Friday, July 14, 2006

Dazed and Confused; or, My Introductions to Omaha and Seven-Card Stud

Still keeping an eye on that H.O.R.S.E. event at the WSOP. They’ve finally whittled the original field of 143 down to the final 9. Gotta love that final table, with Doyle Brunson and T.J. Cloutier still there. Talk about a couple of tough “horses" -- a couple of 70-plus-year-olds making it through that ungodly 19-hour second day. Phil Ivey, Andy Bloch, Chip Reese . . . should be a great finale. A shame that they will now play it out as a no-limit hold ’em event, but I’ll still be checking in to see who survives.

Again, as a nod to the H.O.R.S.E. event, I wanted to make one more non-hold ’em post and talk a bit about Omaha and Stud. I used to play both games quite a bit, especially Pot Limit Omaha (high only), though not so much for the last six months or so. My introduction to Omaha was kind of interesting. I had only been playing for play chips on PokerStars for a month or so when some of the friends with whom I had been playing recommended giving Omaha a try. After only a few hands at a ring table, I entered one of those Sunday afternoon freeroll tournaments Stars regularly runs, a fixed limit Omaha (high only) tourney with over 6000 entrants. I searched around on the web a bit just before the tournament began and found what looked like a reasonable, simple little chart explaining how to rate Omaha starting hands by assigning certain points -- e.g., AA gets 30 pts., Ace & anything suited gets 10 pts., connectors get two points, etc. If your hand totalled 10-15 pts., you could call the BB. If you had more, you could call a raise. Even more and you could raise yourself. I propped my chart on the keyboard, loaded Led Zeppelin’s eight studio albums into Winamp, and watched as the first hand was dealt.

Now these huge freerolls tend to attract a lot of less-than-serious players, and in the case of an Omaha tourney, I’m sure they also bring in a significant number of folks who aren’t even clear about the rules of the game. (I at least knew the rules, even if I didn’t have much of a clue about strategy.) I followed my little chart pretty closely, which I soon realized only permitted me to play about 10-15% of the hands. Such a super-tight approach allowed me to survive the first couple of thousand casualties pretty easily, although my stack wasn’t growing very much. Then somewhere around “Gallows Pole” I caught a rush of cards and found myself among the top hundred. I continued to limp along. A couple of hours later we were down to 800 and “Achilles’ Last Stand.” Then there were 300 left -- “Hot Dog”! Finally came the last, drawn-out chords of “I’m Gonna Crawl” . . . an appropriate title, as I had become one of the shorter stacks clinging for dear life. The music stopped and I looked up to see I was sitting at 9th out of 12 remaining. Then 9th out of 11. Then 9th out of 10.

The “prize” for the tourney was only for those who made the final table (top 9) -- an entry into the “Weekly Round 2” tourney the following Sunday (a freeroll with a $100 prize pool). I remember being dealt something like AsAhJs5d and actually folding it, nervously eyeing the guy on the other table who only had a single big blind remaining. Finally, after folding a few more hands, I watched as he was bounced. “Congratulations, you have made the final table!” The very next hand was an all-in fest, and I happily went out in ninth place. Ninth! Out of over 6000. I was starting to think I might like Omaha.

Only later did I realize that I had misread the chart I had used -- it was designed for Omaha 8-or-better (or “high-low”), not just Omaha high. So that’s why it awarded 15 pts. for having a deuce and a trey in your hand! (Shamus smacks forehead.) Still, somehow, I’d overcome even this self-imposed handicap to get through five-plus hours and thousands of opponents. Have to say, for someone who’d yet to make his first deposit to play real money games, this was some serious fun.

I checked the schedule and saw the following Sunday’s “Weekly Round 2” was actually a limit Stud tourney. I didn’t realize at the time that Poker Stars allows you to bank tourney entries and use them whenever you wish, so I thought I had one week to learn yet another game. I picked up a copy of Roy West’s 7 Card Stud: 42 Lessons How to Win at Medium & Lower Limits -- not necessarily the best way to learn how to negotiate a stud tournament (although there is a section in the back by Tom McEvoy about “Tournament Tactics”), but definitely a nice introduction to the game. I read through the entire book, took lots of notes, and made up a chart that compiled West’s recommendations for starting hands and fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-street play. Whereas I had prepared a total of ten minutes for the Omaha tourney, I had probably put in at least 15 hours getting ready for my big Stud debut.

What happened? Not much. I busted out within the first hour. None of West’s recommendations seemed to work as described. I was placed at a table where five of the eight players had neglected to show up for the tourney, so it was just me, the five “sitting out” zombies, and two extremely aggressive players who appeared ready to cap the betting on every street. I couldn’t keep up at all, and thus received both an early exit and a short-lived prejudice against Stud.

Eventually I came to appreciate Stud and played the ring games every now and then. Omaha I liked even better, and for a time played nothing but PLO on Stars (nothing above the $0.05/$0.10 tables, of course). I did reasonably well in a few PLO SNG’s, and I even made another final table in another Omaha freeroll, finishing ninth again out of another field of thousands. I gravitated back to hold ’em, however, where I’ve been mostly camped out ever since.

I’ve been leafing through West’s book lately and occasionally sitting in on a few rounds of Stud. I’d like to get my hands on a good Omaha book, also, and get back into that game as well. I’ve seen recommended Ray Zee’s High-Low Split Poker (which covers both Stud and Omaha) -- I may pick it up. (Can anyone who has read it tell me what they think of that one?) Even if the WSOP has decided now that we’ve reached the final table of the H.O.R.S.E. event that these other games are no longer interesting, I’m still curious. Would hardly be a self-respecting detective if I weren't . . . .

Image: Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin (1969), Amazon.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


I understand that there are good sections on both variations of stud and omaha in Super system.

I tend to play high low omaha when my holdem goes a bit stale or i just need a break.

I know i'm just a novice player compared to you, but learning different games will make you a better player according to most pro's.

Good luck at the tables

7/17/2006 4:12 AM  

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