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Gray's Anatomy

by David Downing |  Published: Dec 01, 2006

I'm not known as a big fan of tournaments. I believe that winning a big-field event is a bit akin to standing outside in a thunderstorm, hoping to get hit by lightning. But the World Championship of Online Poker events on PokerStars are a bit special for Internet players. This was the original online big-payday series. So, I thought I might test how conductive I was feeling. The first few events I played were disappointing; however, I thought pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better was the event for me. My record in these events online is very good, although I haven't played one in some time. Also, pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better is an event in which good cash-game players have a much better chance. What do I mean by this? Well, eventually, when the blinds get big enough, being a good tournament player becomes more important than being a good poker player. Managing your stack, stealing blinds, and all of the other things in the tournament player's bag are more important than actually knowing the intricacies of the game.

Things are slightly different in a typical pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event, though. Typically, play is so bad that the participants are knocked out at a huge rate of knots. This means that the blinds/stack ratio remains very favourable even late in the tournament. Some of the nuances of pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better play are simply lost to novices, leaving them exposed to painful quartering experiences. Also, because hand values run so closely preflop, it is perfectly fine to play a small-bet style, limping into a lot of pots and waiting for the equities to get extreme from the flop onward.

The start of the competition was more than strange. Several times, I was cold-decked and had to suck out to get my money back. For example, I would have the nut-low draw, a straight draw, and a nut-flush draw on a double-paired board. Now, a double pair showing normally means, in any Omaha game, that a full house is much less likely, making my high draws more live. And this was certainly the case, as my foe had quads!

Surviving all of this, I finally got things moving and spent most of the evening in the top 20-30 runners. By the time these hands came up, the field had narrowed to about 90-100 players. I think these hands show some very interesting things about pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better tourney play; let's run through my thought processes as it happened:

Blinds: $600-$1,200
9 players
Stack sizes: Under the gun (UTG): $28,630 UTG+1: $41,879 Hero: $37,172 Middle position (MP)2: $83,874 MP3: $40,881 Cutoff (CO): $6,094 Button: $14,160 Small blind (SB): $26,709 Big blind (BB): $23,823

Preflop: 9 players; Hero is MP1 with the Aclub Aheart 4heart 8spade.

My stack size at the moment is still fine, although I'm now starting to slip toward the pack. Raising with this hand is a bit of a no-brainer, and I'm happy to just win the blinds or get action.

Two folds, Hero raises to $4,200, five folds, and the BB calls $3,000.

I know something about the BB. He has been both a bit too loose and a bit too aggressive preflop. He feels like a tournament player more than a pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better player. For example, he called a battle-of-the-blinds raise with Q-10-7-6. Now, this was against a maniac, but even so, this is just not a callable hand. He has been raising preflop a fair bit, which also makes me think he isn't too familiar with starting-hand values.

Flop: Kdiamond 10heart 8diamond ($9,000, 2 players)

Now this, perhaps surprisingly to less experienced players, is a great flop for me. I should be able to get any pure low hand to pass. And being the type of player he is, he might feel compelled to make a move, either very thin or with the flush draw. I am not passing this hand.

BB checks, Hero bets $9,000, BB raises all in $19,623, Hero calls $10,623.

Ugly play by the BB. By betting the absolute maximum, I have told him that I am not passing this hand. It would be far better for him to stop, and bet out on the turn.

Turn: 5spade ($48,246, 1 player + 1 all in; main pot: $48,246)

7spade ($48,246, 1 player + 1 all in; main pot: $48,246)

BB had Adiamond 2heart 6club 9diamond and won $48,246 with a straight, 6 to 10 for high, and 8,7,5,2,A for low.

So, was my play a mistake? Far from it. He had almost the very best hand he could have to make this move. And even then, he was only a small favourite. It takes only a small adjustment to his hand, such as not having a better backdoor low, for this to switch around. In fact, over a likely range of hands with which he will make such a move, I am clearly in good shape - probably slightly better than the typical pair versus A-K in a hold'em race.

So, now I'm short-stacked and looking for a good spot to get back into contention.

Blinds: $600-$1,200
8 players
Stack sizes: UTG: $82,674 UTG+1: $6,094 MP1: $14,160 MP2: $26,109 CO: $44,646 Button: $32,230 SB: $43,079 Hero: $13,349

8 players; Hero is the BB with the Aspade Qclub Jheart 10diamond.

Five folds, button raises to $4,200, SB folds, Hero calls $3,000 (pot was $6,000).

So, why a call? There are two kinds of "bad" hand with which you can defend your blind in pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better when short-stacked. One is the bad each-way hand, such as 2-5-7-8. The idea here is, you will probably escape one way, and maybe fluke the other. The problem with this is that you end up being committed to a lot of pots, and the most likely result is that you split. I much prefer a high-only hand. This is because (a) it's easier to get away from if you miss, and (b) you're more likely to scoop.

Flop: Adiamond Kspade 7heart ($9,000, 2 players)

This is a great flop. I obviously have nine outs to scoop. But, this is key: My foe is likely to have an ace in his hand, and on that basis, he might call with just a pair, and I will have him out-kicked.

Hero bets $9,000, button raises to $18,000, Hero calls all in $149.

Turn: 2club ($27,298, 1 player + 1 all in; main pot: $27,298)

River: Aheart ($27,298, 1 player + 1 all in; main pot: $27,298)

Button showed Aclub 5spade 7club Kheart and won $27,298 with a high of a full house, aces full of kings.

So, I finished in the 90s for a small payday and no regrets.

Although this dissection of an Omaha tournament has been a little bloody, at least in terms of ultimate results, it should have given you some insight into how the inner workings of these situations are worked out at the table. spade