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Talking Omaha - The Knockout Phase

Talking Omaha - The Knockout Phase 0001

In recent months I have played exclusively cash games when playing Omaha. But last week I decided to revert to a little tournament play, something I usually only do at Texas Hold'em.

I don't know why I don't play Omaha multi-table tournaments more often. I find the Omaha Hi/Lo tourneys great fun indeed, because there is so much chasing going on early in the piece that even nut half pots on the high side are inevitably profitable as they pick up half of every callers' bets as they chase various low draws or inferior high ones.

The downside of Hi/Lo is that your bets can come a cropper when that stray card falls that knocks your nut low out of the water and kills the high too. More often than not the culprit is a stray 2 or 3 that completes a low straight.

Say you have A2QQ and raise the pot pre-flop. Early in a tournament, you may find some bold callers coming with you. The flop comes Q35 and that makes you very happy with the nut high for now and a draw for nut low from any other 4, 6, 7 or 8.

The pot is getting large now and you know there are callers out there with A2, A4 or 24 who will pay you off with at least 75% of their bets unless your high hand is outdrawn, but with the temporary nuts, you plough on.

The turn is a 9, which is good also. All four cards are different suits too. Bet out again and still the callers persist, well at least some of them.

Unfortunately, this is a tournament and a pot limit one at that. Betting takes you and your other early birds all-in. All you can do is wait for the river card. It would be nice to see a paired specimen, a 3, 5 or 9, or even the case Q. What isn't so nice is when the 2 drops out of the sky and the screen pops up with "You have finished in 191st place. Thank you for participating", while an opponent holding AKT4 walks away with a scooped pot, having reivered "The Wheel", A2345.

In a nutshell, that is the big problem with pot limit Omaha tournaments that are not rebuys or double chance. One big hit and you are out regardless of the reading on the "bad-luck-o-meter". In a ring game, you simply re-load should you feel inclined, and you probably should do if the players are going to call off their money as easily as they do their tournament chips.

The early knockout in a Hi/Lo tournament, and probably also an Omaha High one, is one of those hazards to bear simply because winning that pot referred to above, either as a scoop or a three-quarter pot, gets you off to a flyer and reduces future risk of a technical knockout.

Another form of tournament I have been dabbling in lately is the single table variety. Omaha STT's are quite difficult to come by unless you play at the biggest poker rooms. There are so many choices of poker room but so few of them make an effort to provide a wide Omaha palette. Pokerstars and Party Poker are the usual backstops for quality Omaha tournaments, so it is usually to Pokerstars I go, as that is my preference.

The STT's even here only fill up once the American audience finishes its early day's work. In the UK, that means I can get an STT game quickly only in the evening. There tend to be regular players here who have made Omaha Hi/Lo their speciality or maybe because they like the action regardless of their talents - who knows? All I can do is watch the table as play progresses and play my cards as usual for Hi/Lo, that is try to avoid loose betting with hands that probably cannot scoop the pot. When I do get a potential scooper pre-flop, I try to get the chips in early so if the flop fulfils my promise, I can make a big pot bet if I believe that is the thing to do.

I approach a 9-handed STT with positive thoughts because a profit is available for a top 3 finish. I know two or three of the players are likely to gamble so unless I get very strong starting hands at a full table, I steer clear and allow the others to beat each other up. I am confident I will make top 5 most times, although inevitably early outdraws occasionally happen to leave me stranded. Once in the top 5, a little aggression with promising hands is effective because of the "bubble" factor. Players tighten up for fear of missing the money.

My aim is to make a regular top two spot if only to pay for further entries. In a 9-handed STT on Pokerstars, the first place pays approximately four times the buy-in and second place pays 2.5 times the buy-in. A first place pays for the next three such STT's which you can freeroll into good money with a bit of care and luck. This is an opportunity to build a profitable stream of income, so long as you keep your discipline and don't overplay to the extent you become tired or stale at the screen. There is only one outcome when that happens - early elimination!

In summary, Omaha tournaments are good fun and potentially very profitable. Because Omaha is also a game of high variations in profitability (when you lose it can be a painful hit, but when you win it can be a special pot), you can find yourself on the canvas and with no means of redemption, unlike the cash game where you can get up after a "count of 8". So long as you understand that and only risk all your chips when you have the weapons, an Omaha tournament is an excellent way of keeping fresh in poker.

There are of course rebuy tournaments where you can get more than one chance. The drawback to this is that it can encourage looser play. Rebuying is all very well but you only get back to your starting position while other players, many gamblers amongst them, are zooming into the distance up the leaderboard. By the time the rebuy period is over, you need a lot of luck to recover. So, do not be loose in a rebuy tournament. There are queues of players lining up to pay over their chips in the rebuy period, so make sure you have an excellent hand to take them with.

Let the contest begin!



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