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 raises on the flop
Aunt Sophie, Sara, and I relaxed in our booth in the coffee shop of the Anaheim Club. Sara continued studying for her night class in French literature, reading at the moment Moliere’s Le Misanthrope, an indication that she would not likely be participating in the ensuing discussion.
Aunt Sophie signaled the waitress to replenish our cups. “Tell me about raises,” she started, “in Omaha/8 before the flop. Sometimes the pot you see capped and other times six or seven passive one-bet callers you get.”
“That,” I replied, “is an interesting phenomenon. Arising from it is that there are situations in which I might flat call with some hands for one bet, and yet other times cap it if there are already three bets. Of course, this is my own personal style for certain live games at this club. I don’t necessarily proffer this as general advice.”
“Whenever he uses woids like ‘proffer,’“ Aunt Sophie stage-whispered to Sara, “get ready for a lecture.”
“I know,” responded my lissome paramour without looking up from her tome.
“Basically,” I bore on, gamely ignoring the effrontery, “I count on the fact that there are a number of players whose raises preflop don’t mean specifically that they have ace-deuce, or even a good hand necessarily. Even when I have a raising hand, and there has not yet been any raising, I usually limp if there is anyone after me who has not acted yet and doesn’t have a blind. Since the button has a theoretical blind (the drop), I don’t start considering initiating preflop raises until just in front of the button. The theory behind this not raising in a so-far unraised pot is that I want everyone to have a chance to get involved in the hand before the raising starts. If they fold after the raises, they leave dead money in the pot, and if they call the raises the pot will be big and lots of players will be pot-stuck.”
“Another coffee you’ll have, Saraleh?” inveigled Aunt Sophie, apparently not focussing on my “poils a wisdom,” as she was wont to call them, but totally engrossed I knew.
“Now,” I continued, “if someone raises in front of me, I’ll consider reraising with hands with which I want to thin down the number of callers, especially hands containing two aces plus high cards, or hands like A-K-K-X where X is a queen, jack, deuce, or trey. With these hands, the overpair alone has a chance of standing up if the number of players is small, and an unimproved set has a much better chance against a small field even if a straight or flush is possible. If I’m in one of the blinds, including the button, I treat this as a situation in which I’m not going to lose callers and reraise with most hands that I think have an advantage at this point. If it’s three-bet in front of me no matter my position, I either cap it, or fold. What I’m trying to do is build a big pot when I hold a hand that has an advantage against a large field. In general, I rarely play a hand for one bet that I am unwilling to call raises with. I try not to fall into the trap that a lot of Omaha players do of calling one bet with a marginal hand, and then having to call subsequent bets for the supposed money odds, or having to abandon the one bet when the betting gets fierce. The exception might be coming in a blind for a fraction of a bet, particularly when there’s no one left to raise, or hardly anyone.”
“Ah,” said Aunt Sophie, “you hardly ever get in light. It’s that first decision that is the most important.”
Cap the pot
“Yes,” I agreed. “And I three-bet or cap because it gives the appearance of action, which is something you want in a good low-limit Omaha game. Often, the times I put that third bet or cap in are in a situation in which the pot was going to be capped anyway, so I might as well be known as someone who is willing to cap the pot. This is something the tight and the passive-weak players don’t do. You’re not going to make money with a super-tight reputation, and you won’t be able to capitalize on that reputation to make many bluffs. Big pots loosen up the game, and encourage the action players to start raising, all good for the game.”
“So,” commented Aunt Sophie, “you look like one of the live ones, but you’re really not.”
“Well,” I temporized, “I doubt I’ve ever been confused with a live one, but I am often thought of as an action player. Here’s a caveat, though. Preflop raising may not be the best idea for those new to Omaha, especially if they are having problems with discipline or figuring out whether a hand is good enough to proceed after the flop. It’s too easy to confuse with just betting for the sake of betting, and adopting the same caution-to-the-winds strategy as the real live ones. This sort of raising must be done selectively.”
My thanks to Stephen Landrum, ace Omaha/8 maven, who suggested much of the strategy for this installment, and others in the series.