Losing Iron Status, Getting Back in the Game

I'd like to state for the record that NyQuil / NeoCitran and poker do not mix. Seriously, don't try it at home. I've been down with a bout of the flu over the past week which eliminated any hopes and dreams I had of reaching Iron Man status at Full Tilt for the month of January. In fact, I haven't opened a single poker client the entire time (less 3 or 4 SNG's that I completely tanked in) which was probably a very wise decision. The best I can hope for at this point is Silver Status in January, so I'll be working on Iron again once February begins.

I was hoping to play in the MATH and the WWdN this week (especially since Hoy is now keeping a leaderboard with the Monday night results) but had to put the kibosh on that plan as well. Damn flu - miss a week, miss a lot. However, I'll be relearning the game easing back into the online poker world tonight by playing in the Mookie, though it wouldn't surprise me if I donk out in spectacular fashion early on. If you are looking for easy money, come see me. I'll also state for the record that it is highly doubtful I'll be making an appearance at any blogger tables afterwards, but once my system has returned to "normal" I'll be back, and hopefully in fine form.

Details for the Mook tonight are as follows:

What: The Mookie - Ride That Donkey
Where: Full Tilt Poker
Time: 10pm EST
Cost: $10 + $1
Password: vegas1

And don't forget, there is a second chance tournament at 11:30pm EST, which will be turbo PLO. Yes you read that right: Turbo PLO. Oy. Over/under on the total duration of that game?

Waiting for the Flush

Here's a move that I am finding myself using more and more as I am playing more and more pot-limit Omaha (high) games. I call it "waiting for the flush", but what it really is is a specific form of slow-play that has served me quite well lately in PLO tournaments. This move only applies in Omaha, only when I make a very strong hand on the flop (or, less often, on the turn) and only when the current board has two cards to a flush. This can also be done with two cards to a straight on board, but its chances of success are much lower because straights are not nearly as strong of hands in PLO as flushes, so opponents tend to be able to get away from them more easily.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Anyways, here's the move. As you can see at left, I've got two suited Aces in my hand, which I raised nearly the size of the pot before the flop, and I got four callers to see a flop. The flop nailed me hard, giving me the nut boat and making me the stone nuts for this hand other than the extremely unlikely flopped quads for one of my opponents, a holding made all the more unlikely by each opponent having called a nearly pot-sized raise before the flop. So I've got a basically unbeatable boat, but there are also two flush cards on the board, and with four opponents in here there is a reasonably good chance that someone has a nice piece of this flush draw. A flush draw that I would love to see hit, since I can beat it. Already.

So, the move here is to play it slow. Since I would love to get my opponents to call any sized bet I can here, I stand a much better chance of finding an opponent willing to put some chips in here if a third spade can fall. I want that flush to fill and the person(s) who makes the flush to think they are ahead. So when the first two opponents checked it to me here, I check it right along.

Making things even better, the fourth guy, sitting on the button, then put in a pot-sized bet of 830 chips. The first player then calls the 830-chip bet, and the second guy folds, facing me with the decision to call 830 chips into a now 2490-chip pot. The question here now becomes: call or raise? Again, I know I am best here. I know it is highly likely that at least one of these guys has a flush draw, hopefully a nut flush draw with the Ace already out on the board. If I move it allin now, maybe one guy will call, and most likely at least one of the two will fold. Why take that chance of losing one or both of these guys, when somebody almost surely has a flush draw with two cards to come, and I can already beat the flush if they make it? Why not just see the next card fairly cheap, having already built a very large pot for the flop round of betting, and hope a third spade falls, so I can really make some coin with my nut boat?

So that's exactly what I did, just smooth call the 830 chips here, netting 3320 chips in the pot and seeing the turn card with three players remaining. And then the turn brought a beautiful 10♠, completing the flush and putting me in great position to empty someone else's stack. The first player checked, either afraid of the flush or going for the check-raise. With the flush just having hit, and me fairly certain somebody's got a made flush now, I knew I didn't have to bet this thing. I figured I would just let the holder of the flush bet it out either here or on the river, and then I will get allin and take down a huge pot. So I check it.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!And my friend on the button bet out 1800 chips, getting me nearly all in anyways myself. I move in my last 295 chips, making a trivially easy call for the button, and we flip our cards, and Boom! He's got just what I hoped he had -- the nut flush with the KJ of spades. Had I moved in on the flop, it's always possible that he might have called me anyways. But if he were smart, he could have folded what was essentially just a 2-card draw to a flush, which will fill only around 35% of the time. But since I waited for the flush to fill on the turn card before making any sudden moves at this pot, at this point he was totally committed to getting as many chips as possible into the hand with what was by that point a pat nut flush. And even in Omaha, a nut flush can be very difficult to get away from.

Hot Hand #2 -- Part III (Conclusion)

Well I suppose it should come as no surprise that the majority of comments to Part II of this post say that I need to fold to Pauly's raise and Maigrey's call of that raise here on the turn. Given that most of the commenters believed I should be folding automatically on the flop with just a nut flush draw on a low-paired board, it stands to reason that at this point, given the strong action from both remaining players in the hand even after the turn card here, that same concept ought to permeate the comments I've received at this point in the hand.

If you recall from Part II, I shared my opinion that I do not believe in folding a nut flush draw on the flop every time the board is paired. A low pair and not too many other players in the pot make it all the more likely that my nut flush will still go on to win the hand if I make it, and the pot should be potentially a big one if someone does happen to have a set of 5s once the flop hits. Even the best scenario for players holding trips still has them filling to make a boat in the last two cards typically at no more than 10 outs, so I would still be a favorite to win against a player who flopped a set if I can hit my flush. So, when the pot odds look right to me, I tend towards calling and trying to see the next card as cheaply as possible.

Despite all this, however, I will freely admit that I had a lot of doubts once Pauly raised this hand on the turn, and even more doubts once Maigrey called the raise. At this point it just became one of those situations where your gut tells you you're beat, but you let your brain talk you into calling down anyways. You know, "just in case". In this case, I let the math of the situation be the convincing factor, using the juicy pot odds to draw to my nut flush to tell me I basically "had" to call, and basically willfully ignoring the fact that those 1-in-5 odds I had of making my flush might very well not be the best hand already anyways. So, despite all the warnings to the contrary, I went ahead and called the raise and smooth call here and saw a cheap river card.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!

And got just what I wanted -- a third club. At least, I think this was what I wanted. So now, I am ahead of anyone unless they have a full house, and in order to have a full boat right now, that would mean they would have to hold either (1) a 5 plus a Queen, King or Ten, or (2) two Queens, two Kings or two Tens (or of course two fives for quads). That's it. The only hands that beat me here are 5Q, 5K, 5T, 55, QQ, KK or TT. Given that both of my opponents were already betting out on the flop, I tend to highly discount the 5K, 5T, KK or TT possibilities because they did not exist as possibilities on the flop and yet both opponents bet at that point. So, realistically speaking, in my own mind I was ahead of anything realistic other than 55, 5Q or QQ. These hands are just so unlikely, that now that the flush had filled on the river I had to go for it. I bet out for 80 chips as you can see from the graphic at left.

And that's when Pauly raised. Again. For the second time in this hand, Pauly raised where I thought for sure he would fold or, at most, call. Maigrey insta-folded after Pauly kicked it up, with what turned out to be just a 5 in her hand for flopped trips. Maigrey claimed her fold was because of Pauly's raise on the river, which I'm sure had a lot to do with it, but the flush draw filling on the end with three players in this pot more or less meant that Maigrey was way behind at this point, so that's not a bad fold. But you know the worst part about this hand? I still called Pauly's raise on the river. I can't really say why I did it. I knew Pauly had me beat with a boat. His raise even after the third flush card fell on the river all but iced it. So I knew I was beat. But I couldn't bring myself to fold, unlike in no-limit poker where Pauly might have bet my entire stack on the river such that I could lay down my flush. Here, I just couldn't do it. Not for another measly 80 chips into a now 1200-chip pot. So, since I knew I was behind, I went ahead and typed into the chat "I am so clearly losing to Pauly's boat. I hate knowing that but still calling." Just so they knew that I wasn't fooled by any of this.

End result: Pauly held a pair of Queens in his hand, for the flopped boat that never improved later in the hand, but never needed to either. Oh well. Did I mention that Omaha is a game of the freakin' nuts?

Thanks as always to everyone for their comments. I'll be back next week with another fun hand for us all to analyze and share opinions on.

Hot Hand #2 -- Part II

If you recall, in Part I of this post I detailed a hand the early stages of a limit Omaha hilo tournament among some bloggers on full tilt. Long story short, I flopped the nut flush draw on a 55Q flop, so with very little likelihood of a low hand being made on the hand. The sb checked, I checked behind, and then Dr. Pauly on the button bet out. Maigrey in the sb then proceeded to check-raise, leaving me with a decision of cold calling the 80-chip bet, raising, or folding and waiting for a better situation. This is the question I put to you earlier in the week in Part I of this post.

I have to admit, I was and am very surprised at the amount of commenters who said I should just fold here. I like the reasoning to some degree -- I have very little invested in this pot so far, and with the pair on the flop, I could easily be drawing dead to a made full house, or at least up against someone with trips who is drawing at a boat to beat any flush I could make. Several commenters remind me of my own advice from an earlier article of mine here, that Omaha is a game of the nuts, and with my best likely hand being a nut flush that can still lose to any number of full houses with a pair on the flop, I should just fold and get out for nothing while I still can.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!That is decent advice. But it's not what I did. Personally, I was not happy about the check-raise from Maigrey, a known excellent player of all the poker variations, and I wasn't happy about Pauly (another great multi-game player) betting out when it was double-checked to him on the flop as well. But, I just don't see how folding the nut flush draw every time a pair flops is the right move. Given that the pair on the board is low, I would still expect the vast majority of Omaha high pots to be won by flushes (or worse), so in my view I have a good draw at the winning hand. Given all this, I went ahead and made the smooth call, hoping to hit my flush on the turn and then find out where I'm really at. But make no mistake here, all things being equal the odds of one of my opponents holding two Queens or a five and a Queen are exceedingly low, regardless of who or how checkraised me on this hand.

The turn brought an unhelpful (for me) King♠. Before I could say "dammit", Maigrey had led out at me for 80 chips. With her checkraise on the flop, and now the lead-out bet on the seemingly harmless turn card, I put her squarely on trips here. Trips, which my flush draw would beat if I could hit it on the river. Now, I know the odds of me making that flush with one card to come are around 19%, just under 1 in 5. In the pot, I needed to call 80 chips to win a pot of 560 chips, giving me more than enough pot odds to stay in for one more round, and that's not even counting the implied odds considerations since Maigrey likely has trips, and maybe one of them has a non-nut flush draw that could really pay me off if one more club falls on the river. So I made that call for 80 chips as well, hoping for a friendly river club that would take me to big-pot land early on in this tournament.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Before I got to see my hopefully friendly river card, however, another wrench was thrown into my plans. Dr. Pauly raised it up to 160 chips. Maigrey smooth called Pauly's raise, and action was to me.

Uh oh. Now what? I'm now looking at calling another 80 chips to win a pot of 880, laying me 11-to-1 for my 4-to-1 shot at the nut flush. So clearly I've got the odds, as long as I'm not drawing dead to a boat. I understand most of you believe I should have folded on the flop here, but what's the right move now? Is this a clear fold, despite the slamming pot odds I'm getting to draw at my nut flush? Or is someone definitely boated up and trying to extract maximum value here? Could I be up against a King- or Queen-high flush draw who might pay me big time if I hit it on the river? What's the best play here, and why?

I'll be back on Friday with the conclusion to this post, including discussion of today's comments as well as what actually happened and what everyone was holding in their respective hands. Until then, please comment and let me know your thoughts on where the hand has gone thus far.

Hot Hand #2

I'm back today with the latest in my Hot Hand series of posts, where I describe and review a hand that actually occurred to me or at my table online, and we will discuss various options and strategies along the way as to how the hand should be played, what my opponent is likely to be holding, and possible plans for extracting chips from my opponent while protecting my own chips at the same time.

The setup is the first half-hour of Byron's latest WPBT tournament, a private $26 buyin HORSE mtt on Full Tilt. We're in the second orbit, and we're playing limit Omaha hi-low 8 or better, commonly called O8. Blinds are 40-80, and I am in the big blind with A34T in my hand, including the Ace being suited in clubs with both my 3♣ and my 4♣. The action is folded around to Dr. Pauly, who limps in for 80 chips. Heather then limps for 40 more chips from the small blind, bringing the action to me. Given my second-nut low starting hand with the A3, plus the A4 in case the 3 gets counterfeited on the board, and given my two cards to a straight flush (34 of clubs) as well as my suited Ace that can make a nut flush, this is definitely a hand that is worth seeing a cheap flop with, so I decide to check my option and see a free flop since I had already put in my 80 chips from the big blind.

The flop comes 55Q, with two clubs on the board. So, things are not looking good for anyone to make a low hand here, which is good and bad. It's bad in that I have an A3, a fairly good low, but won't likely get to make use of it here. But it's good as well for a few reasons. First, I don't have to deal with the possibility of losing the low to someone holding A2, often what ends up taking down most low hands in big O8 pots. Secondly, since I have the nut flush draw, I have a good shot of winning the entire pot with the best high hand. I have to be aware, because there is a pair on the board, but the odds of someone holding one of the two remaining 5s, in addition to one of the other three Queens in the deck, are very low.

Maigrey, an excellent HORSE player in her own right with whom I have final tabled the nightly HORSE mtt on full tilt on more than one occasion, checks this flop, and I check along as well since I am hoping to get a free card to my nut flush draw. Pauly bets out for 40 chips, and Maigrey surprises me with a checkraise to 80. Action is to me.

What's your move here? You've got a bet and a check-raise in front of you, and you are holding nothing more than a nut flush draw on a paired board. Call, Raise or Fold?

Reminder - FTOPS Events Begin Today

The November edition of FTOPS (Full Tilt Online Poker Series) kicks off today at 4:30pm EST with the first of nine events - Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Low with a $100,000 guaranteed prize pool. At the time of this writing there are 222 players registered, but satellites are running all morning / afternoon leading up to the event so I expect that number to rise exponentially between now and then.

One of my favorite features of Full Tilt Poker is that you can open up the event window that you want to play, and they have a full listing of available satellites that are currently registering for that event. You don't have to search endlessly through various screens trying to find what you are looking for. Currently, there are 6 SNG's and 7 satellite tournaments registering, so if you want to play there are plenty of chances still to get in cheaper than the $216 direct buy-in.

Hot Hand #1 -- PLO Tournament (Conclusion)

Thank you to everyone who has commented and analyzed the situation thus far in Hot Hand #1. If you haven't yet had the chance to read the first three Parts to this post, you can follow those links to do so now, because I think this particular hand does a great job of making one of the most important points I can think of regarding Pot-Limit Omaha high games, both cash and especially in tournaments. For a very quick recap, this was a hand where I had the nuts after the flop with a two-card inside straight, I bet the pot and got called by one player. The turn card gave me a higher straight, but now the second-nuts as opposed to the nuts I had after the flop. I checked the turn with this, the second best possible hand at this point, intending to checkraise to chase my opponent off from whatever draw he likely held, and when he did bet, I went ahead and checkraised him. In Part III of this post, you saw that he then reraised me the size of the pot again, and I asked for your thoughts on what to do in this situation:


As always, I received a number of thoughtful comments on this question. A few of the posters agreed with my thoughts, that I did not really see how I could put this guy on holding exactly AQ in his hand, the only hand that is currently ahead of mine, given that he had already called my pot-sized bet on the flop before an AQ would have represented a holding worth calling with. More than half of the posters, however, expressed concern with calling any more bets at this point in the hand, as I could be up against that AQ, and since even if I am still ahead right now, my hand is clearly very vulnerable to redraws on the river. And therein lies the rub, and lies probably the single most important lesson I have ever learned (and continue to learn) in playing PLO, either online or in live action: In Omaha high, when facing big bets you want to either have the current nuts or at least a draw to the nuts in order to put a lot of money at stake.


What exactly does that mean, and how does it apply in this situation? Well, I'm sitting here now with the second-nuts after the turn card, and I am facing a reraise that will essentially put me all in with my tournament life on the line. But I do not have the nuts. I think I make a very compelling argument, given my opponent's call on the pot, that I had good reason here to believe my opponent did not have AQ in his hand right now. In fact, I thought that argument was so compelling that I actually went ahead and got in all in here, putting myself allin on the assumption that I was likely ahead heading into the river, with my opponent probably dead to a flush draw and a higher straight draw as well, for a likely 12 outs or so with one card to come. This made me the favorite in the hand by around 3-to-1, so I reraised him allin with my perceived favorite hand, based on solid reasoning that he would not have called my flop bet with AQ. Call it with a flush draw, maybe. But not likely with AQ. So I got it all in here, he called my small all in re-reraise, and showed this:


Yes he did have the flush draw on the flop that he called my smallish pot-sized bet with. But he also had AQ. And I'm drawing dead to an Ace which could give me a tie in the hand, or otherwise I'm done. I didn't hit my Ace and I was eliminated from the tournament early as a result. What went wrong here? I forgot the cardinal rule of Omaha: Omaha is a game of the nuts. I know this, and I am learning it more and more, getting it more and more ingrained into my head every single day I play poker. In Omaha high, if you're facing a very large bet, in particular a large reraise, doubly in particular an allin reraise early in a tournament, odds are very high that you are up against the nuts. Period. With four hole cards instead of two, it seems sometimes that the possibility of someone holding the stone nuts at any point in the hand increases exponentially, far more than just doubling along with the doubling of the number of hole cards for each hand as compared to Holdem. The bottom line is, I've played enough Omaha high to know, when you're going to get all your money into the middle in Omaha, you better have the current nuts, or at least a draw to the mortal nuts on the board, or you're most likely going to be getting the worst of it. Although you certainly can't play a game that has you auto-folding every time someone raises you and you do not have the mortal nuts to the current board, I imagine that most players would not harm their overall bankroll too much by folding against all large bets when not holding either the current nuts or a draw to the nuts on the board.


I will be back soon with another hand for us to analyze and comment on. Thank you again to everyone who contributed to this post, and I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

Hot Hand #1 -- PLO Tournament (Part III)

OK so after a weekend full of poker, I'm back at you today with Part III to Hot Hand #1, which if you'll recall takes place early on in a Pot-Limit Omaha tournament on full tilt (I may have mistakenly reported it as pokerstars originally, but same difference). Recall that after the flop, I held the nuts to the board with a 2-card inside straight, I bet the pot and found one caller. Then the turn card brought me a higher straight, but now the second-nuts instead of the stone nuts. I posed the question to you as to what you would do in this situation:

In the end, the commenters are fairly evenly split between checking here and betting out here. Those who advocate checking seem to cite the flush draw and the higher straight possibility out there as reasons to try to wait until the river to decide whether or not to commit fully to this pot. Those comments in favor of betting most often cited the need to protect my hand and to find out some information about what my opponent was holding. For my part, as I said in Part II of this post, I think the check on the flop warranted some consideration, despite my holding the nuts at the time, because the pot was so small on the flop that even a pot-sized bet was likely to get called by the drawing hands out against me. However, in this case after the turn card, I simply cannot bring myself to think I'm behind here. I think part of any winning Omaha strategy will require sometimes betting/raising the pot when a scare card falls, or just generally when one is not sure that he or she is holding the best hand. I have played enough poker, and enough Omaha, to know that, for me, I don't want to be that guy who checked the flop with the nuts, then checked the turn or made seeing another card cheap again with a possible higher straight draw and a flush draw out there, and ended up giving the cheap cards away that beat my nut hand from early on.


As I mentioned as well in the last post, especially in a draw-heavy game like Omaha, I just don't think that giving opponents inexpensive chances to draw out on me when I have the nuts is the right way to play this game. On the flop with a pot of only 60 chips, maybe, but now with 180 chips in the pot I know I wanted to bet hard, but the 180 chips is a still fairly small, fairly callable amount, and I want to get this guy out of the hand right now if possible. And, I was convinced after his flop call that he would bet out whatever hand he was calling with before if I checked it to him now. So I checked to him, with the intention of checkraising the size of the pot if he bet, and he did not disappoint me, betting 180 chips or the full pot. I quickly checkraised him to 720 chips, sticking with my strategy as I felt fairly confident I was ahead, and wanted to price this guy right into mucking his hand now before the river came and wrecked my hand. Yes, I know my opponent could have AQ and be ahead of me. But, when he has already called a pot-sized bet on the JT7 flop, I just don't see how I can reasonably put him on holding AQ. After the fact that is easy to do, but at the time, given his potbet-call on the flop, it certainly seemed far more likely than not that he was not holding AQ, and therefore I went ahead and checkraised the pot here.


And that's when he checkraised me the size of the pot. Right back at me.

Now what do you do here? This guy has just basically put his tournament life on the line with this bet. Yet, the only thing that beats my hand currently is AQ, and to call my pot-sized bet on the flop like he did with AQ would mean chasing just an inside straight draw on this board, along with possible flush draws. So, do I do like many of the previous commenters have suggested, and assume I'm beat and just fold the second-nuts here? Or do I call, which basically amounts to putting us both allin on this pot? What's the best move here?


I'll be back with the conclusion to this post shortly, but would love to get your comments on this, the most crucial part of the hand where I'm either sticking with my strong hand, or I'm succumbing to my opponent's aggression here on the turn card. And speaking of pot-limit Omaha tournaments, last night I final tabled one on full tilt -- I have a full writeup on my blog right now if you're interested in the details.

Hot Hand #1 -- PLO Tournament (Part II)

First off, thanks to all of you for the very insightful comments on the first part of this Hot Hand post. I'd like to spend a minute discussing the comments and then move on to Part II of this same pot-limit Omaha hand. So it seems like the commenters are approximately evenly split on whether to check or bet here, given that I've got the nut straight on a board with two spades and no high cards. I think there are good arguments for both sides. The only suggestion that I could not see myself doing is betting something less than the whole pot. Those of you who have played pot-limit games with me in blogger tournaments before may have noticed that, in general, I tend to bet the entire pot most of the time I'm betting at all, so I'm not a huge fan of betting less than the pot anyways. But especially on a drawing flop, and with only 60 total chips in the pot right now, I'm going to have trouble keeping my opponent from drawing against my nut straight even if I bet the full pot, so betting less than that doesn't seem to serve any of the interests I might be trying to get at with my action on the flop. Drizz gives a very concise explanation for why he likes the check here -- basically, that there are almost more scare cards in the deck for my hand than there are good cards, so why put unnecessary money into the pot now when my opponent is likely to call anyways due to the small pot size at this point in the hand. Ryan, who is as much of a poker tournament expert as is ever likely to comment on any of my posts, has an excellent anlysis in his comment which basically explains his preference for checking because (i) my opponent is going to call the 60 full-pot bet with his drawing hands anyways, and (ii) my opponent is likely to try to bet with worse hands than mine, but not likely to call a bet from me with hands that are too much worse than mine, putting me in a bad situation.


It's hard to argue with Drizz's and Ryan's arguments for checking here, but that's just not how I roll. Most of the time, in a game like Omaha where the nuts rules and there are typically lots of draws out there, I prefer to bet the pot with my strong hands, pricing out whatever draws there are to the best of my ability. Although I'm very confident that as a rule my strategy of betting the pot with the nuts on any street in Omaha is a winning one, I think there is solid logic to adjusting that strategy when you can see that the pot is small and that therefore your opponent is likely to call your pot-sized bet anyways. But I tend to favor an approach of betting the pot to protect my nut hand on the flop, in particular with a drawing flop on the board, regardless of how early in the tournament I am. Remember, if this guy has no flush draw there he will probably fold, which is a great outcome for me given how vulnerable my hand is, so I went ahead and bet the pot for 60 chips. My opponent called. And the turn card falls:

An offsuit King, now making me a higher straight (King-high) with my Q9 instead of the Jack-high straight I held on the flop with my 97. However, even though my straight is now a King-high instead of Jack-high, see how I am no longer the nuts on the board? Now, if my opponent happens to be holding AQ in his hand, he will have the nut broadway straight and have me dominated. Action is to me, and the pot has 180 chips.


What's the best play here? There are still no flushes or full houses possible on this board with just one card to come, so a straight remains the nut hand thus far here on the turn. But I now have the second-nuts, instead of the nuts that I had on the flop. So, do you bet here? How much? Or do you check? If you check, are you doing that so you can checkraise here with your second-nuts, or are you hoping to see a non-threatening river card and then make your move? How do you play it?


I'll be back shortly with the follow-up piece to this hand. I'll tell you right now -- somebody gets stacked.

Hot Hand #1 -- Pot-Limit Omaha Tournament

Today I'm going to begin my review of a hand from a pot-limit Omaha (PLO) tournament I played recently. This is something I've done quite frequently on my blog, and it gives an excellent opportunity for you readers to chime in with comments regarding your thoughts on the hand as I go along, how I played it, how you would have played it, what I did wrong, questions, etc. It is an understatement to say that we welcome comments to these sorts of strategy posts -- we truly rely on your comments to make these posts as fun, interesting and educational as they really can be. Even if I don't choose to follow someone's specific advice here in some poker game in the future, it is still definitely the case (at least for me) that reading a bunch of different opinions and really absorbing a bunch of different analyses about a particular poker hand can have a very noticeable positive effect on my game as a whole. So in that spirit, I present you with Hot Hand #1.


This hand occurred right near the beginning of a PLO multi-table tournament on pokerstars, with 206 entrants, and starting stacks of 1500 chips. Blinds were at 15-30. I was seated in the big blind, and there was no small blind in the hand due to a table switch. I am dealt 689Q double-suited, and just one player limps into the pot ahead of me, from early position. Obviously, I check along and see a free heads-up flop since I had already posted my big blind. The pot contains 60 chips.


The flop comes 7♠T♥J♠, and action on the flop begins with me. I have flopped the only straight that can be made from the flopped cards, which will beat any trips or two pairs that my opponent could have flopped. No flushes are possible yet either, since there are not yet three of any one suit on the board (always required for a flush in Omaha, since you must use exactly three cards from the board and exactly two cards from your hand for any playable Omaha hand). And, no full house or quads is possible either, since there is no pair on the board (also required, for the same reasoning as above). Thus, I have flopped the nuts at this point in the hand. The best my opponent could hope for through three cards here would be to be tied with me, and that is only if he also holds 89 in his hand.


How do you like to play this here? Do you bet, and if so, how much in relation to the size of the pot (60) do you slide to the middle? Or, since you've flopped the nuts, do you go for the slowplay, and check it over to your opponent, hoping he will bet the pot so you can checkraise? What is the best move to maximize your expectation from the hand so far?


I will be back with some screenshots shortly to review what I did and why, as well as to take this hand to its stunning conclusion over the next several posts. First I will wait to give some time for you to post your comments -- what would you do here, and how do you like to play the nuts on the flop in PLO? I look forward to hearing from you!

70th is the new 1st

So yesterday, I played in the Pot-limit Omaha high-low split event in the WCOOP at PokerStars.

1303 people entered, many of them the very best PLO/8 players in the world.

Somehow, I managed to play smart, get lucky a couple of times, not get unlucky a couple of times, and finished 70th.

Holy shit. I finished 70th out of 1303 players, many of them the best in the world.

If I hadn't suffered a really bad beat by a hand I had completely dominated pre-flop, I probably could have finished in the 30s.

CardPlayer.com even included my finish in its coverage of the event:
Actor Wil Wheaton also made it past the bubble in the tournament, landing himself a 70th place payday of $742.71.
Even though I've made it very, very deep in events before (top 20%, including 40th at a Legends of Poker preliminary event this year) it's been in events where 10% makes the money, so this was my first tournament cash. More than the money it put into my pocket (which is going directly into the fix up the house fund, with a little skimmed off the top to buy some new CDs) it took a Prove To Everyone That I Deserve To Be On Team PokerStars monkey off my back that was starting to dig its claws into my brains pretty deep.

So I'm skipping around just a little bit today.

Okay, a whole lot.

Okay, the most.

Seriously.

ROCK!!1

Play Horse at PokerStars!

During our days off (both of them) during this year's WSOP, the other writers and I got together and played HORSE, which is a mixed series of poker games, starting with Hold'Em, then Omaha Eight-or-better, followed by Razz, Stud, and Stud Eight-or -better. Though I was initially intimidated by the different games and their strange betting and unknown strategies, it was only 3/6, and playing with friends made it a great learning experience as well as a nice break from Hold'Em (in fact, after a couple of rounds, we ditched the Hold'Em round and played Crazy Pineapple instead. Now that is a fun game!)

Now that we're all home and settling back into real life, we (and you) can relive the magic of those days off donking around in a mixed game, because PokerStars just added HORSE and HOSE to their line up of games. As of this morning, they're spreading 1/2 and up, and they're also spreading them as play money games, if you want to give them a try without risking any of your precious bankroll, or bodily fluids.

If there's enough interest, we could even play a WWdN HORSE tourney, to determine who among us is the most Chip Reese-esque.

Wait. I'm Playing Limit O/8? O/Shit.

Yesterday, I played Premier in the Weekly TLB Winner match at PokerStars. The TLB Winner gets to choose what game we'll play, and they usually choose NLHE, but not Premier. About 12 hours before I was scheduled to sit down and play our match, I found out that he chose limit Omaha/8.

I was in the girly chat box thingy with some WPBTers when I found out, and I think I said something that rhymes with "Oh sweet merciful shit. Not only have I never played O/8, I've never played anything other than NLHE heads-up. I am so dead."

I quickly fired off an e-mail to the BARGE list, begging for some ultra-basic advice. While I waited for the advice to come back, I crammed Bobby Baldwin's chapter on O/8 in Super System II, (which really needs to have teh slashie put back into the title) and fired up PokerStars. Zeem sat with me at a .02/.04 table, and for the next seven or eight hours, lots of WPBTers sat down as I learned my way around the game. It only cost me about twelve cents, and it's the best twelve cents I've ever spent. The first response on the BARGE list came from World-Famous Tiltboy Perry Friedman. Perry is scary good at poker, and happens to have a bracelet in O/8 from the 2002 WSOP, so it was sort of like getting a Hold'Em lesson from Greg Raymer (who is also a BARGEr, and scary good at poker. In fact, most BARGErs are scary good at poker, and I'm certain the only reason they let me hang out with them is because I got lucky and rolled a natural 20 when I first went to BARGE last year and discovered that I was always a BARGEr, but didn't know it, yet.)

Perry wrote, in part: Heads up O/8, except against a really bad opponent, is a card-catching game... how do you think I won a bracelet? But if you have someone who is willing to put in multiple bets when they are being freerolled, or have only a mediocre one-directional hand, then you can "outskill" them.

Against, these people you want to see flops cheaply.  If you have someone who is folding too often, then maybe you want to get a raise in preflop if they are still folding after calling preflop.

As for what are "premium" hands heads up:
- 4 cards working together for straights
- decent double suited hands
- naked AA or KK is good heads up
- A2, A3, especially with a broadway card, another low card, or card suited with the ace
- low wrap hands (2345, 2346) but these you want to see the flop cheap, because if there is no low, the hand is worthless.

But in reality, virtually all hands are playable heads up.

When I asked Perry if I could quote his e-mail, he graciously agreed, and added the following bonus advice:

- Almost all hands are playable, so if your opponent folds preflop to raises, raise often preflop
- If your opponent folds too often post-flop, bet post-flop.  Also raise pre-flop, unless him calling preflop makes him fold less post-flop
- Hands are very close in value preflop but not post-flop... This has a
few implications:
     - Against skilled opponents, get as much in preflop as possible
     - Against unskilled opponents, keep pots small preflop and get as much in post-flop when you have big edges

There was no way I would outskill Premier, who is one of the best in the world, and routinely plays some pretty high limits at PokerStars, but Perry's advice was echoed by a lot of BARGErs (who I can't say enough good things about): see a lot of flops, don't let him push me around or get into a hold'em mindset where I'm folding a lot pre-flop, and understand that drawing to the second nuts -- a mortal sin in a full ring game -- is probably okay in this particular situation. Somehow, even though I'm from Southern California, we even managed to avoid talking about water rights.

So I played with that blissful confidence that comes from knowing just enough to feel like I wasn't flying blind, and accepting that I'm supposed to lose (it was like playing Michael Jordan 1-on-1 in 1992) so it was okay if I didn't play like a champion. This is quite different from when I play NLHE heads-up, because I'm pretty good at that game, and I expect to win each time I sit down to play.

How did the match turn out?  I only made one huge mistake, as far as I can tell: I thought I had a wheel,  but that was only using one card in my hand (In O/8 you use two from your hand and two from the board, no matter what, which I knew but forgot) so he scooped a pretty significant pot and I felt like a tool.

Early on, I made what I thought was a tough call with top two pair. There was a pretty scary board, but it was only one more bet on the end so I was getting something like 12:1 on my money, so I called because it was limit (I'd probably fold two pair to a huge bet on the end in NLHE there.) I remembered reading in a 2 2 book somewhere that not calling one bet on the end when you're pretty sure you've been ahead the whole way is a huge mistake. Luckily, I was right and probably too inexperienced to see all the different ways I could have been beat there. That gave me some confidence to call more often, and may have helped him think I was a bit of a landmine (I was.) I don't think he bet on 4th or 5th street without a hand for a long time after that. Oh, and more than once I'd made a good low, and I just called on the turn and river, because I wasn't sure if it made sense to keep putting in bets when I knew I was only going to get half the pot at best.

Before the break, I had him down 2100 to 900, but since it was limit and the blinds were low, he had plenty of time to come back and crusher me when the blinds really mattered, which he did. First, I ran a Q-high heart flush into his K-high heart flush, which I still think was fine (lousy results, but still an okay play.) I play a tiny little bit of PLO, so I know enough to not draw to anything other than the nuts in full ring, but heads up, if he has the A or K-high flush, I have to just suck it up there and take my lumps. Oh, and my flopped nut low draw missed so he scooped. Doh. That brought us closer to even, if I recall correctly.

The hand that killed me was flopping the nut flush with a good low draw (I think) and he boated-up, caught a better low-draw and scooped again. The blinds were so huge relative to our stacks, I needed to catch cards to stay alive there, but they went cold for me and he won, which was totally cool with me, because he is clearly the better player.

I didn't book at win for Team PokerStars, but it was insanely fun to play both HU and in the micro-limit game earlier in the day. Considering how little experience I have in the game, I feel like I played pretty well, too.

I've found a new game to play that I probably never would have had the courage to try out on my own. If you come looking for me at PokerStars in the next few weeks, you're probably going to find me playing limit O/8 for pennies. I'm currently ahead about eighteen cents, and hoping to grind out a dollar so I can move up.

Scotty Nguyen's Acey Deucey Theory

Scotty babyScotty Nguyen is a former World Champion and he's also considered one of the better Omaha 8OB players. His advice for Omaha 8OB players is very simple. He thinks you should only play starting hands that include A-2 in it and nothing else. How funny is that! This is a supertight strategy if you ask me. He believes that if you play this way, you'll always put yourself in a good position to win. Scotty will also fold any hand with AA in it because he thinks big pairs in 8OB are useless. He also mucks the traditional high hands like TJQK. He advises that all players should stick with the A-2 strategy.

Phil Hellmuth talks about this strategy in one of his books and feels its a little too eccentric. Phil advises that you should play a little more like Miami John would. I think Scotty's strategy is more feasible for cash games when you have the time to play tight. If you use it in tourney play, I think you risk getting chipped down.

Three Wheel Card Theory

Miami JohnMiami John Cernuto is considered one of the best Omaha 8OB players in the world. He has a great strategy for playing Omaha 8OB and it's called the Three Wheel Card Theory. Your goal is to play any starting hands that include three of the wheel cards (A-2-3-4-5). Any hand with these three cards is playable from any betting position. A one bet call is a no brainer with these cards. If you follow this strategy you will see an improvement in your game. It definitely increases your chances to become a more successful Omaha player.

Now, calling a two bet or three bet preflop with this strategy might require you to consider your "position" more as well as who did the betting or raising in the current hand. More skillful reading is required when this happens. Some people might even encourage you to play tighter than John's strategy. Some people even think you should only play an A with two of the wheel cards. Either way, you will win more than you lose if you stick to John's advice. I know I did when I first starting playing 8OB.

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