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Return to the Old Country

by David Downing |  Published: Mar 02, 2009


The first game I ever played online was limit Omaha high-low on Paradise Poker back when Paradise was the indisputed "King" of online poker sites. I was terrible. I persevered for quite an amazing amount of time, mostly because I didn't "trust" that my abilities to play big bet games - my natural hunting ground in real world poker - would transfer to the world of the Internet. Eventually, I took a nibble and because there was no real pot-limit Omaha action anywhere, it was in pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better that I really started playing big bet poker online. This was more than fine as I had played, and won, a fair deal of high-low pot-limit poker by this point. Furthermore, pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better is a much more technical game, where instincts and reads play less importance to position and equities.

Anyway, at this time, the biggest pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better action was about $1/$2 on Ultimate Bet. This was a tremendously action packed game, simply because anyone who wanted to gamble things up in a big bet sense basically only had one place to go. And pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better is a pretty disastrous game for gamblers. As poker exploded online, bigger and better games took its place, and some of its players can still be found, popping up in pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better even today.

Pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better became a pretty tough crowd. Beside a 12 to 18 month heyday in the middle of the Internet madness, it has always been a game where the wheat is very quickly separated from the chaff, and pretty soon you find yourself at a table of tight, competent rocks. This is not fun, nor profitable. For that reason, I've pretty much stayed away from the game, but this year, I've given some of the low limits a spin, to see whether I still have any pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better nous about me. The results are pretty inconclusive so far, and the games are often insanely tight, but I did want to share an interesting hand where I got to make an unusual play.

I limped under the gun with K-K-9-8 suited in hearts. This is a loose play, but the table had been playing very passively, I would have been happy to pass to a raise, and I know with my experience, I will not get caught drawing dead. True to form, we go to the flop five handed, without a raise.

The flop came 10 7 4 and I check. The player immediately after me bets the minimum, and everyone calls. I am getting the right price to draw for my straight and as I am closing the betting, I know exactly what I am paying to draw. The jack is clearly a gin card, and a six will give me a straight, but also put the low out, making the straight much less valuable. However the 9-8 combo is pretty rare in pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better, so the chances of my sharing the straight with someone else are pretty thin. Of course the threat of the club draw makes everything very precarious and I simply would not have been in there except for the very cheap price and great multi-way value. Only the big blind passes and we go to the turn four ways.

The turn brought a mischievous 6. This card, whilst giving me the straight for what I would assume would be for half the pot, also makes the low. This is not a card which I can go to the felt with - the reason why I was so reluctant on the flop - because I could be freerolling a nut low which has either of the flush draws live. In fact, the more I put in, the more likely I am to be up against either one or both freerolls. With all this in mind, I check after the small blind checks. Incredibly, and delightfully, the same player who min-bet on my left last time, min bet again! Everyone called and so I got to see the river, praying for a blank which I can start to put some money in on.

The river was the more than mischievous, positively Machiavellian, 3. Although this had brought in my back door flush, it was only the second nuts, and considering there were three other players, presumably nut low-ing or thereabouts, the nut flush was an entirely acceptable part of their combined ranges. The small blind checked as did I, and our mini-bettor min-bet again, the same as he had the previous two streets. Everyone called again, except when it came to me, I check raised the full pot!

This may seem a borderline insane play, but the logic is perfectly sound. Because of my position relative to the bettor, I have been able to see everyone's betting actions on the river. Now if the nut flush was out, then he would be desperate to put more money into the pot, not because he expects anyone to pass, far from it, but because he wants to maximise his half of the pot. The only option for anyone with the nut flush is to jam, and the beauty of this is that even an inexperienced player can see this. When no one takes this opportunity, it becomes clear that my second nut flush must be the nut high and I can raise with impunity.

Incredibly, everyone called my raise and my second nut flush was good for a much increased half of the pot. Two of my foes had the expected nut low, the third a second nut low, and a bizarrely played bare A.

Sometimes it is good to give the old homeland a visit.

David has played poker all over the UK for the better part of a decade. Originally a tournament player, now focused on cash play and almost entirely on the Internet for the last three years, he makes a healthy second income playing a wide range of games. David is also an Omaha instructor for, a leading source of online poker instructional videos.