Saturday, March 31, 2007

Houdini Would Have Played Omaha

Houdini Would Have Played OmahaLast week the grand nephew of Harry Houdini announced his plans to exhume his ancestor’s corpse in order to determine whether he had been poisoned. Some have characterized the proposed exhumation as just the sort of spectacle the famed escape artist would’ve enjoyed, dubbing it “Houdini’s last escape.”

What else would Houdini have enjoyed? Pot limit Omaha. I’m sure of it.

Been playing PLO and (just about) nothing else here for the last three-and-a-half weeks. Had played a lot before (a couple of years back), but have only recently started thinking seriously about Omaha again. The game continues to be profitable for me. And fun. As I’ve mentioned before, despite the fact that an individual session might feature wild swings -- wilder than what you get in a limit hold ’em game, for sure -- my experience has been that my overall variance is in fact less. Most of my sessions have been winning sessions, and my roll has steadily climbed ever since I made the move. And for some reason I’m less affected emotionally by a downswing or bad beat in Omaha. I’ve only played 4,200 hands or so, and thus haven’t anywhere near the amount of data to make any meaningful pronouncements about where I stand at this point. Am fairly certain, though, that I’m going to be sticking with PLO for a while anyway.

My approach has been to try to remain reasonable in the midst of the frequent craziness one often encounters. At the $25 max tables I’ve been buying in for $15. Often there’s only one or two other players with at least $25 anyway, so $15 has seemed a good place to start. If I slip under $10 I’ll add chips to keep my stack in the $15-20 range. These PLO players simply love to gamble, it seems, and it isn’t too hard to pick your spots so as to ensure you’re getting the best of it. So while I do see a lot of flops, I try not to get too carried away after the flop if I can help it. I don’t get wed to aces or pursue less-than-nut flushes or get excited about flopping bottom two pair. I strongly consider position when entering hands, playing a lot of marginal holdings from the button or cutoff that I’d instantly throw away anywhere else. I’ve a lot to learn, I know. (Hopefully eblonk will start his podcast soon and deliver further instruction to us all.)

Anyhow, during this brief period of play I’ve seen some truly remarkable hands the level of improbability of which exceed anything I can remember encountering in hold ’em. The fact that each player holds four cards -- and thus six different two-card combinations with which to connect with the community cards -- significantly increases the possibilities for hand-making and thus the potential for weirdness to occur. In his chapter on PLO in Super System 2, Lyle Berman points out that “backdoor hands are made more often in pot-limit Omaha than in hold ’em” -- in other words, there are more “escape valves” (as Berman calls ’em) that allow someone who is behind to come back and take down the pot.

Here are three hands (all at the $0.10/$0.25 PLO tables) where the manner of escape reached Houdiniesque levels of astonishing . . . .

March of the Ducks

Had a hand a few days ago where I was in the big blind and was dealt 9c9d3hTs. The UTG+1 who had been sitting out had posted both the small and big blinds before the deal. The short-stacked UTG called, UTG+1 checked, and everyone else folded to the small blind who completed, making the pot $1.10. So four of us saw the flop come nine-high -- 6d9h2s. I bet $1.00 and the UTG player quickly put in her remaining chips -- $4.10 worth. All folded back around to me, and I of course called, making the total pot $9.90. This was on Absolute, and so our cards were turned over at that point. My opponent had 7h7dJd2c. She’d flopped zilch, not even a gutshot straight draw.

Turn card -- 2d. River -- 2h. She’d made quads, and took the pot.

Down to the Last Out

Here’s a hand I played yesterday on Bodog. I was not involved in this one beyond the flop. Seven players limped, making the pot $1.75, and the flop came 7h9hJh. Six of us checked to the button who bet $1.00. I folded, but two other players called, making the pot $4.75. Turn card was the 4s and again it was checked to the button who this time bet $2.00. An early position player then check-raised pot ($10.75), which put the button all-in. The pot was $25.45 altogether. With the all-in, the players’ cards were revealed. The check-raiser held 3sAhKc2h, meaning he held the nut flush. The button had QhKh6h6c, giving him second-best.

The river? You guessed it. The Th, giving the button a straight flush. The only escape valve in the deck.

More Pure Than Ivory Soap

Finally, here’s another one I played on Bodog yesterday. Get ready to cringe. I was in late position where I was dealt KdJcAsJd. A decent starting hand, but I just limped and hoped for a nice flop. By the time the flop came there were four of us in the hand -- just a buck in the pot. The flop was a dazzling AcKsAh. Sweet sassy molassey -- I’d flopped aces full. All three players checked to me, and I checked as well. Gotta hope somebody shows an interest in the hand, I thought. The turn was the 9c and an early position player bet half-pot, fifty cents. One player called. I just called as well. Now there was a flush draw, and also the possibility someone might have a worse boat. The river was the 9d and the early position player again bet half-pot -- $1.25 into the $2.50 pot. I raised to $4.75, and he instantly raised pot, putting me all-in (with my last $11.10). I called, of course, making the total pot $32.70.

You know what he had, right? 9h3cQc9s. Runner-runner quads. Now I had let him get there. But for that to happen he essentially had to hit two one-outers in a row -- only those two cards appearing give him the hand. The Omaha odds calculator tells me I was 99.88% to win after the flop. Ivory soap is only 99 and 44/100 percent pure, for Chrissake! Then after the nine came on the turn I was still 97.50% to win. Gotta feel the slow play was still in order there, right?

Funny thing is, I didn’t feel bad at all about that hand -- not nearly as crushed as when I lose to, say, a five-outer on the river in a limit hold ’em game. I think I’ve somehow trained myself here not to be surprised that even in the most secure situations, when you’ve seemingly trapped that little bugger across the table to the point of no hope, there’s almost always at least some way for him to escape.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Richard said...

Nice connection with Houdini. Those are certainly improbable catches for your opponents, especially in the perception of a hold-em player such as myself. The few times I played omaha I'll get a set and think it's a great hand and end up losing to a boat.

Good to hear that you're winning at PLO. Makes me want to venture out of my comfort zone and give it a try, just to change things up.

3/31/2007 4:02 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Well, if you play long enough...

That said, it was kind of amazing to see that number of escapes in such a short time span, even for Omaha.

3/31/2007 9:03 PM  
Blogger eblonk said...

@Richard:
I used to lose big pots with sets. Sometimes they are good, more often they are not.

4/01/2007 3:20 PM  
Anonymous donny said...

It amazes me how anyone can play 993Q in EP. It's bad beat galore at Bodog baby!

4/04/2007 2:13 AM  

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