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Run it Twice -- Brian Rast

Tsarrast Talks Us Through a Heads-Up Pot-Limit Omaha Hand

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Brian "tsarrast" Rast is a professional cash-game player who regularly competes in the highest no-limit hold'em and pot-limit Omaha (PLO) games online. Rast sat down with Card Player to talk about an interesting pot-limit Omaha hand he played heads up at $100-$200 stakes.Brian Rast

The Game

Date: Feb. 4, 2009
Type: Cash game
Game: Pot-limit Omaha
Blinds: $100-$200

The Lineup

Seat 3: tsarrast ($26,474.50) -- Button (small blind)
Seat 6: thaaj2004 ($22,886) -- Big blind

Key Concepts:

  • Adjust to your opponent heads up
  • Continuation-bet less against opponents who check-raise lightly
  • Put an emphasis on raising on the button and playing less out of position


Run it Twice -- Review of the Hand

Preflop Action: tsarrast raises on the button to $600 with K 9 9 4. thaaj2004 calls $400. The pot is $1,200.

Kristy Arnett: How often were you raising in position?

Brian "tsarrast"
Rast: I wasn't raising every hand, but most of them. It's pretty standard to almost always raise on the button in heads-up PLO.

Flop Action: The flop comes Q 3 3. thaaj2004 checks, and tsarrast checks. The pot is still $1,200.

KA: Why did you decide not to continuation-bet?

BR: He had been check-raising me quite a bit, and I was pretty sure he was doing it a lot with air. This isn’t a good flop for me to bet against a guy who likes to check-raise. He’s either going to check-raise me with a 3 or with air. Even if he has air, he probably still has a fair amount of outs with overcards. If he has a queen, he’s always going to call, too, so since I only have nines, I decide just to call. I think this is the standard play against someone who check-raises light. Of course, against someone who will just give up, you’ll want to continuation-bet, because if they call or check-raise, you’ll know you are beat.

Turn Action: The turn is the 6. The board reads Q 3 3 6. thaaj2004 bets out $775, and tsarrast calls. The pot is now $2,750.

KA: What made you believe that he was weak at this point?

BR: It was a combination of his bet sizing, timing, and that fact that he led on this type of board.

KA: Did you consider raising here?

BR: No, raising is not an option here. If he has a 3, he’s obviously not folding, and if he has a queen, he’s probably not folding, because what am I really trying to represent when I raise here? If I had a 3, I’m not checking back the flop. It’s possible he could put me on aces or kings, but I would almost never play them this way. I’m not credibly representing any hand if I raise him here except maybe pocket sixes. Honestly, he’d probably call me down with A-Q. I think it’s best just to call.

River Action: The river is the A. The board reads Q 3 3 6 A. thaaj2004 bets $1,650, and tsarrast calls.

KA: What did you put him on when he bet on the river?

BR: At this point, he’s representing A-Q, possibly A-K if he was bluffing the turn and got there, or a 3, or a full house. There are a fair amount of hands that can beat me that he’s trying to represent, however, I fe lt like this guy wouldn’t value-bet super light. I don’t think he’d bet a queen, and I don’t think he’d bet an ace unless it was A-Q. It felt like a bluff, and I knew he was capable of it, so I called.

Outcome: tsarrast shows K 9 9 4 and wins with two pair, nines and threes. thaaj2004 shows 7 6 5 4. tsarrast wins the pot of $6,049.50 (after rake).

KA: What advice would you give to beginning heads-up pot-limit Omaha players?

BR: The thing is, in general, there are a lot of rules that you can go by when you play six-max, such as playing certain hands in certain positions, but when you play heads up, there aren’t that many. Of course, in general, hand values go down, and you can win the pot with less strong holdings, but honestly, the biggest thing about heads up for no-limit hold’em or pot-limit Omaha is that your opponent will be playing a specific way, and the way to win is to figure out what your opponent is doing and adapt your strategy accordingly.

So, what I was doing against this particular opponent, for example: I knew that he was willing to bluff, and he really liked to check-raise with nothing. He was doing it with either his really big hands or with nothing, but mostly with nothing. There was a hand when he check-raised me, and I made a small reraise on an A-Q-6 board with nothing, and he folded. In another hand, on a K-Q-X board, he check-raised me and I called with nothing to float, because I thought he either had K-Q or air. I bet the turn when he checked, and he folded. I was figuring out how he was playing, and I was trying to adapt my strategy to that.

If I were to give a blanket-statement for advice, I would say that in PLO, it is true that hands generally have more equity against each other, so you don’t want to fold too much. However, I think a lot of beginners make the mistake of playing too many hands out of position in heads-up PLO. Part of it is because you can get an extra street of value you when you are in position. In position, the hand can go bet-bet-bet, but out of position, instead of three bets, you’ll only get two, which makes a difference, because the last bet is bigger, since the pot increases somewhat exponentially. So, the biggest thing I would recommend is to try to play more pots in position and fewer out of position.