Saturday, July 10, 2004

Adventures in Omaha

I consider Omaha hi/lo (or Omaha 8/B depending on what you call it) my third best game behind Texas Hold'em and seven card Stud. When I played Omaha, it was strictly Omaha High... and when I started playing at Ferrari's home games this past winter at the Blue Parrot, Omaha hi/lo was a game that was called at least 1/3 of the time. I played Omaha hi/lo very rarely over the last decade of poker playing. Mostly, I played a few times in casinos while I was awaiting for my hold'em games. And those tables, just like stud, were filled with WWII vets, some grouchy and other chatty, but all of them almost three times my age.

With very few masterful books penned about how to crack Omaha hi/lo, and with not too much information on the web to follow (Annie Duke's articles are the sole exception), most of what I learned was through trial and error. And I learned quickly (after losing chunks of my stack matching my oncoming pattern baldness) that I was a horrible Omaha player. Like most of my problems in poker, I played too many hands. Omaha hi/lo is a game that you really don't know what kind of hand you have until the river... and to invest in too many hands in a game where you pretty much hold onto your balls until the river... was cutting into my profits at the Blue Parrot. To be a winning Omaha player, you have to play tighter than in your regular hold'em game. Sometimes the other players at the Blue Parrot purposely called Omaha when I was on a rush, mainly because they knew it would level the playing field and slow me down.

Omaha hi/lo is a game where players can easily take advantage of my loose-aggressive behavior at the tables. Slowly... I made the adjustment. I scaled back my starting hands... and the few hands I played... I aggressively played until the river. My goals changed... I want to scoop the entire pot, not just hope to squeeze out half the pot with the low.

Besides, if you sit around and wait for A-2-x-x... you'll get chipped out. And from Coach's experiences with A-2-x-x... I was spooked. He lost something like 10 or 12 consecutive hands when he held A-2-x-x. Here's a good article on the subject by Annie Duke: Overestimating the Value of A2.

So far this summer, I've only played at the Blue Parrot once, which meant very little Omaha play for me in the last few weeks. I was rusty. After a horrible last 48 hours at the tables on Party Poker, I decided to take a break... but still needed a poker fix. On a whim, I fired up Party Poker and hit the Omaha SNG tables. I forked over $5 + $1 for a Omaha hi/lo SNG. I've played less than a handful in the last six months, so my goal was to finally make the money in an Omaha hi/lo SNG. The game is set up in a limit format. My Pot Limit Omaha game is sketchy, at best, and since we normally play $2-4 Omaha hi/lo at Ferrari's... limit Omaha is where I want to hone my skills. The players in the SNG ranged from solid players to a few newbies who were trying to learn the game. I figured I was in the middle of the pack and was going to play tight.

Level 6: With five players left, I was the short stack. I played only a few hands in the first five levels, mostly in late position and never without an A-2-x-x or A-3-x-x in my hand. I was still a little irked when I folded Qs-9s-Qc-8c in LP to a preflop raise a few levels earlier. I would have flopped a set and took down a huge pot. Oh well.

I was awaiting a miracle. On the button with T375, I moved all-in Kd-3d-9c-5c. Double suited cards was the best I saw in a long time. I got two callers and the board was: 2d-As-4s-6c-Td. Yeah! I flopped the Wheel and locked up at least part of the low pot (A2345). My hi hand was a 6 high straight (23456). None of the other two players could beat either hand, so I scooped the entire pot, and with T1175 I moved into fourth place, only a few chips out of third place.

After the blinds came around quickly, I found 9s-Ac-3h-2h. I moved all-in preflop and got one caller. The board: Qh-Kd-3c-4s-5s. Yep, I caught runner-runner for the Wheel again, and I scooped the entire pot with A2345 winning the low and the high pot. I doubled up with T1831. I was second place out of four players.

Level 7: The game was three way, and I realized I have no experience with shorthanded (and heads up) play in Omaha. I was making shit up as I went along. At least I made the money. I almost took the chip lead with Ad-Ks-3s-7d. The flop was: 6c-8s-Qc-7s-6d and I won the low with 8,7,6,3,A. T3106 and a few chips behind the leader.

Level 8: I held a brief chip lead and blew it when I lost a pot to a guy who held quad fives. Ouch. I had the boat. I scooped an entire pot with 2h-Th-6c-3c, when I nailed the low when an Ace hit the flop and hot the flush on the river to pull me back to second place.

Level 9: I had to fold A-A-A-Q. Oh well. It was heads up and I had 1/3 the chips. It was a grind, but I eventually lost when they guy caught a flush on the river, when I was awaiting for another low card to hit (I had As-2s-x-x) and he won the pot with no low qualifier.

I guess I was pretty excited considering I never placed in the money in a $5 SNG. By no means do I have a grasp on the game like I do with NL hold'em, but I'm learning with every hand I play, and I feel I am no longer at a disadvantage when the game is called. A few more $5 Omaha hi/lo SNGs will be on my weekly agenda the next few weeks. More to come.

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