Monday, February 26, 2007

WPBT, and Omaha Starting Hand Questions

Before I forget, come one and come all tonight out to pokerstars:

I'm still atop the 2007 MATH leaderboard heading into tonight's tournament. Can anyone dare dethrone me?

So yesterday was Event #2 in the WPBT race, being managed this year by Columbo, with help from its progenitor (god I love that word) Byron. The game this time was Pot-Limit Omaha (high), one of my favorite and best games, and I had a good time as always with the group. 30 bloggers showed up for the PLO festivities, and in stark contrast to Event #1 in old-fashioned no-limit holdem, I was reminded early and often why I did so well in the WPBT POY race in 2006 -- namely, because most of the bloggers don't really know how to play the non-nlh games well, and this really benefits the well-rounded players among our group.

I won many pots, including being dealt Aces and Kings probably five times in the first hour of play, and I knew things were gonna be good when I rivered a straight flush to top Budohorseman's nut flush on the very first hand of the night. Like I said, play in general was not so great, with players calling off their chips with non-nut straights even when flushes were possible on the board, and with non-nut flushes with pairs on the board, and even some players with just one pair hands losing half their stacks to two low pairs, etc. As a result I was able to coast into the final table having been around the middle of the top ten more or less throughout the event, before I finally fell after failing to hit a monster draw with two cards to come, where I had two pairs and the nut flush draw after the flop. Unfortunately, it turned out I was up against top set (Kings, as I recall), and I was unable to fill my boat or my flush, and I went home in 8th place overall:

Believe me when I say I am just happy to get onto the WPBT POY leaderboard after being the very first one out in WPBT Event #1 after three river dickings in the first orbit that time around. Now I sit in 23rd place on the POY standings after two events, out of the 67 total players who have played in either event, and this already actually has me higher after two events than I was last year when I ended up in 4th place overall, so I'll take it. And congratulations are in order to event winner Mattazuma, 2nd place finisher and recently new blogger Schaubs, tournament host Columbo for 3rd place, and our last casher in 4th place, the Surly Poker Gnome himself.

So congratulations to all the cashers in yesterday's WPBT event, and I also wanted to call out two plays I saw last night that I thought were indicative of truly good PLO players. I've long viewed PLO as a game of big laydowns, something I would not say about any other form of poker. This is so IMO because of all the great nuts opportunities there are in Omaha due to the four starting cards, which often means you have to lay down that King-high flush to a pot-sized raise on the river, and it also often means that late-hand raisers on a paired board have a boat of some kind regardless of how strong or hidden your own hand may be in a particular situation. Anyways, one such nice laydown occurred yesterday in a hand against me, where Lucko laid down what turned out to be the nut flush with an Ace♣ in his hand, against what was actually my full house with another Ace and a 9 in my hand as well. I had bet the pot on the turn, when Lucko had already made his flush, and after he smooth called my potbet on the turn, I bet out again on the river for the size of the pot, at the time about a quarter of Lucko's existing stack. Lucko sat and sat, let his time tick down to almost nothing left, and then folded the hand. The nut flush. Impressive. Especially with an Ace already in his hand as well. Very solid PLO right there.

Similarly, I saw Otis from UpForPoker make an excellent play against another player right on the WPBT points bubble with 16 players remaining last night that also really impressed me, as a guy who's read a lot about and played a lot of PLO myself, both in cash games and in tournaments. At the time, both Otis and his opponent had large stacks -- that is, neither one of them was in any danger of busting on the points bubble -- and Otis raised it up from early-middle position to over 500 chips or so, the size of the pot. His opponent, acting immediately after Otis in middle position, put in the pot-reraise to over 1700 chips, representing more than half of his stack, and clearly screaming out "Aces! Aces!" to any experienced PLO player. Now, raising up big with your Aces preflop after someone else has already pot-raised it is not by any means a bad move or the wrong move -- someone like Hellmuth for example will tell you that all things being equal, he would always happily get in all his money with Aces preflop in PLO, and I think this is all the more true in a tournament setting where blinds and antes are ever increasing. That said, Lyle Berman in Super/System II makes an excellent point that I've written about before in the blog here, which is that the very clear downside to doing so is that you make it very, very obvious that you do have Aces when you make that big raise or reraise in this context, and that way anyone with two small pairs, or a straightening or flushing hand can make a run at you and basically know right where you're at. So, keeping that in mind, Otis called the large reraise preflop with what turned out to be AKJT with 2 diamonds, and when the flop came all diamonds, he checked it to his opponent, knowning the opponent would have to bet his pocket Aces allin there, having already sunk more than half his stack into the pot before the flop. He obliged, and Otis took him out of the tournament, right on the WPBT points bubble, and the play gave Otis a huge stack that he was able to ride deep into the final table with me in the event. Well played, sir.

OK, on to the real poker content of today's post. I was thinking this weekend, given all the recent hemming and hawing about my O8 play and HORSE play in general out there across the blogosphere, in particular with reference to my view of certain starting hands in the non-holdem games, I thought I might profile a few starting hands this week, and get everyone's thoughts as to how you recommend playing them. Call, raise or fold sort of things, and maybe how much to raise if you recommend raising. So I am hoping to get the opinions of many of you, in particular perhaps those of you who have been most critical of my O8 play of late, either in your own blogs or in comments to my, your or other blogs out there, on the following couple of Omaha hands today (and I've got a few more of these for the next day or two as well assuming people seem to like this kind of thing after today's post).

Hand #1: So, the first hand is in O8, the game that many of you love to hate my play and my understanding in, and this occurred in a HORSE satellite tournament in which I participated over the weekend. It's near the beginning of the satellite, and I am currently in the top 3 or 4 out of 29 players left (30 started the satellite, about 30 minutes earlier), with only the top 3 finishers winning seats into the larger tournament that this was a satellite into. I am UTG and am faced with the following hand to ponder:

What would you do here? I've got nut straight possibilities (JT8 on the board and I'm lookin' good), I've got a Queen-high flush possibility, and I've got a pair of Queens. That's a lot of possibilities for high, albeit nothing at all for low. And I'm UTG so who knows what kind of action I'm going to see after I act first here. How do you play this starting hand? Fold, call or raise one bet?

Hand #2: My other starting hand I wanted to inquire of you all about today came from Sunday night's WPBT pot-limit Omaha (high) event. This was very early in the tournament (maybe 15 minutes in), with 28 of 30 players remaining, with me sitting in 3rd place of 28 remaining players very early on. Once again I am acting first UTG:

Again, what's your play here? Again I've got nut straight possibility with a 456 on the board, a low straight possibility with the A2 as well, and no low this time to worry about like in the previous O8 hand. Plus, I've got the suited Ace going on here, which can make me a nut flush or at least a nut flush draw on the flop or turn. Fold, Call or Raise here? If you raise, how much (remember this is pot-limit Omaha high)?

Please post your responses to these two hands (Hand #1 in O8, and Hand #2 in PLO), and I will be back later with my analysis of the comments, what I actually did in each case, as well as a few other fun starting hands to review for tomorrow.

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Blogger StB said...

#2 is easy. Fold. It is Hi, not O8. If someone pops it, you are going to fold.

#1 depends on the table. Tight or loose? How is your image? I would look to fold it as you have hands that can easily beat you if an A or K hits and you don't get your set.

Then again, I play Omaha here and there and was first out last night.

11:30 PM  
Blogger jeciimd said...

The first thing I would do would be to request that hand 1 be played at the PLO table, and hand 2 be played at the O8B table...

That being said, I'd be reluctant to get too attached to either of these two hands UTG. In particular:

Hand 1: Yes, u do have a pair of queens and nut str8 potential; but you have no low potential, and you're likely to have to fold to any ace hitting the board; its "maybe" playable in later position, or at an uber-tight table where u think u can steal the blinds; I'd be more apt to fold this unless I knew I could see the flop real cheap.

Hand #2 Fold; this hand is crap at plo

11:38 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Wow, two Omaha tighties so far. Interesting.

StB, can't believe you were first out yesterday, you musta gotten really screwed to not go far in that shit.

And jec, coming from the guy who went out with pocket Queens in PLO last night, this especially surprises me. Good comments though, both of you.

Anybody playing either of these hands?

11:50 PM  
Blogger bayne_s said...

#2 PLO is a fold, the 2 is a dangler and if you do make a wheel you need to draw the 6.

#1 O8 Limit UTG, I'll limp to see the flop if the other players at table have been raising low only hands and there's been occaisons where other players have chased lows after a flop with only 1 low card.

It's a bad O8 call as you are playing for only one direction but if you have seen other bad O8 plays at table it can be played.

12:06 AM  
Blogger CC said...


12:49 AM  
Blogger I Like Cake said...

Hand#1. At these blinds no matter if you raise or limp you'll be playing this three or four handed. Limp with the expectation of calling a raise. If you do limp and there's a raiser and re-raiser after you, fold.

Hand#2. Not enough high cards to be called a "good" hand in PLO. If yer feeling saucy, limp. You might see a cheap flop. I might call a single raiser. More than one and I'm outta there.

Oh yeah, I suck at Omaha. (Last night I put on a "How to Suck at PLO" clinic.) So this could be completely wrong.

1:49 AM  
Blogger Patch said...

I have to dispute your assessment of Otis' play on that one big hand. There's no doubt it came out hugely to his favor, and the poor schmuck with the aces may well have made a mistake on the flop, but I'm not at all sure Otis made the right move.

He got exactly 2:1 from the pot pre-flop, but he was almost 3:1 against in the hand. I suppose he had the implied odds to make the call, but do you really want to call off over half your stack on a play where you're heavily depending on implied odds to justify the call?

This doesn't sound like the kind of move Poker-Master Hoyazo would normally recommend. Committing most of your stack when you KNOW you're a big dog going in? Didn't you just have a post preaching against that exact kind of thing?

2:21 AM  
Blogger Matt said...


I'm by no means the most experienced Omaha player, but here's my thoughts FWIW:

1. Why not raise? Sure, you have no low possibilities, but here's some thoughts:

A raise UTG in O8 sends me one of two signals: either A2xx or AAxx (maybe both). Your raise UTG may force out anyone who wants to see a flop with speculative hands (i.e. suited Aces with weak low possibilites, other pairs hoping to catch a set, etc.) At least when I play 08, it seems like there's a strong tendency to limp, even with poor starting hands, in hopes of catching some kind of flop (of course, I was playing at the .10\.25 level so I don't know if this happens as often in tournament play). Raising here eliminates any limpers; if you're gunning for the hi only, the last thing you want is to go up against 5 other people.

Just because it's hi\low doesn't mean there's always a low, and sometimes you have to play these kind of hands in hopes of a big pot. You can't always wait for AA2x suited. With this particular hand, I'm hoping for the set or str8 possibilities; I'm more wary of seeing clubs in case I'm against a nut flush. At worst, I'll limp, but I won't fold. Furthermore, it might be too loose of a play, but I'll even call a preflop raise if there's no limpers; if there's any limpers between me and the raiser, I'll probably fold to avoid a multi-way pot.

So there it is: some 08 strategy from a donkey's point of view.

2. I'd fold this. Personally, I would only play this for flush value. I'd only play a suited Ace UTG if I had higher straight possibilities (AQxx, AKxx, etc.) Maybe in later positions I'd limp or try to steal outright, but I hate your position in this hand.

2:43 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Patch, I will regularly commit a lot of chips with a 4-big-cards, suited hand in PLO, if I have reason to believe one of the other players is on just a high pair. That's the key criterion, because one pair does not hold up so well in PLO after the flop, and with the 4 high cards and the suitedness, there are a ton of nut or near-nut hands one can make that can beat a pair of Aces in a game like PLO. And everyone knows many people have trouble getting away from pocket Aces once the flop is out, in particular once they've committed a lot of chips to the pot.

Curious where you get the numbers that he is 3-to-1 against on that hand preflop. Note that I am not saying that the number is flat-out wrong, but I'm curious as to where you're getting it from. In general I find there are few very hands in Omaha that are severely dominated before the flop, and 3-to-1 (75%-25%) seems awfully high against a guy with 4 high cards, two of them suited.

Also, I'll say this: I think Otis called off more of his stack with this hand than he (or I) would have liked. But when the other guy is basically telling you he has Aces, as happens often in PLO, you basically know if you can make even two pairs on the flop (let alone any of the straights or flushes he had working), you can just check to the Aces on the flop and then call the allin push. I think it's a pretty advanced PLO move, personally. So yeah it was a big call to make with just the four high cards, bigger than I would normally want to make before the flop, but again I come back to the fact that I don't view him as a "big dog" going in. Again I'd love to know the evidence that that assertion is based on (maybe it's right, it just doesn't sound right to me). I'm thinking to put you on AAxx, and him on AKJT with two to a suit or whatever exactly it was. Is that really a 3-to-1 dog preflop in Omaha? Sounds a little high to me.

And do I detect a little sarcasm with that "Poker Master Hoyazo" comment there? I meant no disrespect to your play there, Patch. I'm pretty sure (too lazy to go back and read it now) that I said in the blog that your move was totally understandable in a tournament context, and even recommended by a guy no less than Phil Hellmuth himself. I think you made a fine play, and Otis made an even better one.

If you can convince me that he is really a 3-to-1 dog in that hand preflop, assuming you have pocket Aces and not much else, I may reconsider.

2:51 AM  
Blogger Mike Maloney said...

I probably fold both. Definitely #2, and #1 I just don't like. UTG, knowing that several others will probably play the hand, I feel like there are too many things that need to work out in my favor in order for the hand to go well for me.

3:21 AM  
Blogger bayne_s said...

If Otis had AKJT (with diamonds) against AAJT (doublesuited) then he is a 73:18 (9% tie). If he is against ragged Aces he is probably more in 5:3 range as a dog.

If you watch the $200/$400 PL Omaha tables on Full Tilt and you can see Gus, Phil, Antonious or SBRugby throwing their stacks into the pot post flop and one of them will have AA and other will have middle pair and a gutshot. Got to talk to Gus about this and he said "If you are up against a set you're in trouble but if just against Aces you've got a good shot."

Not knowing Gus' threshold for a good shot I've plugged some hands in cardplayer and we are talking coinflips. Those dudes just have some serious gamble in them.
If you go into cardplayer's odds calculator and plug in a hand like AA73 (no suits) against AKJT (one suit) then look at a flop like Kh8s7d the AA is only a 52% to 48% favorite post flop having hit a pair a gutshot and a backdoor flush.

Many a Hold'em player has left Omaha table in disgust because they forgot AA is just a pair.

4:18 AM  
Blogger Patch said...

Hoy, the 3:1 odds came from the Cardplayer Omaha calculator, admittedly with perfect knowledge of the cards. It was actually 70% me to win, 27% Otis to win, 3% tie, rounding off the fractional bits. I guess that's more like 2.6:1 against Otis winning.

I'll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about Omaha. It was as big a shock to me as to anyone else that I lasted as long as I did. (And more than a bit of a disappointment that I bubbled the points after lasting so long near the top of the pack.)

With the full knowledge that I know almost nothing about this game, I have to say I would NOT have played uncoordinated aces that hard. The only reason I raised at all was that I was double suited. My other cards could have been better, but I felt it was a strong hand that was worth a big raise. If my aces hadn't been suited, with one possibly stretching to a straight, I probably would have folded to Otis' pre-flop raise. A lone pair of aces looking at a big raise like that? Forget it.

I didn't realize I was telegraphing that I had aces, but I'm not sure I would have done it any differently if I had known that. My goal was to take the blinds and Otis' bet. If telegraphing aces gets that done, I'm okay with it. At least in that particular situation. Given my lack of skill with Omaha and the level of talent in that tournament (despite your comments to the contrary), my goal was simply to get my name on the leaderboard. I had no delusions of actually winning the thing.

My intent on that hand had originally been to raise to about 1600, roughly three times Otis' bet, but I hit the "Pot" button and figured no one was going to call anyway so that was good enough. I don't know if I'd been able to get away from the hand had I bet a few hundred less, but I think it might have been a bit easier.

If there was any sarcasm in my remarks, it was meant in a very good-natured way. I had no issue with your description or characterization of my play. I just didn't think Otis' play was quite as outstanding as you made it sound. My questions came much more from honest curiosity over the play on that hand than anything else. As I've said several times, my experience in Omaha is extremely limited. I honestly don't have much more than a vague clue about starting hands, let alone how to play the rest of the game. I wanted to know more about why you thought his play on that hand was so good.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I have the screenshot at home so I could check the exact cards out, but I think it's reasonable for Otis to think he is basically roughly a 2-to-1 dog in that hand, and thus he can make the call that Patch said was roughly 2-to-1 and go to see a flop. I think that's a good gamble to take in a game like PLO, when you add the implied odds in to the equation, and when you can confidently put your opponent on an exact hand (Aces).

Patch, I think with PLO experience you will learn to recognize when somebody has exactly Aces, by the way they raise, the amount they raise, and the situation generally. In that particular situation I would have bet 100 to 1 that you were on a pair of Aces.

And, although I don't specifically recall your Aces being suited, if they were in fact both suited then I don't see how you possibly get away from that hand without getting as much into the pot before the flop as possible. I am almost surely raising the max there with AAxx double suited in that spot in the tournament. Like I said, I think you played the hand well, and Otis just played it a little better (and of course hit a very lucky nut flush on the flop).

5:26 AM  
Blogger Patch said...

Seat 1: Patchmaster showed [7s Th Ah As] and lost with two pair, Aces and Eights (How appropriate)
Seat 8: OtisDart showed [Td 9c Ad Jd] and won (7,130) with a flush, Ace high

I'm curious about this. Would you really expect a pot-sized raise like I made from somebody holding bare aces? Maybe I'm undervaluing aces, but my experience leads me to be happier with unpaired middle cards, preferably two-suited, than an unsupported big pair.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Patch, Yes. All the time.
Again though, with those double suited Aces it's almost impossible for you to get away from the hand without a raise preflop, and without calling a raise preflop too if necessary. That's a rough way to go right there.

10:11 AM  

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