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(506) 2223-1327            Published Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 224              E-mail us
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Last free trade bill expected to get final OK today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers are expected to vote this morning on the last piece of implementing legislation needed to bring the country into compliance with its promises under the Central American Free Trade Treaty. It will be the second and final vote.

The Sala IV constitutional court formally notified the legislative branch Monday that it had found no legal flaws in the bill, one covering intellectual property and containing a smörgåsbord of other legal changes.

The ruling already had been known, but the text had to be delivered to lawmakers.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia, said Monday after meeting with legislative leaders allied with the administration that there was a high probability that the final vote will be taken in a meeting of the full legislature today.

Administration officials and lawmakers who support the treaty are anxious to, as Rodrigo Arias says, turn the page on the free trade treaty. This has been a divisive issue since a regional trade agreement was proposed by U.S. President George Bush Jan. 16, 2002.

After a referendum Oct. 7, 2007, in which the people narrowly approved the trade agreement, lawmakers continued to work to pass a baker's dozen of enabling laws. Each has been fought in the legislature by opponents and nearly all have been reviewed by the Sala IV for constitutional flaws.

The constitutional court rejected the intellectual property bill initially because some sections did not abide by Costa Rica's international obligations under treaties. Among these was the obligation to consult with the Native Costa Rican groups.

The pro-treaty lawmakers responded by crossing out the offending sections of the bill.  The country had an Oct. 1 deadline to bring its laws in compliance. The work is subject to approval by the Office of U.S. Trade Representative. Once that
Treaty opponents hope
Obama will renegotiate


office certifies compliance, the treaty will go into force.

Costa Rican officials had to seek another extension, which was given Sept. 30. The United States, other Central American countries and the Dominican Republic gave Costa Rica until Jan. 1 to get its legal house in order.

Since his 2006 election, President Óscar Arias Sánchez maintained a two-thirds coalition in the legislature of individuals friendly to the trade treaty. However, legislative procedure and opponents made the going slow.

The trade treaty has minimal initial impact here because Costa Rica has benefited from the Caribbean Basin Initiative, a one-sided cut in tariffs that the United States offered as a Cold War technique to generate economic wellbeing in Latin and Caribbean countries. The treaty would replace that agreement.

The meeting Monday also addressed those issues that lawmakers would take up in the so-called extraordinary session that begins Dec. 1. During periods when the Costa Rica Constitution does not specify that the legislature can meet, the executive branch can call lawmakers together and then has the right to set the agenda. The extraordinary session will last until April 30.

Rodrigo Arias and lawmakers said after the meeting that a reform of the traffic laws and measures related to citizen security would be central to the extraordinary session.

The executive branch also wants authorization to give $50 million each to Banco Nacional de Costa Rica and Banco de Costa Rica, both state entities, to increase their powers to make loans.

Judge jails woman who said she hit ex-lover who beat and raped her
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
A judge has jailed the Parrita woman who killed her former companion after she said he beat her up and raped her.

A judge in the Juzgado Penal de Aguirre y Parrita ordered that the woman, identified by her last names of Espinoza Obando be held in preventative detention while a murder investigation continues, said the Poder Judicial.
Dead is Richard Alvarado Arguedas, 26. He died in the street from a blow to the head.

The death happened about 2:15 a.m. Sunday in  Lomas de Parrita.

Ms. Espinoza told officers at the time that the man arrived at her home drunk, beat her and then raped her.

She said she hit the man's head in self defense.

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Contraloría report is critical
of Guanacaste water planning

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A study by the Contraloría General has found a series of weaknesses in the way the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados is managing planning and supervision of the water supply in Guanacaste.

The Contraloría studied the actions and decisions of the national water company from 2005 to 2007. The region has been hit with rapid growth, and the water supply has been unable to keep up with the demand.

The situation is highlighted by protests in Sardinal where residents are fighting a plan to pipe water from that community to service new construction in nearby Pacific beaches. Developers had to chip in to pay for the $8 million pipeline.

The study said the water company showed weaknesses in the management and coordination in exercising its role in supervising the distribution of potable water.

The report also said that the water company should participate more in the development of planes reguladores or zoning plans in the region.

The report also cited lack of coordination in the process of organizing, integrating and providing strategic input to resolve different problems to satisfy the demands of residents.

The company representatives in the area also failed to inform officials of other agencies the actual situation and the potential for water, said the report.

The Contraloría called on the water company and the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones to correct the deficiencies.

Homebuilders or developers need clearance from the water company as part of the permitting process. Many developers complained that despite the permit they were having trouble actually getting water to their sites.

Second attempt this week
to install Interamericana drain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Interamerican highway, technically known as Ruta 2, will be closed tomorrow and Thursday while workmen under the supervision of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad install a drainage line and also shore up weak points in the roadway.

This is the $15 million colon ($27,300) job that was supposed to be done last month, but a nearby landslide closed the road anyway, and workmen had to clear the mess.

The closed sector is in La Cangreja at kilometer 34 on the highway. The highway agency outlined these detours:

• Desamparados to El Cruce, Aserrí, Tarbaca, La Fila, El Rosario, Rio Conejo, Santa Elena, Frailes, San Cristóbal, La Sierra and back to Ruta 2.

• Desamparados to El Cruce, Aserrí, Tarbaca, La Fila, El Rosario, Santa Elena,  Frailes, Santa María de Dota and El Empalme.

Water accident victims
ID'd in Manuel Antonio

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have tentatively identified the bodies found at Playa Manuel Antonio Sunday. They are believed to be those of two Guadalupe residents who went to the beach for the weekend.

One was found on the beach and the other appeared floating in the sea while rescue workers were attending to the first victim.

One man was identified by the last name of Porras, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. He is 21. The other man is identified tentatively by the last name of Sánchez. He is 23.

Investigators suspect that one of the men got in trouble in the water and the second man went to help and that both were carried away by a high wave.

U.S. Embassy closed today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy is closed today to commemorate Verterans Day. Friday's edition for a time incorrectly said the embassy would be closed Monday.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 224

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This walk on the wild side is certainly not a Disney movie
By Elyssa Pachico
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It's midnight on a Sunday, and there is a guy in a motorcycle helmet pointing a six-inch knife at my boss. I'm standing a few feet away with my mouth wide open, because even though I have walked home late at night through crime-happy neighborhoods in Colombia, Madrid and that infamous gangster rap stronghold in East Bushwick, Brooklyn, I am only just now witnessing for my first honest-to-God stickup.

I guess even the scrappy staffer here at A.M. Costa Rica are not immune to getting jumped on the street. We've covered shootouts in bars, women bludgeoning their lovers on the head, teenagers blasting each other with homemade shotguns and more stories about drug deals gone wrong than I care to remember. Now, we bring you an exclusive first-person account of our own late night run-in with a pair of knife-wielding, wannabe thugs.

While the U.S. Department of State currently rates the crime rate in Costa Rica as high, it is hard to say whether living here is more or less dangerous than living in any other major city across the globe. According to a 2007 study by La Nación, the murder rate in Costa Rica per 100,000 inhabitants is one of the lowest in Latin America. In casual conversations with friends, taxi drivers and the nice fruit-seller on Avenida Central who always gives me two bags of grapes for the price of one, you can get a wide range of answers to the question, “So, how stupid is it really for a young lady to walk home alone after dark?”

Some American expats will just look at me pityingly when I ask this question and slowly shake their heads, as though they can already visualize my obituary on the front pages of El Diario Extra. Some Ticos will shrug and say that as long as I'm not walking around in certain neighborhoods after 9 p.m., I'll probably be fine. Some philosophers will start saying something about there's no telling good luck from bad, and what it all really comes down to is karma, really, at which point I stop listening to them.

Here at A.M. Costa Rica, we have late nights at the office sometimes, meaning my editor will walk me up the hill towards the Hospital Calderón Guardia where I catch a cab home. Sunday night we left the office much later than usual, and were greeted by a roaming pack of straggly dogs, nosing through piles of garbage on the old train tracks. While I tried to explain to my editor why a plucky gang of street dogs reminded me of a really bad Disney movie, the bright lights of a motorcycle buzzed towards us.

“Those guys are heading the wrong direction on a one-way street,” my editor observed. As I began walking up the hill towards the hospital, the bike slowly circled around me, before pulling to a halt in front of my editor. There were two youngish-looking guys, their faces obscured by blue and white bike helmets, wearing slack jeans and t-shirts that didn't look anything different from what students hanging out in San Pedro would wear. Then one of the guys jumped off the motorcycle seat and whipped out a knife.

“Hey! Hey!” my editor said, throwing his hands up in the air and looking appropriately appalled, as the guy began yelling threats and curses, waving his knife around excitedly. The guy didn't notice the guard sitting behind the dark glass window of the adjacent hotel. Meanwhile, Thug Number Two remained on the motorbike with the engine running, watching his partner threaten to stick my boss. The street dogs looked up from their pile of garbage for a second, and gazed at us with interested expressions.

I stared too. Then, because I had absolutely no idea what to do, and because my boss is about the same size as the two motorbike thugs put together, I hitched my purse over my shoulder and began walking quickly – very quickly – up the hill towards the line of red taxis parked in front of the hospital.

My sister once had her shoes stolen off her feet when she went jogging in Tijuana, and that is pretty much the closest I've been to actually witnessing a crime, despite having lived in some pretty ugly neighborhoods. Thoughts whirled through my head – should I start
inept robber
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Sketch of intellectually challenged robber

screaming hysterically? What do people scream in these situations? Was a “Help!” or “Stop, thief!” warranted, or would a simple “auuuugh” do? Should I have gone rogue and hit one of the thugs with my umbrella? If my boss gets stabbed after I walk away from the scene, does that mean I get fired?

I looked back over my shoulder. I knew my boss wasn't carrying any money. The guy with the knife stuck his hands in his pockets and then ripped off a silver chain and religious medal from around his neck.

That was when I heard the roar of the motorcycle engine start up again, heading right at me. I gave a helpless look at the pack of street dogs, who at that point had returned their full attention to their pile of garbage. Some Disney movie this was. I stared down at the sidewalk and started walking faster.

Thug Number Two trailed alongside me, the motorcycle sputtering along. “So what do you have in your purse?” he said in a mumbling voice, almost as though he was embarrassed to ask.

I pressed my lips together and shook my head at him, as though he were offering me a spoonful of really bad food. The red taxis at the top of the hill seemed far away.

“Come on,” he said in the same halfhearted mumble. Through the slit in his motorcycle helmet, I could see a pair of chubby brown cheeks and sad dark eyes. He reached out and tugged feebly at my jacket sleeve. “Give me your wallet,” he said. “Come on.”

“No!” I said, as though I were talking to one of the street dogs. That was when I decided to start running, a stupid and pointless thing to do when someone is chasing you on a motorcycle, and when you are wearing $12 golden ballet flats (thanks, Target). I flip-flopped my way clumsily up the hill, giving an awkward kick now and then to keep my shoe from flying off. I could hear the motorcycle buzz behind me for a little while, then it turned and circled away.

From the safety of the long line of red taxis, I could see the motorcycle roar away into the dark, while my boss walked peacefully towards the direction of the police station, none the worse for wear. The next morning, he said I'd probably been left alone after the guy with the knife realized that the guard in the nearby hotel was picking up the telephone. All the bike thugs had ended up taking was the small medallion that my editor's wife had given to him 45 years earlier.

There's no doubt that Costa Rica is considerably safer to walk around at night than a lot of cities in the United States, provided certain neighborhoods are avoided and you keep your wits about you. Still, from now on when this reporter leaves the office after 9 p.m., she'll definitely be hailing a cab.

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Treaty opponents hope that Obama will renegotiate pact
By Elyssa Pachico
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The center-left Partido Acción Ciudadana is considering using the recent U.S. victory of Barack Obama as a possible launching point for renegotiating the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

In October, the party's leader, Ottón Solís, created a 13-person task force that drafted a list of criteria for revising the treaty. Members of the task force included representations from the legislative assembly, the Costa Rican chamber of commerce, environmental organizations, the University of Costa Rica and other party members. The criteria was presented in the form of a letter on Oct. 8.

“Our main criteria is that we are in favor of establishing commercial relations with the United States, but through other types of treaties and under different conditions,” says the letter's introduction.

President-elect Obama voted against the Central American Free Trade Treaty when it came before the U.S. Senate in June 2005. During the presidential campaign, he criticized the treaty, as well as other free trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. He toned down his rhetoric after public reaction in Mexico and Canada questioned whether an Obama presidency explicitly intended to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Tomás Dueñas, the Costa Rican ambassador to the United States, has said that it is impossible to know just how an Obama administration will approach the question of international trade treaties with Latin America, especially since the next president will probably give priority to a pressing domestic agenda.

“Senator Obama doesn't know Latin America, and that's a little preoccupying,” said Dueñas. “He says things from the outside, without knowledge from up front, but let's put it positively. This is an opportunity to visit him, and invite him to come to Latin America – Costa Rica could possibly extend such an invitation.” 

The Central American free trade agreement would essentially eliminate tariffs for almost 80 percent of U.S. exported consumer products throughout a 10-year period. According to the task force's proposal, the free trade treaty currently protects interests of U.S. corporations while leaving Costa Rica vulnerable, particularly in the agriculture, medicine and environmental industries.

“We propose a treaty that does not force Central American countries to turn into mere importers of subsidized agricultural products,” the proposal read.

Most of the task force's criteria for a revised Central American free trade treaty focused on re-emphasizing Costa Rica's economic interests. The treaty should establish more standards for U.S. investors, the proposal said, and also take a tougher stance on offshore drilling and researching biodiversity for intellectual property purposes.
Specifically, it criticized the treaty for imposing rules that limit the patenting of biodiversity in the region, by including the Budapest Treaty, which protects patents on micro-organisms, and the so-called veggie law, which protects patents on new breeds of plants.

Both of these agreements favor large corporations over small farmers and native communities, the proposal argued.

A revised Central American free trade treaty would also make it tougher for producers of generic medicines to earn patents, and also limit the influence of pharmaceutical companies, said the task force.

They added that a revised treaty should also incorporate the same proposals as the North American Free Trade Agreement concerning work for immigrants. Currently, under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S., Canadian and Mexican citizens working in certain professions are granted non-immigration status, which can be renewed up every three years in place of a green card.

The current treaty also does not sufficiently appeal to Costa Rica's more pacifist and socialist impulses, the task force implied.

“We propose a treaty that rejects whatever investments that contributes to war or to the weapons industry,” the proposal said. They also expressed concern that the treaty would lead to the privatization of more public services, such as the telecommunications and energy industry.

Costa Rica's more proteccionist impulses are also not sufficiently supported in the current free trade agreement, the task force argued. They proposed a treaty that does not oblige states to submit themselves to the rulings of international courts or arbitration, if foreign investors demanded such a thing. Transnational courts should not have the final say on whether investors are truly fulfilling the terms of the treaty are not, the task force concluded.

With the current deepening economic crisis in the United States, it remains unlikely that an Obama administration will assume an explicit stance towards the Central American free trade agreement in the upcoming months. However, the task force said that the U.S. financial crisis made re-negotiations even more urgent.

“The international finance crisis reveals the urgency to revise these agreements that are based exclusively on a strategy that relies solely on forces within the market,” the proposal said. It also criticized the George Bush administration for what it described as a negotiating process that took place behind closed doors, without sufficient transparency.

“The treaty's actual text has the seal of approval from the political and commercial policies of the Bush administration,” the proposal concluded. “It establishes relations that treats us as subjects and not as friends or partners, which is what we aspire to be with a Democratic administration.”

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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

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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A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

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

Visiting us

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

U.N. considers setting up
biodiversity loss panel

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The possibility of establishing a United Nations-supported scientific intergovernmental body to address biodiversity loss and protect ecosystems is being discussed at a global conference which kicked off in Malaysia Monday.

Representatives from governments worldwide are in Putrajaya, near the capital Kuala Lumpur, for three days to discuss creating a body similar to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was set up in 1988 by the U.N. Environment Programme and the UN World Meteorological Organization.

The Intergovernmental Panel has validated the science of climate change and has impelled an international response to global warming, the U.N. Environment Programme notes in a press release.

A similar impetus may help to reverse the decline of the Earth’s natural assets and spur political action, it said.

The proposed Intergovernmental Platform or Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services could trigger debate, encourage the formation of appropriate policies and elevate the issue in the global consciousness.

“Global GDP has more than doubled in the past quarter century. In contrast, 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded or are being used in an unsustainable manner,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of U.N. Environment Programme.

Treaties including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Migratory Species have tried to address these challenges but have not been able to match the pace of degradation and decline.

“There is clearly a mismatch between the reality in terms of the science and the economics and the actual global international response, which is plainly failing to make a sustained and transformational difference,” Steiner said.

Police sweep sections
of Alajuela closing bars

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de Alajuela felt the long arm of the law as Fuerza Pública officers and municipal officials conducted a sweep in which 200 persons were checked as were some 100 vehicles by the Policía del Tránsito.

Police visited El Infiernillo, Villa Hermosa, La Guácima, Itiquís, Canoas and Guadalupe. Some drugs were confiscated and municipal officials closed three bars. In one a minor was employed, they said. They also closed an Internet cafe where they said the owner was serving alcohol.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 224

Jacó is getting division one soccer. In a first ever-event,  Adrian Castro's Puntarenas team took the game with a 2-0 win over San Ramon. The stands were packed with local Garabito residents cheering for Puntarenas. Business members of the community said they welcomed the attraction to bring tourism in the area and looked forward to more games. Although Jacó is in the Provincia de Puntarenas, the professional team usually plays home games in the city of that name to the nroth.

Business leaders credited Garabito's mayor, Marvin Elizondo, with making the arrangements with the support of Francisco Fonesca from Pacific Sun Estates, Freddy Castro from Economy Rental Car and Tobias Murillo Rodríguez.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 224

Classical Russian ballet a la Tico offered this weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This weekend, Costa Rica's Escuela de Ballet Clásico Ruso will premier an original work, “Orfeo,” at the Teatro Nacional. Choreographed by Tico Julián Calderón, the dance is the first in a trio of events entitled “Ballet, Music, Creation and Beauty” intended to highlight Tico and international talent.

Calderón first choreographed “Orfeo” for acclaimed French ballerina Madeleine Lafond, and the work premiered in Paris in 1962. The school of classical Russian ballet acquired the rights to the work in a deliberate effort to re-stage the performance as a landmark in Costa Rica's artistic heritage.

The dance will be performed by upper level students from the school. Patricia Carreras, the school's director, described “Orfeo” as a piece that follows the neo-classical style, with some surprise twists.
“It's beautiful from an aesthetic point of view,” she said.

“Orfeo” will be followed by two other original pieces that are scored to classical composer Paganini's , “The muse and the poet” and “The gallant rondo,” presented by Russian choreographer  María Monakhova. She will also present another two original works, “Classic Allegro,” scored to composer Georges Bizet, and "Tarantella XXI,” scored to virtuoso American pianist Louis Gottschalk.

“They are all tremendously musical and original works,” said Ms. Carreras.

The performances are Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.
Tickets range from 6,000 colones ($11) to 12,000 colones ($22) depending on location, and can be picked up at the National Theater's ticket booth, open from Mondays to Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For reservations, call 2221-5341, or visit for more information.

How beginners set themselves up for failure with tiny bets
It’s common for beginners to set themselves up for disaster by misplaying hands before the flop.  Then, they complain about their bad luck when they lose.

Well, bad luck has nothing to do with it.  Rather, they likely committed a critical error by misplaying a pot against limpers who called their too small pre-flop raise.

Here’s an example from a recent tournament.

The blinds were 100-200 with a 25 ante.  A beginner was in the small blind with pocket aces.  He didn’t want to scare off the other players so he tossed in a very modest 300 chip raise. 

Two players limped in and called, as did the big blind.  They correctly believed it was worth risking a mere 300 chips to try to crack any hand, even pocket aces.

Here’s the first tip:  When any player shows interest in a hand by calling the initial bet, they almost certainly will call a tiny pre-flop raise, too. 

Okay, so the rookie is now in a four-way action pot.  He has exposed the strength of his hand by his pre-flop raise yet has failed to gather any information about what hands his opponents might have. 

To make matters worse, he’ll need to act first after the flop.

The flop comes 10c-8d-5c.  This time he decides to make a stronger bet, throwing out 2,000 chips.  The first two players fold but the next player shoves all-in for 10,000 more.  The beginner calls.

His opponent turns over 8s-5s to win the pot.  The beginner moans about his back luck and berates his opponent for playing a bad hand.

Let’s dissect this hand.

I rarely use the term never when it comes to poker but I’ll use it here -- never make a stingy raise before the flop after someone has called in front of you.  If you want to raise, make it meaningful.

With two players already calling the 200 chip big blind, a post-flop raise to around 1,000 would have been considered standard.  But the beginner’s initial small raise only served to reveal that he had a decent hand.  With that knowledge, other

players simply wouldn’t play the hand after the flop unless they’d caught a big piece of it.

Another error in the beginner’s play was that he raised from the small blind.  It’s the worst seat at the table because you are forced to act first on every street after the flop.

Remember, position is a powerful tool.  Avoid getting tangled up in tough situations after the flop when you are out of position.  That, of course, doesn’t mean you should automatically fold pocket aces.  But make a sizable raise that protects your hand.

Professional players would never play this hand the way the rookie did.  Instead, they’d punish limpers by raising large amounts before the flop, especially when they had position.  They’d use the power of position to isolate weak players and then try to outplay them heads-up after the flop.

Say a weak player limps in for 200.  A pro in position would raise the bet to 800 with a hand like J-9.  He wouldn’t necessarily be hoping to catch a straight or a full house; he’s simply trying to knock everyone else out of the hand and steal the pot away from the weakest player at the table.

Position in poker is similar to being the dealer in blackjack.  The dealer has a big advantage because if you bust, he wins.  At the poker table, when a weak player busts by missing the flop, a skilled player will go for the win with an aggressive bet on the flop.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s newest book, More Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.

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Jo Stuart
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