09/10/2008

A Lesson in Omaha #3

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

I remember the day clearly when the penny finally dropped with me in how to play seven card stud well. It was when I read about the connections with hold’em (can’t remember where I read it now) and then everything just seemed to fall into place. Now I don’t play stud at all and haven’t for ages but I am confident that I could handle the game very well when called upon to do so.

But I remember reading (like I said I can’t remember) that the average winning hand at showdown in seven stud full ring is two pair aces up. Now this piece of knowledge isn’t as trivial as what it sounds and it just underlines that hands that many players perceive as being big are in fact no more than average.

Now I don’t know what the average winning hand is at showdown in hold’em either full ring or six max and there are enough differences between hold’em and stud to make a difference but I would still imagine that it is something like two pair in full ring (would relish someone posting relevant data on this if they have it).

But we all know that two pair in hold’em isn’t a hand that you can take to the bank and especially in medium and deep stacked poker. So if two pair is moderate in a seven card version of poker then what is it in a nine card version (PLO)? Personally I would probably rate two pair in PLO as no better than having one pair at hold’em. In fact in many situations it would probably be worse than that although I wouldn’t know how to measure the difference.

Two pair has more value in short handed heads up situations of course and you simply cannot be going into your shell every time you don’t flop trips or better. But I witnessed a play the other day at $2-$4 PLO that underlines my point. I wasn’t playing in the game but I knew someone in it so I railed it for a while.

Anyway, it was folded around to a player who I knew on the button who open raised the pot. Both the small blind and the big blind called and the flop came Ad-Jd-9s. They both checked to the button who fired a pot size bet and the small blind re-potted and the big blind folded. The button thought for a few seconds before calling and they both had deep stacks of around 150BB.

Anyway to cut to the chase, the board finished up being Ad-Jd-9s-6h-8c and the small blind took the pot holding Qd-10h-9d-8s for a straight on the river. Afterwards we discussed this hand and it turned out that he had held the Ah-Jc-7h-3c. He asked me where I thought he went wrong and if he should have raised pre-flop.

I don’t think that his pre-flop raise is bad when considering that he was on the button in a six handed game and it had been folded to him. But it is chronically bad if you play as badly as what he did post flop in this situation. You can get away with weakish hands on the button in PLO when you are heads up in position but your post flop game needs to be solid as hell.

I asked him what he was thinking when he called the check raise with the top two pair and he basically said that he had discounted aces because there was no pre-flop re-raise (not accurate as many players refuse to raise or re-raise out of position even with aces) and that because the board was draw heavy.

I asked him about the possibility of being up against a set but he reasoned that the potential drawing hands made his play viable because there was just too much likelihood that he was ahead. Well at least he got that bit right because he was in fact ahead. But as I said last week, many players really do struggle with the differences between full ring PLO and short handed PLO, even more than at NLHE.

In this situation then he was clearly up against a set or a massive draw and he is a dog to both and in deep stack poker, he is in a very dangerous situation here. This is another factor in why PLO games are profitable at this time, many players just don’t understand how powerful drawing hands can be over made hands. Now this hand example should be pretty obvious to anyone but the point is that you will encounter many situations in PLO short handed play where you will flop what are decent hands that appear stronger than what they actually are. Hand ranges vary drastically from FR to six max both in PLO and NLHE but there comes a time when you have to let your opponents betting do the talking.

The top two pair is a hand that needs to be played with great caution in PLO and especially with deep stacks. This principle is no different to having weak and moderate hands in deep stacked NLHE…..look to play the hand with caution and extract value wherever and whenever possible but always be prepared to abandon ship when the going gets rough.

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