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Mixed-Game Strategies

by Matt Glantz |  Published: Dec 14, 2011

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Poker pro Matt Glantz has demonstrated high-stakes versatility by becoming the World Series’ most consistent performer in big money mixed-game tournaments. Since 2008, he has made four WSOP final tables in mixed-game events with buy-ins of $10,000 to $50,000. He has also earned a reputation as one of the top mixed-game cash game players.

Glantz is answering Card Player reader questions about mixed-game poker strategy. Readers can email Matt questions direct to matt.glantz@cardplayer.com and also should check out this website www.mattglantzpoker.com for more strategy and updates from the tournament trail.

Question: In Omaha eight-or-better it seems that a lot of times when I make the nut low with A-2 in multiway pots, I am splitting the low with another A-2 and giving up half to the high. Because it is very clearly the best low draw, does it lose any value because people will always play A-2 as well and therefore be slightly more likely to be chopping? Should I be any more likely to pot-control when I have an A-2 nut low than if I make it with A-3 with a deuce on board or some similar situation?

MG: A-2 hands certainly lose a ton of value when there is another A-2 hand in the pot with you. That said, it is still the best low draw preflop and barring some specific situations, you are going to enter the pot. You can’t control how many other players are also dealt A-2 at the same time. But it does happen quite often in a full game and if other players are dealt A-2, they are going to be in the pot no matter what you do.

The real key here is the difference between hands that have A-2. The value of a hand like A-2-7-9 with four different suits holds substantially less value than a hand like A-2-K-Q double suited. We can compare the relative strength in those two hands to hold‘em hands of similar value. The A-2-7-9 might be K-J offsuit in hold‘em, whereas the A-2-K-Q is A-K suited in hold ‘em. Even though both Omaha hands have A-2 as part of the hand, there is a significant value spread between the two holdings and the hands even change in value differently based on how many players are seeing the flop. So there are times when you will be three-betting preflop or just flatting an opener just to manipulate the amount of players seeing the flop.

As far as pot-controlling, each situation will be different. But as an easy rule to follow, when you have not only a nut-low draw on the flop but also a strong high hand or a strong nut draw you can be liberal in building the pot. When you are only drawing to the nut low and the likelihood of you finishing with a strong high hand is slim, I think that would be a good time to pot control.

In most low to mid-limit Omaha eight or better games, every player dealt A-2 or A-3 is going to enter the pot no matter what the other two cards they are holding. So it is not necessarily going to be a better spot to push the pot when you hold A-3 and there is a deuce on board making your low the nut low. Whenever you have nut low, your decision to bloat the pot has to be based on your reads of what the most likely holding your opponents have. You make these reads by knowing their tendencies and watching their betting patterns. Some players raise with A-2 preflop 100 percent and just limp with A-3. Some players always limp with A-2 thinking they want multiway action. You just need to be aware of your opponents tendencies to be able to make the best post flop decisions possible.

Question: Defending your big blind in limit hold’em against one late position raiser… is it worth it?

MG: I generally will make this decision based on two things. The strength of my hand and the caliber of player who I will be up against. The better the player, the fewer mistakes that player will make later in the hand. There are players that are weak enough in limit hold’em that I can be profitable in defending all but my bottom 5 percent holdings. So against a player like this you will never see me fold the J-2 offsuit from the big blind. There are also players that play limit hold’em so tough that I might only defend my top 40 percent. Against a player like this I might not defend a hand as strong as K-4 offsuit. (unless I am stuck and steaming of course, and then every hand looks good).

Question: In razz it seems that catching one brick early when your opponent catches good can really affect your chances of winning… is there anything to trying to pot control until you have a five-card hand or a good four-card draw by fifth? Or if you have 6-3-2, should you just be betting and raising if you are up against an opponent showing a 7? Are you even that far ahead on third if he has A-2 down?

MG: Razz is not a game of pot control. Razz is a game of getting your opponent to fold. Of two good starting hands, one is rarely ever a huge favorite over another. In your example 2-3-6 vs. A-2-7, the values are so close that it rarely will make a difference by the end of the hand which hand you started with. Usually, the player that catches the brick first is going to be a big dog in the hand. But if you pair one of your hole cards and your opponents catches paint on fourth, you better not let him know it. This is one of those poker games where the hand is now going to play itself most of the time. You are going to keep betting. And unless the combo happens of you bricking and your opponent catching good on the upcoming streets, you are most likely going to take down that pot before showdown. ♠