I haven't been playing too much Omaha this week due to other commitments, just the odd table here and there with mixed results. But for this week I thought I would take a walk through a heads-up tournament. I like to be honest with these accounts and not choose the most favourable hands to show me in a good light. So I am happy to select a game and make a solemn promise to myself to discuss the crucial hands even if I lose the match or play like a novice.
I therefore played on-line earlier today and took a hand history of it. Sometimes it's quite a revelation to study your hand histories after a match to see if in fact you played like a chump or a champ! I do not have a view on this one, but I know I survived by the skin of my teeth at one point and the opponent had a lot to say in the chat box before losing his composure. That made life easier.
So, before looking at some key hands, I'll make a couple of comments about heads up play as I see it.
Firstly, I think there's a lot of luck in an individual heads-up match. Yes, good players can get good results on a consistent basis mainly by being aggressive because they know both players are likely to be dealt junk before the flop so the first big bet often takes the hand. A passive player is usually not a winner over time at heads-up.
Secondly, I rarely get the pleasure on-line to play someone who doesn't think he's the Lord's gift to poker players. This can be irritating so I usually let them talk to themselves until they are distracted by the lack of a reply. If it helps to weaken their play, all the better for me.
So, on to the game, pot limit Omaha High. We start on 5/10 blinds with 1,500 chips each. I'll call my opponent "Buddy" for ease.
The first four hands go nowhere and we are still about equal in chips. On Hand 5, Buddy is button and SB and I receive AcAsQd8d. I raise pot to 30, and Buddy calls. The flop is AdJs2s. I decide to slow play and bet 30 again. Buddy raises to 80 making it 50 to go. I re-raise to 300 and take the pot for a lead of 200 over Buddy.
In the next hand I have Ah2h4h8d, nothing special, but call Buddy who at this early stage is intent on raising most hands pre-flop. The flop of JhQdKd does me no favours but I call a small bet and see a 9h on the turn, opening up a nut flush draw. I call a 60 bet and the river is blank, a third diamond. I fold to a pot bet from Buddy. Not a good play by me, I should have folded on the flop bet.
Hands 7 to 11 were nondescript small pots, and by hand 12, we were still almost level in chips when, on the button, I received Ah Kd Qh Jc. I raised pot to 30, and was called. The flop was Qs7c5c. Buddy checked and I bet 50, called. Turn 4d was little help to me and Buddy check-raised me so I folded. I was beginning to suspect Buddy of some cute play and I resolved to call his bluff soon. I was now down to 1,250. By hand 17 we were back level and on hand 18 we both got all our chips in holding T8 on a J97 board. I had the edge though because my hole cards were QJT8 whereas Buddy's were T887. Neither of us had flush draws. The turn and river didn't help either of us and we split the pot.
The match now went through a dreary phase with no showdowns and several pre-flop and flop folds. I lost a little ground here and was down to 1,160 chips against 1,840 when a crucial hand occurred and I got lucky mis-timing a move when I thought my opponent was on the steal.
Buddy was on the button and I received AdAh7d2c, a hand dependent on the aces standing up with a single flush draw in support. The 2c was a poor card and weakened the hand.
As usual Buddy pot-raised pre-flop 40 to 60. I decided to wield my aces and re-raised 120 to 180. Buddy called. The flop was KhKsJh, a dangerous looking board for me. Either my aces were good or I was in big trouble if I got aggressive here. The flush draw made my mind up to make it expensive, especially as I held the Ah, albeit as a singleton heart. It might be enough to persuade an opponent that I have the nut flush and fold.
I bet 240 and after a short pause Buddy re-raises 840 to 1,080 leaving me 740 to call all-in. Now I have a decision. Has Buddy got a K or JJ? If so, I am all but out if I call. I do not know the player but I have seen him raising most hands, but this is a re-raise. Because this bet is receiving 3/1 odds on the pot and I will be struggling to recover if I fold, I decide to call Buddy's bluff and call.
Sadly, he shows KdQc5s4d. In some ways I am pleased because I think Buddy has made a stupid call to my pre-flop re-raise. He would not often be in the lead at the flop - after a re-raise - with that collection of bus tickets!
Now though, I was resigned to bowing out gracefully. The turn came down 8s and the river was the As. Eureka! Rescued by a 2-outer. I picked up 2,320 in chips and now had a 4 to 1 lead. I should now work on grinding out the balance without too many reckless all-ins.
Now Buddy loosened his lips and started with the insults such as suggesting I was like all the other donkeys who couldn't lay down aces! Well, it isn't that simple but Buddy's constant raising was one reason for not believing his bet. He might have a number of draws like QT9 or two hearts. Low chip-count on my part was another reason for taking the odds. Poor play? Possibly so on this occasion, but we all make mistakes. However, Buddy now convinced himself he was the best thing to hit town since sliced bread was invented and lost his cool with the cards.
After two dead hands, I received AhAcQc9c. Buddy, on the button, raised once more so I re-raised to 180. The call brought a flop of Th9s6h. I maintained my aggression to put Buddy's small stack under pressure. I bet 360 and Buddy re-raised the small balance of 220 to go all-in. I called.
Buddy showed 8d4s2h2s. Clearly, even with 25% of all the chips in his stack before the hand played out, Buddy was prepared to call all my pot raises with that hopeless bunch of hole cards. So much for my "donkey" play!
The turn and river were runner-runner spades and Buddy took 1,480 chips to his side of the table! My friend announced that this was retribution and we were back to square one equal in chips.
Nonetheless, Buddy was rattled from the first beat. The next hand saw me dealt AhQhTc7c which I raised to 60, called. The flop of AcJc6d gave me top pair, moderate flush draw and gutshot top straight draw. Buddy checked, I bet 120 and was called again. Turn 4s, check, bet 360, called. River Ks for nut straight. Buddy checks, I bet 940 and Buddy folds.
For the next five hands, chips edged my way overall as Buddy had become a calling station. Hand number 43 saw me having a 5 to 1 chip lead. I am dealt KhKcTh9c and Buddy on the button raises once again. I re-raise the minimum and Buddy also comes over by the minimum. I re-raise that and Buddy calls all-in. He shows Qh8h3s2s, presumably hoping for another flush rescue.
The cards are QdJh4h on the flop. The Q offers help but we both have heart flush draws with my K holding the upper hand. The turn is a 3rd heart and the river a 4th one. I had finally won the heads-up contest!
What is the moral of this tale? My feeling is that it demonstrated the high luck quotient attached to any isolated game of heads-up, especially at Omaha. That said, I always felt my opponent was vulnerable. Yet, you do have to take chances and sometimes they pay off. Like many professionals you see on TV, if what they do appears to be genius, it is because they guessed right!
Until next time!