“Dealer, Leave the Bets in Front of the Players!”
By Greg Mascio
It's a familiar refrain at the Omaha/8 table, often heard when the betting is capped on the turn in a multi-way pot. In theory, this request is about saving time -- it's easier to divide the chips at the end of the hand when they're not in one monster pile at the center of the table. But the subtext is clear. "Give us the river already!"
It's often a pot just like this that makes the difference, ultimately, between winner and loser, genius and live one. And playing these hands correctly goes a long way toward determining one's success in this sometimes volatile game.
Other than catching gin on the river, however, how does one go about getting out as cheaply as possible when beat, and maximizing profit when holding the nuts?
The first and most important thing, especially in O/8, is knowing where you're at on every street. Many players will simply not throw a hand away even when they're sure they're beat in a big pot. They call it down just to find out what they were right about four bets ago.
A typical hand where you can get into trouble is flopping two pair with a hand like A-3-6-K. The flop comes A-3-J with a flush draw you don't hold. You're first to act and fire a bet into the pot. It then gets raised, called, called and three-bet by the time it gets back to you.
You very well could be drawing extremely thin at this point. If an Ace comes, it's likely you hold the second-best full house. If you catch a King on the turn, your two pair might be beat by the 10-Q-K wrap who called all those bets on the flop. If a 6 comes, you're still likely beat by Aces and Jacks, and all the made lows and flush draws are free rolling on you.
Still, most unseasoned players call in this spot nearly 100 percent of the time. Why? One reason is because average-to-below-average players rarely ever make a bet and subsequently fold on the same street. I almost never see this. To be a winning player, especially in O/8, you have to be able to lay down your losers.
On the other hand, say that same A-3-J flop comes down and you hold A-2-4-5 with the nut flush draw. Yes, you have a monster. You're first to act and bet, and again it gets raised and three bet. This time you cap it. The turn comes a deuce. Now it's time to make extra bets.
With all the action that came behind you on the flop, you can be almost certain someone will bet if you check. You check which puts the thought into the other player's mind that you may have been counterfeited, or at best are holding a set. After a bet and a few calls, you are now in position to make that check raise -- and you might not even lose some of the people drawing dead! Excuse No. 1 why a losing player calls when drawing dead? "The pot is too big."
If you had bet out on the turn when the deuce hit after capping it on the flop, any above-average player would most likely put you on your hand and you wouldn’t get any action. That same player might still call your check-raise, perhaps hoping to fill up on the end, but at least he would have to pay to get there.
There are a lot of large multi-way pots in O/8. It's easy to be tempted by the amount of money in the center of the table. But in O/8, as in most forms of poker, a hand that is usually strong heads-up or three handed, simply doesn't carry the same weight in a multi-way pot against multiple draws. And in O/8, you might have to fend off five or six players, each holding four cards in their hand; it's tough to make two pair on the flop hold up in that case.
Omaha-Eight-or-Better is all about holding the nuts or at least drawing to it. It's one reason why A-2 with two blanks -- like, say, 8-10 -- is such a dangerous hand. It gets played pre-flop almost every time, yet it rarely gets more than half the pot, and costs too much when the low doesn't get there.
Hands that work together for both high and low, like A-2-Q-K or A-2-4-K (I'll take mine double suited, thanks), are key. "Nut-Nut" is a beautiful thing, especially at the end of a monster pot where the dealer has to do nothing with all those chips in front of everybody but push them to you.
*Greg Mascio is an accomplished high limit Omaha High/Low eight or better player.
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