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A Little Less Conversation

by David Downing |  Published: Dec 01, 2009


After several months of theorising and navel contemplation, I thought this month we would get down and dirty and talk about playing actual poker.

Recently, I have returned to the game of my beginnings — pot-limit Omaha. I had been trying my hand at eight-game, a heady mix of H.O.R.S.E. plus triple draw, pot-limit Omaha, and no-limit hold’em. Whereas I firmly believe the games are eminently beatable, there are a few problems. Firstly, they are hard to multi-table, meaning there is a natural impact on hourly rates. Secondly, the stakes of the big bet games, while in proportion to the limit ones in terms of action, require much larger bankrolls. A guy playing the $500 buy-in game would only require a $6,000 roll for the limit action, but more like $30,000 or more for the big bet. Making less per hour with a higher risk of ruin is not a great way to conduct your poker affairs.

Anyway, here are some practical tips from seeing the mistakes a typical six-handed, small stakes pot-limit Omaha player makes.

Annie Get Your Gun
Three-betting a wide range has become much more no-limit hold’em like, in fact, even more than is often present in that game. But folk still don’t get when and how to do it and what it means when you get four-bet. As a simple example, if you three-bet with a non-A-A pair hand, and get four-bet, you normally should fold. There are exceptions to this, but generally you will be committing too much of your stack to see mine, plus, of course, sets are much, much weaker than in no-limit hold’em. In that game you can hit your set and often be a crushing favourite, leaving one, two, or no outs to your foe. In pot-limit Omaha you could be just a 60/40 favourite, or even a small underdog.

Size Does Matter
As a direct follow-on to three-betting done poorly, from a hand value and strategic perspective, is how poorly people take into account effective stack sizes. If you don’t three-bet much, but then do so 200 big blinds deep with A-A versus a good player, then you are in for a tricky time. The most natural hand for him to put you on is now, in fact, correct. Conversely, three-betting a short-stacked player with a wide range now allows him to play perfect poker by stacking preflop. A good question to ask before three-betting is, what do I want to happen next? If you don’t know, it is unlikely that greatly increasing the potential action is the right answer.

After You
Pot-limit Omaha is a nightmarish game out of position. I see a lot of players calling raises from under the gun or the blinds with no real idea what to do next. Worse still, I see them three-bet out of position, probably because they watched it on a video or read it on a forum, with absolutely no clue how to play the flop onwards. The problem with these styles is that although they can be made to work, pot-limit Omaha has a much wider tolerance of different styles than nearly any other game, the changes are massive variance-causing and hard to implement. In the first case, check-raising an enormous range of hands; the second, adding a huge amount of hands to your out-of-position three-bet range. These adjustments are far from trivial, and most simply do not do them, giving them an unbalanced, easy to exploit style of play.

Fear of a Black Planet
Many of the hyper-aggressive players are acting from fear. This is especially true of the tight ones. They understand that by being remorselessly aggressive preflop and on the flop, they will maximise the edges they have from better hand selection. These edges are slim, but add up, and there are no distractions about playing the turn or the river. However, it is the turn and the river where, if played properly, the greatest edges lie. Getting it all-in on a series of repeated 60/40s on the flop is nice; getting larger and larger bets from a foe with one or two outs or drawing dead is nicer still. These skills take time and are hard fought. But it is here where real profit can be made. Do not be afraid to play through the streets and get a feel of what can work. Spade Suit

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.