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Poker Strategy -- Brian Rast PLO Cash Game Hand Analysis

Rast Talks Us Through a Pot-Limit Omaha Hand


Brian RastBrian Rast has earned nearly $1 million in live tournaments, but his bread and butter is playing high-stakes cash games. Online, he’s better known as “tsarrast,” and he regularly competes in the $500-$1,000 half pot-limit hold’em/half pot-limit Omaha games. He sat down with Card Player to discuss an interesting pot-limit Omaha hand he played against Ilari Sahamies, who plays under the moniker “Ziigmund.”

The Game

Date: March 19, 2009
Blinds: $500-$1,000
Game: Pot-limit Omaha


trex313 ($50,919) — Small blind $400
JohnnyPav (19,500) — Big blind $1,000
tsarrast ($223,174) — Under the gun
Ziigmund ($203,894) — Button

Review of the Hand

Preflop Action: First to act, Rast raises to $3,000 with KDiamond Suit JDiamond Suit 10Club Suit 9Club Suit. Ziigmund reraises to $10,500 with AClub Suit ADiamond Suit 7Spade Suit 3Diamond Suit. Trex313 and JohnnyPav fold. Rast four-bets to $33,000, and Ziigmund calls $22,500 more. The pot is now $67,500.

Kristy Arnett: How were you doing this session, previous to this hand?

Brian Rast: I had been playing for a while up to this point. There was more than one game going on, and I was up quite a bit on the session. I didn’t really have a very good seat; Ziigmund had position on me. I guess I was still playing because I was having a really good session. I wasn’t going to get really out of line when out of position against Ziigmund. So, this hand that I opened is not an example of me getting out of a line, it’s obviously a premium hand in PLO.

KA: Had he been three-betting you a lot?

BR: No, not really, but part of the reason he hadn’t was because I hadn’t been opening a lot in the cutoff or under-the-gun, or whatever you want to call it for a four-handed game. I just wasn’t opening many hands from that position, because Ziigmund always had the option of playing in position against me. So, when I opened this one, and he reraised me, I thought he was going to do this with a pretty wide range, and I thought my hand was ahead of his range. I felt comfortable four-betting him and making a big pot even out of position. There are a lot of hands I’m going to be in really good shape against that he’d three-bet me with just to punish me, that now he’s going to call with and put in another $22,000. I knew that when I four-bet after he three-bet, he’s never folding. I was not going to fold, even if he five-bet me, because I thought the only hand he’d five-bet me with is maybe a couple really good double-suited hands or pocket aces.

As it was, he did have aces, but if you run the hand equities of K-J-10-9 double-suited versus A-A-7-4 single suited, I’m definitely above 40 percent. It hurts a little that he has one of my suits covered, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

KA: Do you think that he didn’t five-bet because he had such weak side-cards?

BR: Yeah, I think that’s the reason why he didn’t. The thing is, if he five-bets me there, he basically has to have aces. It’s pretty crazy to five-bet there without aces, just because if he five-bets, then I can six-bet shove. My range there would be very strong, like double-suited aces or aces with good side-cards. So if he five-bets and I shove, he’d have to call, and then he’s playing a $400,000 pot where I’m at least 60 percent or something if I have aces with better side-cards, and if I don’t have aces, he’s only a slight favorite. Also, if he five-bet, it would have been to $90,000, leaving over $100,000 behind if I just called, so I’d still be able to play the flop against him pretty well. If I flop a pair or better, or a really good draw, I’ll stick it in, but if it comes ace high with not much help, I’ll probably fold.

Flop Action: The flop comes QDiamond Suit 10Heart Suit 3Heart Suit. Rast bets $48,500, and Ziigmund calls. The pot is now $164,500.

KA: What was your thought process on this flop?

BR: My general thoughts at this point are that I’m not going to fold this flop. When I bet, I’m going to call a raise. The reason being, there’s $67,000 in the pot, and the effective stacks are $180,000, so I have three times the pot, which is enough to fold if you miss or don’t flop very well, but I just hit this flop way too hard. I have a pair, backdoor diamonds, plus a wrap. On the other hand, if I had just called his three-bet preflop, then I wouldn’t be pushing to get it in on the flop, because there would have been only $20,000 in the pot. The flush draw being out there is a little worse for my hand, because obviously if he has hearts, then a quarter of my straight draws are no good.

I could have played the flop in two different ways. I could either bet and call if he raised, or checked and called if he bet. I’ve spoken with a few other players about this hand, and I think betting is fine, just to continue, but the only problem with betting is that I’m not sure he folds better very often. The couple hands that make it tricky for him are hands that have pocket aces or kings with bad side-cards, because that flop has to look really scary for him.

KA: How did his flat-call on the flop define his hand?

BR: I was thinking that most hands that were good with a draw — for example, pocket aces or kings with a flush draw or straight draw — he would just go all in with on the flop. Given that he just called the flop, I thought it was unlikely he had those hands, or a queen. He might have weak straight or flush draws, and my 10 might be good.

Turn Action: The turn is the QSpade Suit. The board is now QDiamond Suit 10Heart Suit 3Heart Suit QSpade Suit. Rast checks, and Ziigmund goes all in for $122,394. Rast calls. The pot is now $409,299.

KA: Why did you decide to check the turn?

BR: If he has any combination of K-J or J-9 in his hand and doesn’t have a queen, kings, or jacks, I’m winning. I didn’t think he had aces, because he didn’t five-bet me preflop. I checked because I’m ahead of most wraps, and if he happened to have one, he could have played it like this. With a wrap, he might not jam on the flop, because of the flush draw, and just try to take it away from me on the turn. If he has any of those types of hands like A-K-J or K-J-9 or J-9-8, I’m almost always crushing him, and if I bet the turn, he might fold. If check, he might bet, trying to get me to fold. Also, I had been playing high stakes, but I’d usually get up if I got to like $60,000 or $80,000, so I thought there was a better chance than usual that Ziigmund would float me on the flop and try to bluff me on the turn.

Outcome: The river was the 4Club Suit. The board read QDiamond Suit 10Heart Suit 3Heart Suit QSpade Suit 4Club Suit. Ziigmund won the pot of $409,286 (after rake) with two pair, aces and queens.

KA: Looking back, would you have played the turn differently?

BR: Yeah, I could have just gone all in into him. At the time, I thought that if I bet, he’d call me with all hands that are better than mine. I planned on check-calling any bet he made. One thing I didn’t think about at the time was that he might fold two kings or aces with no real draws if I bet. I didn’t really think he had those hands, though, but that’s another reason to bet there. Also, if he checks back his draws like a weak flush draw with no real pair and maybe a gutshot, I’m giving him a free draw to beat me if I don’t bet. I don’t think check-calling is necessarily bad, because my equity is like 38 percent, and I’m calling $122,000 to win almost $290,000, so I only need 30 percent to call. I think it’s close between betting or checking, but I think shoving on the turn is best, given that I bet the flop, and because I might bet him to fold a dry overpair or just charge him for draws.

KA: You mentioned that you usually got up after running up your stack. Do you find that some players who don’t get up stop playing optimally because they are trying to protect their stack?

BR: Yeah, although at this limit, I don’t think that there are many players who do that. A lot of people do take shots in these big games, but I would say most players get up once they run it up. You see a lot of players hit and run because they know that once they have a $100,000 stack in front of them, they won’t play correctly.

But yeah, I do see that at other levels. If a player doubles up and doesn’t get up, you’ll see them play fewer hands and pass on certain plus-EV (expected value) spots that they would normally take because they are up and content with their win. I think that, overall, it can definitely make some players play worse, because anything that someone does that takes away from playing optimally and/or makes it easier to put them on hands or figure out what they are doing is bad for them and good for their opponents. In this case, if someone is protecting their stack some, that probably means they aren’t three-betting light, because that’s a higher-variance move. If you spot a player who will three-bet light after they just bought in but won’t when they are up some money, that’s huge. You can narrow their range a lot, and that’s just one example. Now you can adjust and play better against them.