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Aria Poker Room Omaha Eight-or-Better Hand

Very entertaining!

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Jan 18, 2011


In the last few months of 2010, I played several times in a $200-$400 limit mixed game in the Ivey Room at the amazing Aria Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The game is spread every day at 1 p.m. This mixed game features seven different games: hold’em, deuce-to-seven triple draw, Omaha eight-or-better, seven-card stud, seven-card stud eight-or-better, badugi, and badeucey (half deuce-to-seven and half badugi — a popular action game that Jean-Robert Bellande invented). One really cool thing about playing poker in the Ivey Room is that you can order food from all of the five-star restaurants at the Aria — for free!
Late one night, a hand came up that was so entertaining that I felt compelled to write about it, even though it was an Omaha eight-or-better hand (this is usually a Texas hold’em column). A well-known high-limit player named “Cuco” raised to $400 to go from first position. In third position, Luis Velador folded, but he threw his hand over to Arturo Diaz (sitting in fourth position) for inspection, after Diaz had folded. Then, Jay Abujawdeh called from the button, I folded in the small blind, and Layne Flack called from the big blind. I asked Diaz if I could see the four holecards that Velador had folded, and he tossed me Velador’s hand: A-2-J-9, all offsuit (more analysis below).
The flop came down 9♣ 9♠ 5♦. Flack checked, Cuco checked, and Abujawdeh checked. Of course, Diaz and I silently chuckled at Velador, who would have flopped trip nines if he had not made a very fancy fold.
The turn card was the 3♥. Flack bet $400, Cuco called, and Abujawdeh called.
The river was a king. Flack checked, Cuco instantly bet $400, Abujawdeh quickly called, and Flack folded. Cuco said, “You win.” Abujawdeh waited for Cuco to flip his hand faceup or fold it, and when Cuco threw his hand into the muck (barely), Abujawdeh flipped up his hand: A-J-6-2! Cuco immediately swore as he plucked his hand out of the muck and berated himself, saying, “I had you tied! Why did I fold my hand for free? I never do that!” Everyone chuckled at the absurdity of the situation as the whole pot was pushed to Abujawdeh.
Let’s take a closer look at this hand. Laying down A-2-J-9 is controversial. Most of us would not fold this hand before the flop in a limit game. To get a better perspective on Velador’s fold, I called Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, who we all know is one of the best Omaha eight-or-better players on the planet.
Matusow told me, “Luis had an auto-fold.”
I said, “What? Are you serious, he had an auto-fold? Why, because Cuco raised from first position?”
Matusow replied, “Yes. Cuco is a super tight player, and he knows how to play Omaha eight-or-better. So, if he raises from first position, he figures to have A-A as part of his hand, or A-3-K-K, or A-K-2, and A-2-J-9 plays poorly against those hands. With A-2-J-9, all offsuit, you have no flush draws, and basically are drawing to win 50 percent of the pot. How often does J-9 beat A-A? There are about three people in the world I would fold A-2-J-9 offsuit to when they raise from under the gun: Cuco, Mark Gregorich, and Scotty Nguyen. However, I must say that against everyone else on the planet, I would play that hand.
“I love Cuco’s quick $400 bet on the river, and it should have won him the pot. But what a great call Abujawdeh made. And the fact that he waited for Cuco to fold his hand and then showed A-J high makes the hand so hilarious. Sounds like the kiddie game is down the street, at the Aria Hotel.” [Matusow ended his analysis with his famous ESPN “kiddie game” quote.] ♠

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