Wiesenberg (s068 poker): Sophie plays more Omaha

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Card Player. This entry in the "Aunt Sophie" series covers poker.

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Michael Wiesenberg

Aunt Sophie plays more Omaha

The sylphlike Sara, Aunt Sophie, and the sometime schoolmaster sedately sat in a side booth of the Anaheim Club’s Sweete Shoppe, sipping sodas while surreptitiously discussing Omaha in subdued sibilants.

“Excuse me,” supplied the celestial sprite, “but this is no soda; it’s a cappuccino.”

Aunt Sophie ignored the alliterative plaint. “So,” she said, “more about Omaha traps to tell, you promised.”

Don’t fall in love with it

“Well,” I offered, “you were wondering about that strongest two-card combination in your hand, ace-deuce, and I said a mistake lots of players, even those who have played for a long time, is to fall in love with it. If I didn’t have backup up with those two cards, I would not raise with them, nor would I come in cold for several bets. Remember, a low is possible only about 60% of the time, and you can get counterfeited easily or quartered. So better to have something working with them. For example, you start with ace-deuce and the flop is 6-5-3. Wonderful hand, right? You’ve got the nuts. Now comes an ace. Do you still like your hand? Someone who has deuce-four is going to take the whole pot from you. But how about if you started with A-2-6-7, maybe double-suited. If the 6-5-3-A on the board includes two cards in the suit of your ace, you’ve got an awful lot of draws for the whole pot. Let’s say no one has that deuce-four. A four on the river gives you a six-high straight and a wheel for the whole pot, but if someone does have it, you still can get three-fourths of the pot. Anyway, that’s an extreme example, but getting quartered because you started with ace-deuce and nothing else is not.”

“Okay,” agreed Aunt Sophie, “about lows without backups I see. And other traps?”

“High hands,” I supplied, “Need to be very strong to overcome the approximate 30% pot equity loss to low. That’s why the bare kings with no complementary cards that I mentioned before are unplayable.”

High hand vs. low hand

“But,” interrupted she, “I thought you said a low is possible by the river about 60% of the time. How does a high hand lose only 30% of its value to a low hand?”

“Ah,” I answered. “Simple math. The low gets half the pot, and half of 60% is 30%.”

“Okay,” she acknowledged. “And more traps?”

“Traps,” I continued, “often come up on the flop. For example, flopped straights are trouble, unless you have redraws. Those redraws ought to be to a flush, full house, the nut low or maybe second-nut if it isn’t so likely the nut low draw is out. When you flop a straight with nothing else, you are hoping that the board does not pair, a flush doesn’t come, and that higher straights don’t come in. And that’s only for half the pot.”

The waitress appeared, with more coffee for Sophie and me, and another cappuccino for Sara, who sat demurely absorbing the “poils a wisdom,” perhaps planning some day to make her own foray into the felt battlefield.

“And?” prompted Aunt Sophie.

“And,” I went on, “an unimproved set is a likely loser, but you’ll see many optimistic players push them to the end, and then moan about their bad luck. There are many combination draws that are more powerful than a flopped set. Flopping bottom set, or even middle set below nine, is a problem. If you fill up, you will likely face a better boat. If you don’t fill, then the set is likely to lose to a straight or flush. All you can do with such is meekly call along if there’s not much action. If there is action preflop, remember you should not have been there for the flop unless you had a coordinated hand. K-K-x-x, no. K-K-A-Q, yes, particularly if the ace is suited with one of the other cards. Draws to the nut flush are good. Draws to any other flush are generally not.”

“And what would you say,” asked Aunt Sophie, “is the biggest trap in the small game?”


“Well,” I responded, “a loose Omaha-8 game is a game of the nuts. The winning hands are usually the nuts or close. Players lose a lot of money drawing to non-nut hands. You’ll see lots of pots won by lesser hands, of course. This is because so many Omaha players stay in on almost anything. Give them two little cards, with only one on the flop, and they need perfect-perfect for the low, and they’ll be there all the way. So the low half might end up going to far from the nut low because everyone else going for low had sense enough to get out. And, of course, someone who plays such a hand may make his low and lose anyway, because someone who was going for high with a reasonable hope backs into the low with side cards he wasn’t really serious about.”

“There’s more?” inveigled Aunt Sophie hopefully.

“There’s plenty more,” I acknowledged. “But it will have to wait for another time. Sara and I are off to see that new blockbuster, Blockbuster, at the megaplex.”

The author wishes to express his thanks to RGP regular Stephen Landrum for considerable help on Omaha-8.

Next: 069 Aunt Sophie plays even more Omaha


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