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.
Aunt Sophie plays even more Omaha
The coffee shop of the Anaheim Club is a great place to converse in relative privacy, while leisurely partaking of caffeinic concoctions and caloric confections. Therein luxuriated my Aunt Sophie, picking my brains on the subject of Omaha/8, while Sara unobtrusively read volume 14 of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu for her night class in French literature, evidently unenthralled so far by the discussion of the intricacies of the game.
“While it can be said,” I said, “that the cardroom game most resembling what’s found in typical home games is Omaha/8, and the game often has more action and more players per pot than any other cardroom game, thus proving attractive to low-limit action players, I must also hasten to add that those statements apply to low-limit Omaha/8 games, say 6-12 and lower. The play in the 50-100 games is vastly different.”
“Well, of course, dollink,” Aunt Sophie responded. “And I doubt any time soon in games that size you’ll find me.”
“In fact,” I offered, “there starts to be a marked difference at 10-20 and above.”
“Nu,” she returned, “so 2-4 while I learn I’ll stick to.”
“Okay,” I assented, “but games at the 3-6 and 4-8 level generally have more action than 2-4. Part of it is just what I call the ‘mound-of-chips’ phenomenon; that is, the pots look more attractive in a game with betting increments of three or four chips. They still use dollar chips in the higher games, so the pots look monstrous, which encourages action. The action in this club’s 4-8 game dropped markedly when they switched from using $1 chips to $2 chips.”
“So,” she queried, “let this get me straight: 3-6 you’re advising me to play?”
“Yes,” I pontificated. “And by the way, speaking of action, where earlier I said ‘any cardroom game,’ perhaps I should say ‘any cardroom poker game,’ since there’s probably more action in the average pai gow poker game.”
“Fine,” she continued, “and more about common errors you’ll depart to me?”
I sighed, but did not otherwise noticeably respond to the malapropism. “Yes,” I provided, “in this game there are more than any other. Misreading the low is common, especially when there are four low cards on the board. Even some dealers can’t properly read a hand that has paired a low card and yet still has a valid low.”
“Not just dealers,” Aunt Sophie put in.
“You usually don’t have to worry about it at the showdown,” I supplied. “If the dealer makes a mistake, one of the players usually catches it. The problem for you will be when you don’t realize you have a low, or you think you have better than you have, and make a wrong decision.”
“Anything else?” she asked.
“Oh yeah,” I rejoined. “Missing a straight or flush is common. This happens mostly to beginners, who misread a straight when seeing three cards in their hand that would make a straight if only they could play three cards.”
“Nah,” she retorted, “I don’t do that anymore.”
“Another new player error,” I went on, “is thinking you have a full house when there are two pair on the board, and you hold one of the pair ranks in your hand, or thinking you have a full house that uses three cards from your hand. I know that never happens to you, but it’s pretty common. It seems like a lot of problems come just in reading the hands. Trips on the board confuses some players. Because of the must-use-two-cards rule, they can’t figure out that they’ve got quads with the case card, forgetting that they can use any other card for the kicker.”
“So much to remember,” she exclaimed. “But I think I’m past that stage.”
“And there’s a very rare situation,” I proceeded, “when there are quads on the board. This confuses many players because it happens so rarely, but the best hand you can make is of course a full house at this point. Also, if the fifth card on the board is higher than the quads, some players also don’t realize that a pair of aces in the hand is not the nuts. For example, if the board is 5-5-5-5-9, two nines in someone’s hand would be the nuts, for nines full.”
“Oh yeah,” she offered, “that did happen to me once.”
“And,” and I proffered, “here’s a common strategy mistake. If the board pairs a second time, players will get more afraid of full houses, which is certainly a reasonable fear in hold ’em, but the second pair makes full houses less likely in Omaha where players must use two hole cards. The second pair often protects a player’s straight or flush, but scares the holder of such a hand. And here’s a bit of related math for you concerning trips on the board. In a nine- or 10-handed hold ’em game, the odds are against someone holding the case card and having the quads, but in a nine-handed Omaha game, the odds greatly favor that the quads are out. And regarding said hand, many players slow-play quads when there are two low cards on the board, presumably not to scare the low draws out, but this is exactly when you want to jam it up. You’re not going to drop the low draws, and you want them to pay a premium when they miss.”
Aunt Sophie finished her blueberry cheesecake, and signaled for another round of lattes all around. “Ai-yi-yi!” she expostulated. “So many possibilities. So much to think about.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “That’s part of the reason the game is so popular.”
And Sara spake not a word.
Thanks to Stephen Landrum for all his help on the miniseries about this fascinating game. Stephen is the guy who won the BARGE video poker tournament. And he’s also the fellow who on Monday nights either beats me each hand of Omaha/8 I’m rash enough to participate in, or, the ones he’s not in, always knows what I’ve got.