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Rolf Slotboom

Rolf Slotboom

Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha Excerpt 2

By Rolf Slotboom (23/10/2006)

Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha by Rolf SlotboomThis week we’re publishing second excerpt from professional Dutch player and author Rolf Slotboom’s recently released book. Rolf is an expert limit hold’em and Omaha player. You can read first excerpt here.

Competition: We are giving away 5 copies of the book for free. All you have to do is predict in this forum thread the total number of goals which will be scored in the Premiership this Saturday. For a tie breaker, guess the time of the first goal. See forum thread for more information.

This is an edited excerpt from Rolf’s brand new “Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha” book, available at all the major (online) gambling book stores, including Amazon & Conjelco. For more information, check out Rolf’s own site www.rolfslotboom.com or the site of the publisher, www.dandbpoker.com.

Ace Speaks: The amount of the bet in pot-limit Omaha

In the first part of this article series, I described how you can and sometimes should vary the size of your bets because of the texture of the board. Today, I will how the size of your and your opponents’ stack can be of influence in finding the proper bet size.

Aspect 2: Varying the amount of the bet according to stack size

Your own stack size can be an important consideration in your decision to bet full pot or a lesser amount. In some of my articles on pot-limit poker I advocate having more chips on the table than any other player you figure to make money from, if you know how to handle a big stack. Pot-limit Omaha is a complicated game and playing a big stack makes it even more complicated; playing a large stack requires much more skill than playing a small or medium stack. Now, if for some reason you are playing a small (or medium) stack, then always betting full pot is far from automatic. Let’s say you’re in a $1,000 buy-in game, and you are in early position (possibly one of the blinds) with a $520 stack. You hold J T 7 7, there’s $180 in the pot and six players see the flop J♥ T 6. You figure your top two pair is probably good now, but there are many draws possible, making your hand very vulnerable. In fact, the only good cards on the turn for you are the jacks and tens that are left, as well as any deuce, three, four and five. Betting the pot here would be very unwise, because if any other card comes on the turn than the ones mentioned, you might have to give up the hand. (After all, with just one card to come, you don’t get the right odds to call a big bet in order to improve to a full or quads if you think the turn must have made someone a straight. And in that case, you would have wasted $180 – more than one thirds of your total stack – without even getting to the river.)

So, if you decide to bet at all against this flop, then betting $80 would seem like the right amount here, much better than the $180 pot bet. Against this board you can expect one, two or three callers, assuming that in fact your hand is good now. Now, if the turn is a blank then your $80 flop bet has put you in perfect position to defend your hand as well as possible by betting full pot. But if you had chosen to bet the pot on the flop and got the same callers as you did now, then you could not have defended your hand anymore after this same, good, turn card. There would be $720 in the pot already, so the $420 you had left would not be enough to make a small wraparound straight (or even an open-ender or some kind of combination hand) fold.

Now, let’s take another flop: K 7 2 and you’re in there with KKxx. There is $400 in the pot, four players and you are playing a $1200 stack. A common scenario would be this: you bet the pot, get one caller, the turn is the third spade and your opponent bets all-in (and you either fold, knowing you’re beat now or call, trying to improve on the river). If the before-the-flop betting suggests someone other than you might be in there with aces, you have to consider the possibility of him having the nut-flush draw as well, a hand that is not going to fold against this board no matter how much you bet. So, why not try to make some money with your set when your hand is still good, yet avoid getting broke with it? A $200 bet on the flop would seem reasonable here, especially taking into account the ill-coordinated nature of the flop. (In fact, betting one thirds to half the pot with top set against this board will give you credibility for the many times when you make the same kinds of bets against these ill-coordinated boards as a bluff.) This $200 would be the perfect amount to induce even bare aces to come along for the ride. Perfect for you, that is, as he will probably be drawing to just two outs while getting only 3-to-1 on his money. Also, you would not be giving a flush draw the proper price to call, knowing that the 7 is not even an out for your opponent(s). If the aces decide to play back at you (or if you think you are able to check-raise the before-the-flop raiser all-in), then by all means try to get all your money in on the flop with the nuts, top set. That would be the best possible situation of all, but you can’t always expect that to happen – and you definitely can’t expect that to happen if you come out with a bet that is too big for this ill-coordinated board.*

So, let’s say that indeed you bet half pot, $200. If this $200 bet of yours gets called and the turn is a spade - or, even worse, an ace - you can fold against a big bet and you would have “saved” the extra $200 then.** If there’s no danger on the turn, however, you can simply bet the pot if you think it’s time to protect your hand as much as possible, or bet a lesser amount if you want your opponent to call you rather than fold. (If you know what your opponent holds, you don’t have to fear a river bluff, meaning you could afford to give your opponents a much better price than just the 2-to-1 they get after a pot bet by you. So, you can bet less than the pot and then if a spade or ace comes up, you can safely fold, having “saved” some chips you would not have saved by betting full pot. Also, if by chance you make a full house on the river after your ‘small’ turn bet, tour opponent may even pay you off now that he has made aces up – so you still double up, despite having bet less than the pot on all streets.) Remember, if you bet $400 on the flop and get called, you don’t get the right odds in trying to make a full if you think the turn has made your opponent a flush. You will have to call $800 more for a total pot of $2800 and you would have only ten outs maximum.

All in all, I’m not suggesting you should always bet less than the pot when you’re playing a small stack. What I am suggesting is you take a close look at the board, at your (and your opponent’s) stack size, so you will then try to find the best strategy to a) maximize your winnings on the hand and b) minimize your losses.

* Quite frankly, in the situation where you have flopped three kings and you suspect the preflop raiser is in there with aces, this would be the perfect situation to go for a check-raise on the flop. Especially if the preflop raiser is not up against too many opponents, he will almost certainly take at least one big stab at the pot now that the board is so uncoordinated. But if you have made the last raise before the flop and thus a) it seems no one has aces, and b) no one will do the betting for you, then it is best to simply come out betting 30 to 50% of the pot rather than full pot. In fact, this is the exact same bet you would also make as a bluff to simply pick up the pot – so you also need to make these kinds of bets when you have flopped a really big hand. So, if you choose to bet at all, it is clear that the half-pot bet is quite superior to the full-pot bet that many players would make with their top set here.

** Having said that, there is obviously some chance that your opponent has called you with his flush draw only because you gave him a good price by betting just half pot – meaning he would have folded against a full pot bet. So, this means you now lose a pot that you would have won with the ‘normal’ big bet. This “giving your opponent the chance for a cheap outdraw” is one of the clear downsides to this play I suggest. Therefore, you should rarely make this type of bet against more coordinated boards, and / or against boards that have multiple drawing opportunities.

Some final words

The things I’ve discussed here are in fact common situations where the average player can make (or save) a lot of money. Just make sure that when you decide to sometimes bet less than the pot, you are not giving away information about the strength of your hand. If your opponents can figure out what you hold because of the amount you’ve bet, they can save money against you when they know you’ve got the goods, and raise you off your hand when they know you’re weak.


This is an edited excerpt from Rolf’s brand new “Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha” book, available at all the major (online) gambling book stores, including Amazon & Conjelco. For more information, check out Rolf’s own site www.rolfslotboom.com or the site of the publisher, www.dandbpoker.com.

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