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Pot-Limit Omaha — Playing Blockers Part II - By Michael Piper

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Nov 01, 2010

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Blocker Equity

In my last article I discussed making plays to win the pot based on having blockers — cards in your hand that prevent or make it less likely your opponent has the nuts. You should remember the cardinal rule — always leave yourself outs. Even live, when you can size up your opponent and say with confidence that your opponent is weak, sometimes you’ll be wrong. Sometimes you’ll be right but he’ll call anyway because he feels like gambling or doesn’t want to be bluffed. As a result, you should prefer to make plays with some form of equity. In pot-limit Omaha, that equity will often come in the form of blockers.

In a £1-2 pot-limit Omaha game, with effective stacks of £160, everyone folds and you open to £7 on the button with 7♣ 7♦ 6♣ 4♦. The big blind is aggressive, likes to bluff, and makes it £20; you have a fine hand and enough implied odds to take him on in position, so you call. The flop is 6♠ 5♠ 4♣, and he checks to you. You bet to protect your hand, £35 into £41, as he could have over-pairs or flush draws, and you don’t want to give him a free card to beat you. However, he surprises you by check-raising all in for £105 more. Call or fold?

Your made hand, two pair, is not particularly strong. On its own it is too weak to get all in with. Your draw to an open-ended straight is also far too weak, given you could be splitting if you hit an 8 and still losing if you hit the 3. However, you are fairly unlikely to be up against the made straight, given you have two 7♠ in your hand, and even if you are, you can hit a full house. If you are up against a hand as strong as an overpair and a flush draw, your two pair might get counterfeited, but you can now hit a straight to re-suck out on him. Against the made six-high straight, which is unlikely, you have almost 45 percent equity. So you call, expecting your opponent to have lots of flush draws in his range, and maybe the occasional set.

In this example, you have a two-way hand — a weak made hand, two pair, and a straight draw — neither of which are worth much, even when combined, facing a strong play. However, with two 7♠ in your hand, you can have a lot more confidence that your opponent doesn’t have the straight.

To shed some more light on the topic, we should think about ranges. Lots of money goes into the pot on a K♣ Q♠ 6♦ flop against a balanced, tight-aggressive player, whose range might look something like sets and wraps: K-K, Q-Q, 6-6, A-J-T-9, A-J-T, J-T-9. With K-Q-9-8, top two pair, you’re crushed by all his made hands and flipping with his draws, giving you 36 percent equity.

With J-T-9-7, a wrap at the low end, you still need to hit against all his made hands, and dominated by a lot of his draws, giving about 40 percent. However, K-Q-J-T, top two pair with an open-ended straight draw, is actually a favourite, with 51 percent equity. This is because you now dominate the drawing portion of his range, reducing him to chopping the pot when an A or 9 hits, and giving him two fewer outs to hit his straight, blocking his equity. Against the above range, bottom set wins less than 33 percent of the time.

Flush Blockers

When you hold the bare nut-flush blocker, one option to win the pot is to try to bluff. However, if you’ve got a decent made hand to go with it, whether it’s a straight, set, or even two pair, you can sometimes call your opponents down. Unbalanced players who are prone to bluffing will try to blast you off the pot. With a value hand, he has to be worried about you having the nuts, so wouldn’t bet it that strong; thus, he must have a hand that has little to no showdown value. Take your time to size up your opponent and think through his betting patterns and you will often be able to make miraculous calls just because you hold the key card.

Winning pot-limit Omaha strategy involves thinking on multiple levels. The first is to consider the strength of your own hand, and the second is to consider what your opponent’s likely range of hands is. Before considering higher levels of thinking, it’s important to get these first two down pat. Be cautious about making bluffs based on blockers, but do think about how ranges change based on the cards in your hand, and how your equity fares against these ranges. ♠

Michael Piper has been playing pot-limit omaha online for a living for more than three years. He coaches at cardrunners.com and posts online under the screenname wazz.