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Poker Strategy: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Fundamentals With Randy Ohel

by Steve Schult |  Published: Jul 01, 2020


WSOP Bracelet Winner Randy OhelThe World Series of Poker is the one time of the year where all of poker’s variants, not just no-limit hold’em, are on display at the highest level. Randy Ohel is a fixture in those other games. He is a successful regular in the high-stakes mixed game scene, both in tournaments and in cash games.

Ohel has a WSOP bracelet from his victory in the $2,500 2-7 triple draw in 2012, and has cashed in several other variants, including runner-up finishes in the 2018 $10,000 2-7 triple draw, the 2016 $10,000 seven card stud hi-lo championship, and the 2014 $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship.

The Florida native and Las Vegas resident has more than $2 million in live tournament earnings, almost exclusively in mixed events. Ohel has delved into the coaching realm of poker and is currently taking students to learn non-hold’em games. He can be found on Twitter @RandyOhel.

In an effort to provide readers with a solid fundamental strategy of mixed games, Card Player sat down with Ohel to break down a pot-limit Omaha hi-lo hand from the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha hi-lo championship at the 2019 World Series of Poker.

Bryce Yockey raised to 125,000 from under-the-gun and Nick Schulman called from middle position. Yockey bet 175,000 on the flop and Schulman called. On the turn, Yockey checked, Schulman bet 675,000. Yockey called. Both players checked the river.

Steve Schult: Let’s just start with preflop. Is Bryce’s hand considered a bluff? I can’t imagine it plays very well post-flop, but it clearly blocks a lot of good hands.

Randy Ohel: It’s sort of a bluff. His hand figures to be the best hand at the table because when you block three of the aces, it’s hard for someone to wake up with a premium hand. So, it’s not a bluff because it actually figures to be the best hand at the table. It figures to just win the blinds a ton. People won’t often have hands that they can be defend.

And let’s say you get called by the big blind. He is going to have a very weak range and you’re going to just win the pot on a lot of boards against a big blind defense or something. It’s a pretty mandatory open, and you wish that third ace was a different card, but you’ll win the pot a lot.

SS: Nick’s hand seems very strong. Is there going to be a percentage of time that he three-bets this hand instead of just calling?

RO: His hand is a premium and I can’t imagine ever not three-betting that. There’s probably some weird ICM (Independent Chip Model) factors in play, but that is a really good hand. I don’t know what the other stacks are at this point, but I think that the hand is too strong not to three-bet.

SS: When we talked about the limit version of this game, you brought up the push-pull theory where sometimes you will just call to keep more players in the pot versus three-betting because the hand plays better heads-up and you’ll have a better chance of scooping. Does that concept apply in pot-limit as well?

RO: Much less so because you’re much less likely to invite a multi-way pot. The issue in this case, as opposed to a hand like A-2-3-4, is that its hot and cold equity just isn’t that good. You wouldn’t not three-bet A-2-3-4 because you want to get more people in. It’s because it is a hand where its equity will be dramatically impacted by what comes on the flop.

The equity in that hand is nowhere near static across all flops. Rather than getting money in with 49 percent now or something like that, you just get all the money in later with a lot more than that. Whereas the A-K-2-3 has good hot and cold equity. It’s better on more flops because it has a king in it. If an ace or a king comes, it’s a much better hand.

But also it’s a hand where sometimes you’ll end up against something like A-2-3-4 and you may not know it, but your A-K high is good and you may get bluffed or not pump as much money as you should into the pot. So, you sort of want to see a whole board. When you have A-2-3-4, you’ll almost never get bluffed because if you don’t make anything, you only have A-4 high or like bottom pair.

But with A-K, maybe you make top pair or maybe you have A-K high. Both of which could be good. It’s more possible to get bluffed. It’s also a favorite against most hands except for something like good aces, so you just want to push the equity.

SS: We get to the flop and Bryce bets 175,000, just over half-pot. Is that a fairly common sizing?

RO: Tournaments and deep in tournaments, especially, are different from a lot of other things. For the circumstances that they are in, this is a totally reasonable sizing. In cash games, the sizings are going to tend to be bigger on a board that have two wheel cards and a flush draw or something like that.

There is a lot of peeling against smaller bets in a cash game. That just doesn’t happen in tournaments. In all forms of poker, the sizing is smaller in tournaments.

SS: Are there going to be any hands where he would want to go for a pot-sized bet?

RO: I would say no. Not on this texture. Full pot in these tournaments is going to be reserved, more often, for when there is a made low on the board. I would also say, by the way, that this flop is a large part of why Nick should’ve three-bet this preflop.

SS: Why?

RO: Because when you see the other guy’s cards on their back, you can’t screw up this flop. Or the turn for that matter. What happens if Bryce bets and Nick calls, the turn is a four and now Bryce bets again. What does Nick do? He gets bluffed off two pair. He had Bryce in jail and he got bluffed because he didn’t see his cards.

SS: He has Bryce in jail on this flop?

RO: No, no, no. In that exact situation where a four comes on the turn, he has him in jail. I’m saying that what if a four comes and Bryce bets again? Nick is going to fold and he had him in jail.

I’m not saying that this would happen, but I am saying that this is the sort of thing that could happen. That’s the point that I’m making. This is the sort of accident that happens when you just call pre. Yeah, you get a chance to make some good plays, but you also give yourself the chance to make some really bad plays.

This is a spot where it’s not like he wants to get all in with bottom two pair. But he also doesn’t want to just fold it. So, Bryce bets and see a safe turn card. But when it’s not a safe turn card, now what do you do? And Bryce has the dry ace, so he’s going to bluff any club and Nick is not going to know that he’s getting bluffed. It’s just a really bad position he’s in.

If he had three-bet pre, against Bryce’s total range of hands, Bryce either folds and Nick wins. That’s fine. Bryce re-raises and that’s fine because Nick has A-K-2-3 or he calls and that’s fine too because Nick has A-K-2-3. And okay, let’s play a flop, but now, instead of a situation where there is an SPR (stack-to-pot ratio) of like 4 or 5, you could’ve had an SPR of like 1. There’s no chance or trickiness.

It just creates a much better situation. And the funny thing is, is that Bryce would’ve been happy with that. Bryce has a hand that flops terribly because he has three aces in his hand. Bryce hates when he gets flat-called, but Nick still made a mistake by just calling.

SS: I guess calling is standard if you are going to take this route preflop?

RO: The SPR is like 4 or 5. You can’t just go all in with bottom two pair.

SS: What SPR would you want to have in order to get it all in on the flop with bottom two?

RO: I’d say 2.

SS: Let’s say we added clubs to go with Nick’s bottom two. So, he has nut clubs, instead of spades. Would he then want to raise and get it in? Or is it too weak to go with it without a low draw.

RO: There’s two things about having the nut flush draw. One is that it improves your equity, but it also dramatically improves your playability.

You kind of have to weigh both of those against each other. Now, Nick is in position and drawing to the nuts. There are also a lot more good cards to come for Nick than there are with his present hand. And of course, he also has a lot more equity.
Additionally, you’re taking the Ac card by itself, taking it away from Bryce, makes it much harder for him to want to get it in without that card.

There are also a lot more hands that Bryce would’ve checked had the AClub Suit not been in his hand. Having the AClub Suit makes you want to bet this flop, regardless of whether or not you have the nut flush draw.

SS: Just for barreling purposes on later streets?

RO: Just because there is less that your opponent can call with and you have more bluff options when it hits. And there are fewer high-equity hands that you can be up against. If Nick had the nut flush draw, yeah, Bryce would’ve bet this particular hand, and I guess Nick would’ve gone all in.

But at deeper stacks, Nick would be less inclined to raise because of the playability. The playability importance goes up when you have deeper stacks.

SS: Bryce checks the turn. He still has the nut low draw to go with his overpair, so why is he checking the turn?

RO: He’s trying to play a little bit of pot control. If he bets, he’s certainly not bet-folding, right? And when he bets and gets raised, he is in trouble. So, it’s not that he thinks he is in trouble. It’s that when he bets and gets raised, he is in trouble.

You can still make a pretty good case for betting. I don’t know what I would do exactly, but you can definitely still bet. And the shorter the stacks are, the more you want to bet. Tournament situations almost always favor these defensive kind of strategies.

SS: Nick bets pot on the turn. Why is he using this sizing?

RO: This is another case of when to bet full pot. He isn’t afraid of a check-raise because Bryce is close to all in. And I don’t think Bryce would have any check-raise range here because I don’t think Nick is going to bet here too much. Bryce is definitely expecting Nick to check back.

SS: If Nick were to check back, is Bryce going to bet for value on blank rivers?

RO: There are no real blank rivers. There are either lows or cards that make stuff. But on the turn, Nick doesn’t have hands that he could bet very often because he didn’t raise the flop. Also, a king shouldn’t hit Nick very hard because he didn’t three-bet pre. A lot of the hands you three-bet preflop with have a higher percentage of A-K in them. And a lot of the hands you call with have a lower percentage of A-K in them. But Nick doesn’t play that way, apparently.

SS: Bryce check-calls the turn, which seems pretty standard given his hand.

RO: You could make an argument for… See, this is why I’m not sure I like his check on the turn. I like it because Nick usually checks. So, it’s got that going for it. But the problem is that once Nick bets, Bryce has to be pretty confident that he is beat right now for high, so he’s going to want to just call. But on that note, if you’re that confident that you’re beat for high, maybe you want to just fold.

It’s a weird situation. Because if you have the best high a decent percentage of the time, you should want to go all in. But he doesn’t expect to have the best high very often. I’m not exactly sure. It does help that he has the AClub Suit in his hand, so that if a high club hits the river, he’s going to bluff the remainder of his stack.

SS: I was going to get to that. Does he have enough fold equity to turn his hand into a bluff if the 9Club Suit comes on the river.

RO: This is Bryce Yockey. He’s bluffing that river. There’s no doubt about it.

He’s in a really difficult spot when Nick pots it though. Which on the one hand, makes a good argument for having bet it himself, but on the other hand, Nick really doesn’t bet here a lot. This is a really tough spot that I’m really not sure about.

SS: Both players check the river. What about this river would make Nick want to check behind after potting the turn for value?

RO: It’s not that his hand strength changed on the river. He just doesn’t have all these draws to get value from that bet. All of those flush draws, those low draws. Those hands don’t exist anymore. You’re only betting if you think you can get worse to call.

Will Bryce call on the river with aces? Probably not given that he didn’t raise the turn. And Bryce probably doesn’t have any two pair because he didn’t bet the turn. It’s just unlikely that Bryce has anything that he can call with. He is checking and very much expecting to win. ♠