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Big O Changes

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Dec 05, 2018

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After an unsuccessful mixed-game session last night, I switched over to the pot-limit Big O game at my local casino. I’ve been playing this game for almost two years and I think I’ve finally started to figure this game out! I have always been aware that the fifth card requires you to play tighter in almost every situation, but I hadn’t quite figured out until a few months ago which situations it makes sense to play a little looser, and which situations it makes sense to play a little tighter. Some situations from last night are good to illustrate those things.

In the first hand, I’m in early position at a table that is very loose-passive preflop. Nobody in the game is even a mildly aggressive three-bettor. In games like this, I am ok with opening for raises from most positions. In more aggressive games, it doesn’t really make sense to do so as the pots will generally get raised behind you anyway and one of my recent strategy breakthroughs, even in a game with a relatively small max buy-in, was to try to play small pots preflop and save the more aggressive plays for after the flop.

I raised with a suited A-2-5-K-Q with one suit to the ace. I get called by three players and the flop is 7Heart Suit 6Spade Suit 5Heart Suit and I have neither hearts nor spades. This is a flop that I would bet in four card limit hi-lo, and perhaps one that I would have considered check-calling in the past in pot-limit Big O. I’ve realized that this is a situation where I’m very likely to be at least quartered and possibly only getting 1/6th of the pot. It doesn’t make sense to continue here with my hand or even something as strong as A-3-4 or A-3-4-8. It’s just too likely that someone has me beat both ways with those hands. I believe that making sure I don’t get quartered and/or sixthed (is that even a word?) in pots like this is the second biggest change I’ve made to my game to make me more profitable this year.

Several times over the rest of the night I ran into a situation to use the biggest change I’ve made, which applies a tool from Pot-Limit Omaha to my Big O game. In PLO, bluffing with the nut flush blocker is a hugely profitable play. This can be taken even farther in Big O. Let’s say we have a flop that is just slightly different than the one above, like Q-6-5 with one suit. I’m happy to play a hand like A-A-3-x-x faster than I would before because I have lots of good blockers, especially if I have the naked ace of that suit. I’m not playing my A-A for value necessarily, I’m playing it for leverage. When I have two of the aces in my hand, it’s way less likely for my opponents to have the nut low draw and when I have the ace of the suit, it’s impossible for them to have the nut flush draw. Now, they’re only really continuing with A-2 and two pair or A-2-7-8. These hands are considerably less likely because of what I’m holding and it makes my fast play in this situation very profitable.

The final situation where I’ve really picked up a bunch of profit over the last few months is in varying my bet-sizing. I used to basically use one size for almost every situation. Lately I’ve been varying it mostly exploitatively.

Last night I raised to $15 in a straddled pot (the straddle in our $2-$3 game with a $5 bring in is $5) with ADiamond Suit 7Diamond Suit 7Club Suit 4Spade Suit 2Spade Suit. I was called in three spots. The flop was a good one for me, 2Diamond Suit 3Heart Suit 6Diamond Suit. Two players checked, I bet $30 and one opponent called. The turn was the 8Diamond Suit, my opponent checked and I bet $60 into $130. Usually in the past, I would have bet more, $100 or so. In this instance, because I want to keep my opponent’s range wide, I bet smaller hoping he’d call two more streets with a bad flush or the nut low and a straight. If I bet $100 on the turn, I’m setting up a $330 pot on the river and I don’t know if most opponents call that bet knowing they are likely to face a much bigger bet on the river. When I bet $60, I’m setting up a $250 pot on the river and I can expect more calls of the $60 because the river pot size will be smaller and the expected river bet will be smaller as well.

It turns out that I might have also induced my opponent by betting small as he made a pot-sized raise to $310 with about $400 effective behind. I could have jammed the turn here, but I felt I ran the risk of getting worse hands to fold on the turn when I would probably get the rest on the river. I called and got three-quarters of the pot when he jammed the river.

By working hard and really thinking about the game over the last year or so, I’ve managed to more than triple my hourly rate in this game. Of course, that means that I probably wasn’t very good to start with, but it’s also true that hard work and dedication can take you a long way in a game, especially one where there isn’t much strategy literature. ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG