I’ve written here many times about my obsession with record keeping, something I’ve done since I first started playing poker. Even so, this week I think I could be said to be somewhat guilty of what Greenstein is saying. Finding myself on a bit of an upswing, I decided at last to go ahead and get a copy of Poker Tracker Omaha and start entering hands. Call me vain, but I think I was partly motivated by a desire to see some of them green numbers (indicating wins) in the PTO program.
Have just begun to mess around with the program, and indeed have only had time to enter the last three months’ worth of play -- just under 15,000 hands. I have a ton more, though, and so hope before too long to have a more significant sample to examine. Did happen to spot a couple of interesting items, though, that I thought I’d share here.
I say I’m on an upswing, and indeed, I’ve enjoyed several good sessions here lately, although there was one very bad one mixed in there where I dropped nearly two buy-ins (almost $100) in 279 hands. Those wounds healed quickly, though, as I had a ridiculously fortunate session the next day in which I somehow won over $120 in just 69 hands. I came away from both sessions with particular ideas about how things had gone, but thought I’d use Poker Tracker to take a closer look and perhaps try to confirm those conclusions I’d drawn.
The losing session ended with a terrible last hand in which I’d turned a well-concealed six-high straight, got it all in versus a guy I thought might have a set or perhaps a wheel, and it turned out he’d also turned the same six-high straight plus a flush draw -- and the flush got there on the river. A perfect storm kind of hand for him, ending with him freerolling me, hitting, and taking about $30 from me. Up to then, I had lost a few hands with A-A-x-x, and in fact had gotten to the point where I felt myself getting a bit apprehensive whenever I picked up aces, as if anticipating losing with them yet again (not a good way to play, for sure).
Anyhow, my conclusion from that session was I’d been somewhat unfortunate and perhaps had misplayed a couple of A-A-x-x hands along the way, thus ensuring the big loss.
In the next session, I knew exactly why I’d won so much so quickly. Two hands, both of which involved me hitting nut straights, big pots developing, and my hands holding up. I hadn’t confirmed it, but I knew most if not all of the $120 had come on those two big pots.
Okay, so what do I see when I look at Poker Tracker?
Well, my impression from that first session that I’d been dealt aces a lot and had lost a lot with them was definitely correct.
There are 270,725 different starting hands in Omaha. Actually, there are only 16,432 distinct starting hands (i.e., taking into account the fact that suits have no particular value before the flop). Compare that to the 169 distinct starting hands in hold’em! But we have to consider all of the combinations in order to talk about how often one should expect to be dealt, say, a hand like A-A-x-x.
Of these starting hands, 82,368 combinations contain a single pair, and of those, exactly 6,336 combinations contain two aces only (i.e., we aren’t including the small number of hands with three or four aces here). That means one should expect to be dealt two aces approximately 2.34% of the time, around once every 43 hands or so. In my session, I played 279 hands and picked up A-A-x-x nine times. That’s once every 31 hands, meaning I got aces two or three more times than I should have in terms of what the probabilities suggest.
In those nine hands, I lost a whopping $63.45 -- basically my entire loss except for that last hand! Most of that (about $50) actually came in just two of the hands. I see one of those hands was a bad luck situation (flopped a set and got outdrawn), but the other was a poorly played gamble by me (someone else flopped a set and suckered me in).
In the second session -- the winning one -- I’m seeing that in those two big straight hands I actually won $130.15, meaning in the other 67 hands I was a ten-buck loser! In one my starting hand was 8-7-6-5 double-suited, and in the other 9-8-7-5 double-suited. One hand I played fine (flopped the straight plus a flush draw; opponent also flopped a king-high flush draw, gambled, and lost), and in the other was a bit fortunate (I took a gamble after flopping a wrap draw versus two opponents and ended up rivering my straight to win the pot).
How are aces treating me, generally speaking? Well, over the last few months, I was dealt A-A-x-x a total of 359 times in 14,729 hands. That’s about once every 41 hands, which is about what I should expect. And somehow I’ve only won six bucks in those hands, a miserable win rate (although it would have looked a lot better prior to that bad session the other day, I guess). I thought I was one of those players who knew better than to overplay aces in PLO, but perhaps I have been struggling there more than I realize.
Like I said, I’ve only barely started to root around in here to see if I can discover any other meaningful trends. Am noticing that a couple of players whom I had thought were especially strong are in fact losing quite a bit in the hands they've played with me at the table. (Perhaps they aren’t so much strong players as players whose styles make me uncomfortable somehow.) Am also seeing that in the last three months I have done much better in 6-max games than in full ring games, something of which I hadn’t necessarily been aware before.
In his list of 25 “traits of winning poker players,” Greenstein notes that among other qualities the winners are “attentive to detail,” “the ones with the best memories,” and “honest with themselves.” Seems like this here Poker Tracker could help with all three of those.