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Mixed-Game Strategies

by Matt Glantz |  Published: Feb 22, 2012


Matt GlantzQ: Is it ever correct to play high-only hands in Omaha eight-or-better?

MG: High-only hands have great value in multiway pots where each of your opponents is holding low cards. And we know from experience that most hands played in Omaha eight-or-better have 2-4 low cards in the holding. Just by card removal alone, if you have five opponents who have an average of three low cards in their hand, then 15 low cards will not be showing up on the board ever. That is basically half the low cards in the deck. Four aces through four eights gives us 32 low cards possible. Not only does it lower the possibility of anyone making a low, but it greatly increases the chances of your high hand matching the board because there are more high cards to come out on the flop as a percentage of the remaining cards in the deck. There are certainly cases when playing high-only hands is not only profitable but extremely profitable.

Q: When you have a cap in a big bet game like no-limit hold’em, what are some of the key adjustments you make?

MG: When you have a standard cap in the no-limit it will generally be between 60-120 blinds. So if you are playing $50-$100 NL with a $6k cap, you have to adjust your play accordingly to the fact that you can never put in 300 blinds no matter how big your hand is. So when you make a straight flush, you are never going to be able to make that huge score like you might in an uncapped game. Basically, high cards and pairs have more value in a capped game versus an uncapped game. You need to do a lot less trapping and tighten up your starting range in a cap game.

Q: How many big bets should you generally buy in for in a mixed-game?

MG: I generally buy in for about 50 big bets in a mixed game. So when we are playing $300-$600 at the Borgata I would usually buy in for $30,000. The minimum buy-in in the game at Borgata is $10,000 and there are players that take that option. There is no maximum buy-in and players have been known in our game to buy in for as much as $100,000.

Q: Can you talk about the purpose of running it twice, three times, and so on? Is it polite to give an all-in opponent the choice?

MG: Running it twice or more is a way for players to reduce their variance without changing their expectation in poker. In pot-limit Omaha, for example, if one player goes all in on the turn with top set and another player calls the all-in with a flush draw and straight draw, they might agree to run it twice. This means they agree to split the entire pot into two halves. The dealer will deal two rivers instead of one. And each river will then decide a winner for each half of the pot. So if both rivers complete the flush and don’t pair the board, then the player with the draw will win the entire pot. But if one river completes the flush and the other river is a total blank, then the two players will split the pot evenly.

It is certainly polite to give an all-in opponent the choice of running it more than once, but you should not ever feel the need to make that offer or to accept the offer if given to you. It is an individual choice that each player has the right to make for themselves.

Q: What are some of the starting hands you should be looking to play in seven-card stud eight-or-better?

MG: You should be deciding which hands to play in stud eight-or-better based on the board in front of you. What I mean by the board is the up cards all of your opponents are showing. If you have a 3-6-7 and there are a bunch of fours and fives out, your hand goes significantly down in value versus having a board with no fours or fives out. You might want to play the 2Club Suit 3Club Suit 10Club Suit in some spots, but if there are four clubs on board, your hand makes a flush so seldomly that its like playing 2-3-T unsuited, which most of us would not consider a playable hand.

You should almost always be looking to play hands such as 2-3-4 or 4-5-6, but there are many combinations of starting hands that are playable if the board is right. If you are in an eight-handed game and your seven opponents are all showing paint cards, you might be able to play the 9-3-2 depending on the action in front of you.

In all stud games, every third street decision is overwhelmingly board dependent.

Q: Can you talk about the importance of position in limit split-pot games?

MG: Of all the games to gain an advantage through position, high-low or split-pot games are at the bottom of the list. While position is always important, you can’t compare the importance of position in say pot-limit Omaha or limit hold’em with position in stud-eight-or-better. The split pot games have so many more scenarios where it’s just an automatic bet and call situation no matter which player is in position. You gain less information much of the time and thus position becomes less useful than in other games. ♠