $10,000.
eBay marketer does steady business in Sixaola lots
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Who says land prices are sky high in Costa Rica?

Why a clever purchaser can get a 1.75-acre lot with ocean view for several thousand dollars via an eBay bidding process. Or at least that is what the Internet posting says.

Included is a photo of a pristine beach with palm trees.

The most recent sale, which took place Thursday, came in at $2,045, according to eBay records. Two other persons made lesser offers.

Despite the photo of the beach and the palms, the seller says that the property is near the village of  Margarita in the Canton de Sixaola "only a few miles from the pristine beaches." That's adjacent to the border with Panamá.

According to the eBay listing, "I have seen lots in the same area selling at much much higher prices, but I have to sell some of my properties to assist my elderly father," said the seller.

According to other documents provided by another purchaser, the seller identifies himself as Michael Leu of U.S. Land and Investment Co. in Mentor, Ohio. Leu was not available by telephone Thursday night. However, an answering machine said that successful eBay bidders could leave contact information.  Most of the sales appear to be via credit card.

U.S. Land seems to be working on a second section. One section had 109 lots, numbered from 231 to 340. The sale Thursday was for Lot 402.

Although buying land sight unseen via the Internet might not be a good investment strategy, the most recent sale validates a perception that North Americans have a renewed interest in Costa Rica despite economic problems there. Several other indexes that monitor interest in the country have shown a small spike in the last few weeks, including readership of A.M. Costa Rica.

Monday is Labor Day in the United States, traditionally the last holiday of the summer. Soon the season there will turn to fall and then winter.
As the Sixaola land dealer points out in eBay literature, Costa Rica's weather has been described as eternal spring. This is inviting for Canadians and those from the chilly parts of the United States.

A handful of development companies have been telemarketing Costa Rican land to North Americans. Sometimes potential purchasers are invited to make a free visit.

U.S. Land appears to have been maintaining a steady sales business via eBay to persons who have not even visited the properties. At least one purchaser who visited later said he had trouble finding and then entering his property.

The complexities of Costa Rican real estate weigh heavily against impulsive purchases, via the Internet or otherwise. Property access can be a problem, as previous articles here have pointed out. Unregistered easements can freeze construction plans.

Utilities are a problem. U.S. land suggests "well and roof automated cisterns using rain water catchment" for fresh water.  Land owners all over the country frequently have trouble getting electric lines installed, and long waits for telephone service are traditional.

Then there are the land invaders, individuals who move into untended property, build a rough dwelling and use legal maneuvers to gain possession. Some land owners have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars protecting against such invasions and sometimes successfully evicting the culprits.

Additionally, either through lack of legal knowledge or premeditation, land owners subdivide properties without official sanction and quickly unload the parcels. That leaves buyers in limbo. Even some well-financed and highly reputable development firms have had this type of title problem due to the legal intricacies of Costa Rican law.

The A.M. Costa Rica real estate pages contains names, contact information and listings for many reputable real estate agents whose ethics are monitored by the newspaper management.  Many buyers find that a good place to start.

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Trade treaty with Panama
gets first assembly OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A trade treaty with Panamá won passage on first reading Thursday in the national legislature without the sharp debate and division that characterized the trade treaty with the United States

The agreement, which already has been approved in Panamá, will lift import duties on 90 percent of Costa Rica's exports, according to a summary.

In addition, both countries promise to work toward better functioning of the customs services on both sides off the border, said legislator Mayi Antillón of the Partido Liberación Nacional. She noted that Costa Rica enjoys a positive balance of trade with Panamá.

Last year Costa Rica exported $327 million in goods and imported $224 million, according to a legislative report.

Some 482 firms, many of them small businesses, exported some 1,500 products last year, said the legislator.

Elizabeth Fonseca of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, said that her party agreed with the treaty. The party has been a fierce opponent to the U.S. agreement. She said that the treaty with Panamá is not asymmetrical. She meant that both countries are about the same size. The argument against the U.,S. trade treaty was that the country to the north had a much bigger economy.

Legislator Fonseca said that Panamá has had a relationship with Costa Rica since colonial times and that there are no subsidies of products involved as there is in the U.S. pact.

In addition, Panamá did not demand any changes in Costa Rican law, as did the treaty with the United States, she said.

U.N. sees regional growth
despite economic woes

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Latin America and the Caribbean have posted positive economic gains for the sixth year in a row despite the global downturn, with gross domestic product rising nearly 5 per cent this year, according to the most recent estimates of the United Nations office in the region.

Economic growth for 2008 did not match the nearly 6 per cent expansion recorded last year, but gross domestic product per capita is forecasted to increase by 3 per cent in the region for the fifth consecutive year, marking the first time this has happened in four decades.

The “Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean 2007-2008, Macroeconomic policy and volatility,” which was released Wednesday, also noted that unemployment has  steadily fallen every year since 2003, decreasing from 8 per cent in 2007 to an estimated 7.5 per cent this year.

Also continuing to drop is the poverty rate, which has been slashed by over 9 per cent since 2002, propelled by economic growth, falling joblessness, higher quality employment and improved non-wage income, such as remittances.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean said that the region will not be immune to the current global market turmoil, but it will be better able to weather the storm due to its economic strength.

Thanks to surpluses, the area’s governments have been able to earmark more resources for public investment and social spending, as well as create bulwarks in case of economic turbulence in the future, the report said.

Deputy prosecutor faces
sex-with-minor charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A team of prosecutors and law officers from San José detained a deputy prosecutor in Golfito Thursday on charges related to a long-running sexual relationship with a minor.

The Poder Judicial said that the charges were rape, corruption of a minor, paid sexual relations and making pornography. The name of the suspect was not released, but the Poder Judicial did say that the man was employed in the Golfito judicial offices.

A press release said that the relationship began in San José in 2001 when the woman involved was 15. She now is an adult and brought the charges. The relationship continued until at least 2005, the Poder Judicial said.

Because the case began in San José, the suspect was being taken to the capital Thursday to be questioned there.

Another OK on treaty bill

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa, as expected, confirmed, 31-12, a package of legal changes related to the free trade treaty with the United States in a Thursday morning vote.

This is the second to last of 13 measures that has to be approved to comply with all requirements of the free trade treaty. The measure had been approved on first reading but then it was sent to the Sala IV constitutional court for a constitutional review.

The court now is reviewing the last measure related to the free trade treaty, one covering intellectual property. That is expected to be returned to the legislature for a second and final vote next week.

Tourist dies in Jacó surf

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen, believed to be a tourist, drowned Wednesday at Jacó beach, confirmed the Fuerza Pública there. 

The victim, identified as Nehal Parikh, 32, was found unconcious in the ocean and taken to the Clínica de Jacó.  Soon after his arrival he was pronounced dead, officials said.  All that is known about the man is that he was from the United States, according to the Fuerza Pública.    

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Condo dwellers left high and dry in dispute over water
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hundreds of families in a Santa Ana condo project have had to deal with dry pipes, said a representative from the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados.   

The project is Avalon Condominiums, said Eduardo Solano, the representative of Acueductos y Alcantarillados who is working on the case. The project developers were only allowed water for construction and people were not even supposed to be living in the condominium project until it was completed, said Solano.

Instead, families moved into the condominiums as each building was completed. The Avalon project is constructed of numerous buildings, some of which are now complete and have people living in them. There are about 350 condominiums in the two buildings which are part of Avalon Country Club, said a project administrator Thursday. 

Although Solano said he could not confirm the owners reasons for moving people into the condominiums early, he speculated it could have been to finance the project.

Frank Rodríguez, a sales representative at Avalon, said that the water was shut off for four days and that it was simply to amplify the current water pipe by 50 percent. There are no problems with the water company and currently the water situation is back to normal, said Rodríguez. As to why people were living in the project before it was complete, Rodríguez said that the project is basically complete except for a few minor details.

Solano said he did not know exactly who the owner of the
project is although he later said he was working with the owners to fix the water problem. The Avalon Plaza Web site lists Grupo Sur Inversiones as the project developer and Van Der Laat y Jiménez S.A. as the construction company. 

Residents who contacted A.M. Costa Rica about water problems in the condominium wished to go unnamed. One person said someone had actually fallen ill from drinking the water.  Rodríguez said the water was not supposed to be drunk while workers were enlarging the pipes but now everything is back to normal.

Solano explained that the company was permitted to use a 19 mm or three-quarter-inch pipe to pump in water for construction but that someone had manipulated the tubes to interconnect with a large pipe that belongs to Acueductos y Alcantarillados.

Last week the water company came in with police officers and shut off the water altogether, said Solano. The owners of Avalon Condominiums had to pay for the extra water and pay for the installation of the three-quarter-inch pipe. Now once again people have water, said Solano but although the pipe is small for such a large amount of people, said Solano. “I imagine that it won't be a sufficient amount,” said the water representative.

Margel Giacometto, the functioning project administrator, said Thursday that the condominiums do have drinkable water and that the problem is with the water company not the project developers.

Years ago when the project initiated, developers asked the water company for a large pipeline, said Ms. Giacometto. That pipe was never provided, she said, and people wanted to move in right away.

Jailed priest airs a very short program on commercial radio
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Father Minor was up and ready at 9 a.m. Thursday to broadcast his new radio program from jail. He only got on the air for a few minutes when he was suddenly ordered off the air by government officials, he said.

The Roman Catholic priest, Minor de Jesús Calvo Aguilar, is serving a sentence for fraud and planned to once again host a radio program. Calvo was sentenced for fraud based on allegations that his previous radio station, Radio María, asked people for money for religious reasons and later used the money for other things.

Calvo was also investigated, tried and acquitted in the murder of radio commentator Parmenio Medina Peréz. Medina was publicly critical of Radio María and was murdered by hitmen in 2001.
Calvo had organized to broadcast a new program via the telephone in the jail and blamed Laura Chinchilla for being kicked off the air. He publicly announced that he would seek the permits to continue his broadcast, which was being carried by the commercial outlet Radio Centro. In addition to being vice president of the country, Ms. Chinchilla is minister of Justicia y Gracia, which controls the prisons.

The Ministerio de Justicia released a statement saying that Calvo did not have the correct permission to broadcast and that he must follow the same rules as other prisoners, although the statement did not cite those rules or exactly what types of permits are required to broadcast.

Emilia Segura chief of the press office at Ministerio de Justicia said higher up officials in the ministry made the order Thursday. She did not mention any names however. Ms. Chinchilla was out of the country Thursday.

Visit to museum in Parque la Sabana is well worth effort
This month marks the beginning of my 17th year in Costa Rica.  Normally I do not note my milestones, except to quietly marvel that I have reached yet another one.

Recently a friend and I visited the MAC.  No, not that MAC.  The Museo de Arte Costarricense.  It is that and more.  It is also a history of Costa Rica from the late 19th century to today.  Browsing the museum, I experienced again the reasons I moved here. 

MAC is celebrating its 30th year of its present location on the east end of Parque la Sabana in the neo-colonial building that once housed the people part of Costa Rica’s first international airport, which it was from 1940 until 1955 when it moved to its present location in Alajuela.  The Sabana location remained a local airport until 1975.  It was transformed into a museum in 1978, and the runways and remaining land became Sabana park.  I call it the “eople’s ark.” 

The current exhibition is divided into periods of presidential terms.  Each room has a banner with the name of the then-president and his dates in office.  I assume the paintings in each room were acquired or produced during that period. In all of the decades of presidents and art, I saw, aside from the conquistadors, only one weapon in one painting. Most of the works, both painting and sculptures are of people or groups of people or typical Costa Rican scenes.

Upstairs in the balcony are some terrific photographs showing the history of airport to museum, and finally, also on the second floor, the large diplomatic room.  It is known as “the Gold Room.” It is empty except when local dignities are hosting visiting dignitaries.  But the golden murals fill the room.  There in bas-relief are the different stages of Costa Rican history from pre-Colombian times to 1940.  The carved stucco is painted bronze. 

A visit to the museum is well worth your time.  For more information other activities of the museum you can call (506) 2222-7155 Ext. 103.

The visit got my friend and me talking about Costa Rica’s devotion to culture and the arts. Theater thrives. Most of the plays are in Spanish, but there is, and has been for over 50 years, the Little Theatre of Costa Rica that has at least four stage productions a year.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

There seems always to be music being performed somewhere, whether classical in the Teatro Nacional, tango at the Melico Salazar or in the churches of small communities far from San José.  The cultural centers of the various countries with embassies here often have free musical entertainment. 

And there’s jazz in the clubs everywhere or big band music — and of course, Latin, salsa, Caribbean and pop.  All of it is within the reach of my pocketbook.

Speaking of music.  This past week in the United States the Democrats have been holding their convention to elect a president.  I’ve been watching most of it. I had my breath taken away by Hillary’s speech, was charmed (and informed) by President Clinton’s words and delivery, touched by Biden, but what brought me to tears was two electric guitars and a harmonica and Melissa Etheridge’s rocking version of “God Bless America." Woven into it were “The Times they are Achanging, “Give Peace a Chance” and the rousing rock chant, “Born in the USA.”
The times they ARE a-changing.  Women were given the vote in 1920 in the U.S.  This year is the first time a woman was truly a contender as a candidate for president.

Women in Costa Rica didn’t get the vote until 1948. There have been no female presidents in Costa Rica, but there have been and are women vice presidents.

Black history in the U.S. has been as dismal politically and socially, but we have an African-American candidate for president this year.  Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would feel comfortable talking to Costa Ricans about giving peace a chance.

Yes, August 2008 marks a number of milestones about which I have strong feelings and will probably remember and celebrate.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 172

storm actrivity
Two storms and other suspicious areas are lined up like soldiers in the Atlantic
Effects of Tropical Storm Gustav cause an alert here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's emergency system was activated Thursday afternoon as the country felt the indirect effects of  Tropical Storm Gustav.

There was some heavy rain in Guanacaste. Liberia registered 97.2 mms (about 3.8 inches) between 3 and 6 p.m. The national emergency commission reported flooding in Grecia and Nicoya and increased the alert in the late afternoon.

In Grecia the problems were in barrios San Isidro, San Roque and Santa Gertrudis where a river overflowed, the commission said.

However, the rains seemed to diminish in the evening, although the track of Gustav suggested there might be more effects felt later today.

Juan Santamaría airport reported just 15.8 mms of rain in the afternoon. That's a bit more than a half inch.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, reported that it expected Gustav to move back over water soon and strengthen. At midnight Costa Rican time the storm center was located over Jamaica.

Weather experts expect that the storm will take a turn to the north in the next 24 hours.

Coming up behind Gustav is Tropical Storm Hanna which at midnight was northeast of the northern Leeward Islands. The hurricane center also has its eyes on two other potential trouble spots in the Atlantic.

The Comisión Nacional de Emergencia issued its alert for all of the Pacific and Guanacaste and also the Central Valley, although officials said the alert was mostly cautionary.

They said Thursday afternoon they expected that Gustav would be a consideration for at least 48 more hours.

Gustav is the seventh named storm this season.

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Two Latin presidents called
the most powerful women

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Forbes magazine says the presidents of Argentina and Chile are among the 100 most powerful women in the world.

The business magazine listed Argentina's President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, as world's 13th most powerful woman. It reported Chile's president, Michelle Bachelet, as the world's 25th most powerful woman.

Forbes gave the top spot to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a third straight year. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ranked seventh. Rice dropped three slots compared to last year, edged out by, among others, the chief executive of Kraft Foods.

Forbes says the women on the list control about $26 trillion worldwide. The list includes females who work in politics, business, the media, and non-profit organizations.

Quake hits off Canada

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. officials say a large earthquake has struck off of Canada's Pacific coast, but was too far offshore to be felt on land.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude 6.1 quake hit the waters west of Vancouver Island early Thursday morning. Officials say there were no reports of injuries or damage.

Scientists say the earthquake was the largest in a series of quakes in the seismically active region. They say the quakes are a normal occurrence and are too small to generate tsunamis. 

Venice film festival opens

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The world's oldest running film festival opened Wednesday in the Italian coastal city of Venice with a screening of the Coen brothers film "Burn After Reading."

The latest quirky film by the Academy Award winning brothers features Brad Pitt and George Clooney, as well as Academy Award winning actors Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton.

While the Coen brothers film is not in the competition, 21 other films are in the running for the coveted Golden Lion top prize at the 65th Venice Film Festival.

Among this year's offerings will be French director Barbet Schroeder's "The Beast in the Shadow," a thriller set in Japan, and Ethiopian director Haile Gerima's "Teza" about an Ethiopian expatriate who returns to his native village at age 60.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 172

Former California man is emulating Starbucks on Paseo Colón
By Melissa Hinkley
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Coffee.  We just can't seem to get enough of it. Yet there are few places in Costa Rica that really specialize in coffee.  Sure, they may have coffee con leche, but they don't have the mint mocha frappe, Indian spice chai or iced raspberry white mocha's that many Gringos crave. 
Hotshots, a coffee house located in Edificio Centro Colón on Paseo Colón is trying to satisfy these cravings by serving coffee the North American way to Costa Ricans.  “The coffee scene is somewhat bleak in Costa Rica considering the country is such a giant in the coffee industry,” said owner Dan Libby.

Libby came to Costa Rica from California in 2001 because of his job as a Web developer.  As he was working this job in the Centro Colón building, he was missing those special drinks that Starbucks is known for.   “I scoured high and low, east and west to find an iced decaf latte, and it didn't exist,” Libby said.  “I was on a quest for a decaf espresso but nobody sells it, wholesale or retail.” 

Instead of moping in his misery, he decided to make his own coffee bar.  “I actually e-mailed Starbucks in 2003 to see if I could start a franchise here. and they said they had no interest in Costa Rica.”  So Libby got a space in the the Centro Colon building, a few stories below his office and began to build his own coffee shop.

Hotshots opened its doors in November, inviting customers to sample a variety that is almost unseen in Costa Rica. 

“I feel we have the best coffee bar in Costa Rica," said Libby.  "We offer a really good coffee.”  The coffee served at Hotshots comes from the Doka Estates coffee plantation on the slopes of Poás volcano.  Doka Estates has been around for 100 years and the operators plant, harvest, grow, process and roast the coffee.  Usually Doka is not sold to companies in Costa Rica because most of the coffee is shipped to Starbucks in the United States. 

Hotshots offers that typical American coffee house feel with its red walls, cute tables and chairs and the homey smell of a
Hot Shot food case
A.M. Costa Rica/Melissa Hinkley
It's not just coffee.

fresh cup of coffee.  The store has wireless Internet, board games, and free smells. 

A Maine resident who sometimes helps at the shop said she worked in Starbucks for 10 years and that she was impressed by the operation here.

The business offers numerous flavors of lattes, frappuccinos, teas and coffees.  Just three weeks ago the store began offering drinks with Bailey's, Caribbean rum and Irish vanilla. 

For those health conscience individuals, Hotshots even offers sugar free syrups, reduced fat milk, and soy milk.  For those who want to accompany their drink with something tasty,  the menu offers pastries such as empanadas, molasses ginger cookies, pecan pie, and triple chocolate Ghiradelli brownies.  

Hotshots has the goal of expanding and would like to market to ex-pats living in Costa Rica, according to Libby.  The store is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.  There now is a fully functioning Web site, which gives general information, displays the menu and a map. 

A.M. Costa Rica has a policy of reporting on any new business that is operated by an expat or directed to the expat community.

The texture of the flop is something you should read
Experienced no-limit Texas hold’em players understand the importance of reading flop texture.  So should you.  In this column, we’ll examine how your playing strategy should change depending on the type of flop that hits the board.

Okay, let’s assume you’re dealt a high pocket pair like aces or kings. Here’s what you need to look for on the flop.

High flops like K-Q-9, K-J-10 or Q-J-8 are dangerous to pocket aces.  That’s because these flops will more likely to connect with the range of hands that your opponents will typically play, like 10-J, K-Q, 10-10, or 9-10.

It’s best to proceed cautiously if you have an overpair to this type of board.  If you play a big pot with this kind of flop, you’ll either be way behind or just slightly ahead.  Yes, you might be in the lead after the flop but not by as much as you think.

Paired flops can be either very favorable to a big pocket pair or very risky.  Because a flop like J-J-4 presents no real draws, your pocket cowboys will win this pot a high percentage of the time -— unless your opponent has one of the remaining jacks.

The danger of paired flops is directly related to how high the pair is. There’s less risk in a flop like 2-2-7 than Q-Q-8.  Why?  Because most players will fold a hand that contains a deuce but will play hands that contain a queen like A-Q, K-Q, Q-J, or Q-10.
While you’re in good shape with pocket kings against a low paired flop, if you’re raised on a flop of Q-Q-8, seriously consider folding your hand.  If your opponent has a queen, you’re obviously in deep trouble.

Flushed flops that contain three of a suit pose a risk to high pocket pairs unless your hole cards contains a card in that suit.  For example, if you hold red aces and the flop comes 9h-6h-2h, you’ve got a very powerful hand that should be played aggressively.

Change those aces from red to black, however, and you’ll find yourself in a treacherous situation.  Not only would you be dead  against a made flush, a fourth heart on the board would leave you guessing.  Does he have a heart or not?  That’s a

situation where folding might be the best option.

Play black aces against a red flush draw by waiting for a safe turn card before making a move at the pot.  If a fourth heart hits, you can still get off the hook cheaply.  If it doesn’t, and if you think your opponent is on a draw, you can protect your hand with a big bet.

Straight flops are scary to high pocket pairs; the higher the flopped cards, the scarier the situation.  But even a 4-5-6 board can cause anxiety.  Play defensively on a board like this because a 2, 3, 7, or 8 on the turn can beat you or force you to be bluffed out.

Dead board flops are most favorable to big pocket pairs but they, too, can be very dangerous.  A board like 8-2-3, 9-4-2, or 7-5-2 looks good to an overpair but might give your opponent trips if he’s playing a small pair himself.

Now, if your opponent raises in this situation, you can usually put him on a smaller pair than yours, two pair, or three of a kind.  You’ll be faced with making one of the most difficult decisions after the flop: call or fold.  The right decision will often be determined by your ability to get a good read on your opponent.

Online poker training is now available from Daniel Negreanu.  Visit

© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

Jo Stuart
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