Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Highs & Lows of Split-Pot Games

Split Pot BrainEnded up a bit down for October, thanks largely to that crummy final week. Still having a good year overall -- seven months up (some way up), three months down (all modest losses). Have slipped a shade behind last year’s pace for overall earnings. We’ll see how the last coupla months go.

Have been playing PLO8 here lately. I believe I have some idea about what makes a decent starting hand, although I’ll admit there are times when I’m at sea post-flop. Whereas in high-only PLO I rarely feel uncertain about whether or not I should be pursuing a hand after the flop, I frequently am having moments in PLO8 where I can’t tell if I should be pushing, calling, or getting the hell out of the way.

I have another confession to make. In these split-pot games, I’m one of those sad cases who actually has difficulty figuring out the low. (The problem extends to Razz, too, of course.) It’s not like I’m poor at numbers -- I’d rate myself at least average or above when it comes to figgerin’ pot odds, etc. Have some kind of weird blind spot, though, when it comes to registering quickly what low I’m holding (or drawing to), as well as recognizing what the best possible low is. Definitely a problem I need to address if I want to stay in these games.

How about an unflattering example of my simple-mindedness? Get ready to cringe.

I start the hand with a little over $16 in chips. I’m in late position (the “hijack” seat) and get dealt AhTd2hQc. The UTG player limps and the player next to him minimum-raises to fifty cents -- he’s been doing that quite frequently, actually. It folds to me and I call. The small blind folds, the big blind blind calls, and the limper also calls. So we’ve got four to the flop. Pot is two bucks.

The flop comes 5hAdAs. It checks to me. I’ll admit, I’m a bit lost what to think here. I tend not to believe I’m the only one with an ace in his or her hand, but perhaps I am. I understand that my low draw is no good here at the moment, as my ace has been counterfeited. I end up betting $1.50, though as I say I’m hardly confident that’s the right play. I get one caller -- the UTG limper. The pot is now $5.

The turn brings the 4c and my opponent bets out $1.75. Frankly, this is the sort of situation I struggle with in PLO high as well -- flopping trip aces, then not improving on the turn. I call, even though somewhere in the back of my mind flickers the warning that I’m only playing for half of the pot, which is now $8.50.

The river is the 8s and my opponent bets $2.25. Now I’m seeing I still have trip aces for the high. Somewhere in my addled brain the idea stubbornly persists that I still stand to win the high pot. And now I’m noticing I’ve made a low hand, too. I’m making two pretty lame mistakes here regarding the strength of my hand. For one, I’m way too confident in my trip aces. And secondly, I’m a fool if I think my low -- 8-5-4-2-A -- is any good, either.

I think part of my problem sometimes with seeing the low is that I’m reading it backwards. For instance, in this case I’m looking at it as A-2-4-5-8 and not the other way around (even though I know better). And for some dumb reason that ace-deuce in front is blinding me to what comes after. (Anyone else ever suffer from this one?)

So here comes the most embarrassing part of the hand -- I don’t just call, but I raise it up to $6.00. Luckily for me, my opponent just calls and shows me a deuce and a trey. His wheel is good enough to scoop all $22 or so into his stack.

Shameful, yes? I suppose I had to lose something on that hand, but obviously not 11 bucks’ worth.

I’m actually having some success at PLO8 -- if you can believe that -- primarily thanks to some good fortune and running into players even worse than myself. And it’s fun, too (the most important thing). I’ve started reading through the high-low sections of Bob Ciaffone’s Omaha Poker (I’d skipped them before). I do think it is a game where the skilled player -- or even just the competent one -- can enjoy a significant edge.

Got a long way to go, though, before I can claim such status for myself.



Blogger NAT said...

I used to have problems with betting hands like this in O8 and PLO8. Then I started going with one strong rule: If a wheel is possible (and I can't beat the wheel), I am extremely cautious, checking and calling at most. Keep at it. It gets better with practice.


11/04/2007 12:43 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thx, Nat. Good advice.

11/04/2007 2:10 PM  

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