Talking Omaha Poker - One Night in Vilnius
I have now returned from my short break in the south-west of England and I am pleased to report that the sun made regular appearances even if it was on the back of a cool breeze! This was refreshing and fairly relaxing, as far as is possible with kiddies to supervise.
Last time, I regaled you with a tale of my visit to Finland last December and the truncated game of Omaha I squeezed from it. Inspired by this dubious episode, I thought that I would mete out a similar beating to another one of my less successful Omaha evenings, this time at the Tony G Invitational festival at Vilnius in the East European Baltic State of Lithuania, not too far from Finland in fact!
Spookily, the date was almost to this day last year when I entered the €500 Pot Limit Omaha Freezeout with something like 60 entrants squeezed into the small but very neat card room of the Grand Casino in Vilnius. Note the similarity to last week's tale? That was also at a Grand Casino, a chain with a strong presence in Northern Europe. They certainly equip their venues out tastefully and provide excellent dealers and valets.
I had arrived the day or two before to play in a €100 No Limit Hold'em rebuy tournament. I managed to make the freezeout period without buying in but eventually succumbed in a race between pocket pair (mine) and AK (his). His AK found a K on the turn.
I digress so let's move on to the Omaha. The tournament was played mainly by players from the Baltics and Scandinavia but with a smattering of travellers from the UK, myself included. This was the first time I had played a big buy-in (for me at any rate) Omaha tournament so I was looking forward to picking up four cards in a live environment rather than observing them on a screen!
Early on it was easy to fold the cards and I had no intention of wasting chips on wishy-washy combinations of hole cards but it did seem as though some of the guys at the table were not so fussy judging by their keenness to call raises; or maybe they had good hands but were reluctant to re-raise, it was hard to tell as very few hands went to showdown ending as they usually did after a pot-raise following the flop.
When I did finally get involved in a hand, I was surprised at my own willingness to pot-bet and was pleased to take down some small pots uncontested. The chances are though that this led to my ultimate downfall as I found myself with a peculiar little hand in the big blind that I saw a flop with for free. How often that free look can be a curse!
I have to dredge the memory banks a little but the hand was, I am sure, 9754; flushes did not enter into the equation so I won't concern you with suits. The flop came down J86 giving me an awful lot of straight outs albeit my cards were sitting at the wrong end of the sequence. Ideally I wanted to see a 5 or a 4 but could be sitting handily even if a 7, 9 or T hit the board. I decided I had enough outs to attempt a swing at the pot which contained several limping bets from the table. However, before I had a chance to do so, the player to my right pot-raised to 750. I decided that this player perhaps held a raggedy 2-pair (as he did not raise in the small blind pre-flop which I would expect with AAxx for example) so I decided, on the basis of my large range of draws to re-raise the pot.
Now, we all started with 5,000 chips and I had edged ahead to around 6,500 by now, so this bet was committing half my chips, around 3,000. I fully expected a fold around to the raiser and either a fold by him or a re-raise all-in. The former move would be satisfactory for me and the latter would have me calling and relying on my perceived odds-on chance of catching a draw from two cards to come while avoiding a paired board. I felt I was favoured overall.
The unexpected then happened; the button, a limper along with the rest pre-flop, who was now in last position, called my pot-raise! The small blind, who was my expected mark, fled the scene faster than a fox with its tail on fire leaving me peering into a big hole which at that point looked alarmingly like an exit trapdoor.
Suddenly I was pot-committed and out of position desperately hoping to see a 4 or 5 on the turn. It came a K. Not much use but also sufficiently safe to leave me uncertain of my next move. This card did not create any straights for anyone but possibly added further draws for my opponent. However, I could only assume he had called my big bet with something powerful like a set although I might have expected a re-raise with that. A call with 2-pair behind a re-raised bet also seemed reckless, so what could he have that would cause him to risk half his chips? It felt a little "fishy" but I was now hoping for a friendly river card.
This was no time to back off. If I checked, I could expect a big bet so I decided to put the onus on my mysterious friend. I went all-in and I was called.
On their backs went the cards and between us we had a big fat collection of bus tickets. My hand I knew needed any of one of 16 cards to make a straight but the 7, 9 or T might not be enough. One look at my opponent's cards revealed these fears. He held 69TQ, like me, a wrap hand but superior to mine; in short, the hand my bets would have been justified by. As it was, before the river card, he held a pair of 6's against my K high! The rest of the table was left stunned.
I was in need of a 5 or a 4, nothing else would do. Virtually any card would make a straight for one of us but it was a 2! I had gone all-in and lost to a pair of sixes in Omaha. The small blind had dumped a winning hand but almost certainly made a correct fold.
As I said earlier, this was my first live Omaha tournament of note and I was probably, in retrospect, too aggressive. In such moments you need a visit from a friendly member of the poker gods. Maybe, at that moment, none were quite sure how to get to Lithuania!
Ed Note: Great Omaha action at Pokerroom.com