One of the most exciting aspects of online play is the knowledge that before you lies a vast palette of choice to suit the individual taste, whatever that taste may be – short-handed play, heads up play, 10-handed play, multi-table tournaments, single table tournaments, ring games, no limit, pot limit, fixed limit, Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, high stakes, low stakes, micro stakes, 10% of your bankroll, all of your bankroll. The list seems endless.
But there’s more. An endless choice of game is all very well but without the players there would be nothing. The players represent yet another universe of choice. Good players, bad ones, new ones, experienced ones, novices and professionals. Yet another universe exists when considering these players by location; Europeans, Americans, Australians, Asians. Within Europe, there are Scandinavians, British, French, Spanish, Italians, and so on.
This matters to me when I look for a game. On one site I play, the Scandinavians contain a high number of aggressive and successful players, and should be treated with care. On the same site, the Southern Europeans tend to be far looser and less disciplined and I like to play them. This is of course a generalisation based on observation but it is important to table selection at this site. Individual players from either region may be entirely the opposite so I must also know or try to identify the individual players to watch out for.
Nonetheless, players come and go in their thousands so it is impossible to be aware of everyone and their strengths. Often I have to rely on trial and error at a new table. Every now and then, if you play the right level of stake, you might have the fortune – or more likely misfortune – to be sat at a table with a fully-fledged poker professional on the prowl for easy chips – only you are not aware of this because the player has an internet pseudonym!
It should not take long to know who the good players are at a pot limit Omaha table. Generally they are aggressive and yet have the knack of producing the right quality of hand when it matters. It often seems like a sleight of hand. You know he or she has performed a trick but you cannot quite work out how it was done.
So it was the other night when I was playing online. I had played a little Hold’em and decided to amble over to the Omaha section and see what was cooking. There was a 10-handed table at $1/$2 pot limit Omaha Hi/Lo in progress with about six players. I like joining a half empty table. I think it is because I prefer that kind of number and if the table does become full, I will have some advanced knowledge of the existing players, which might give me an advantage over the latecomers, at least for a short while.
The game was quite tight for Hi/Lo and it soon became clear that there were no obvious sitting ducks here. There was also one player who got involved in pots from time to time and often for a good proportion of his or her chips. On a couple of occasions, this person lost on the strength of a poor turn or river card. This person seemed to know when to bet big and usually was ahead when he or she did so. Yet, my thought was that there is only one way to win big in pot limit Omaha and that is to find a player prepared to call your big hands!
I would have to bide my time. I played very tight and only put my head above the parapet when I had a good set of hole cards and was able to raise or bet a few big blinds. The rounds often ended at the flop or turn as I was not making any hands and had to give up several pots before over-committing. I am not keen to attempt bluffs in Hi/Lo unless the right conditions exist. Too often, there is a player all too willing to take his chance to make the low hand and inadvertently taking the whole pot as his pair of 9’s takes the high hand on the river, with no low appearing at all, while you miss what draws you held.
So, before too long I found my initial $200 had been whittled down to below $100. Meanwhile, the mystery player was now up over $200 having earlier lost a couple of pots and dropped away. I also had a feeling that this person was a well-known UK professional, based partially on his nickname. I messaged a friend who knows a lot of these things and he confirmed that this was that man!
That put a different complexion on things and I would have to watch my step. Another professional I once saw writing in a chat forum had made a brief but very important observation about Omaha Hi/Lo, namely “It is a game of the Nuts!”
This is so easy to forget as you leak cash trying to catch an ace to go with your 2356 hand. What use is 2356 without the ace? You are struggling to beat any A3 or A2 on the low side and the highs are from a small universe of low straights, which can be beaten by players who might be holding 87xx, 76xx, 54xx combinations (which in Hi/Lo appear to be hands that should hit the muck before the flop – but that is another story!).
I digress. I was struggling to find the cards at the right time. Often my big pre-flop bets took the blinds or limps and no more. Then, I limped in with A89T (not too exciting) to see a cheap flop with several players. The flop came 67K rainbow giving me a handy collection of outs for the nut straight without too much fear of a flush. Of course, of the outs, a 5 and an 8 were “splitters”. They would most likely complete a low hand for an opponent as my A8 was unlikely to win the low by itself. Ideally I wanted to see a 9 or T.
We saw the turn for some modest betting at the flop. It was a T, glory be! The professional player bet a decent size and it was folded around to me. I re-raised the pot all-in (as I was considerably shorter-stacked than my learned friend) and he called. The river was low but I felt I had at least half the pot unless we both held 98. I scooped the pot! My opponent was all high cards, AKQJ. The turn card had left a K and T on the board meaning he would scoop if any 9, J, Q or A hit. Once again, a measured bet by the professional.
On the next hand, I delivered the follow up. Only this time, I was always in control of the hand and was fortunate to catch the professional holding cards he had to commit with. I was dealt As 2s 4d 8s and pot-bet pre-flop. About three called including the pro. The flop was a highly desirable 3s 5d Qs, a wrapped draw for the wheel and a nut flush draw. Highs, lows and scoops were all on here!
I now had a more powerful stack than the professional after winning the last hand and knew I would be putting it all in the middle if I could attract a customer into the betting ring. I was first to act and bet the pot. It was again folded to the pro and he re-raised the pot to me! This would leave him only about $20 if I called but that was not my intention regardless of stack size. I re-raised for the balance and he called.
It is worth remembering at this point that I had no hand. Ace high and no low. But I had draws aplenty – any A, 2, 4 or 6 for a straight (some of them nut high) and nut low hand. Any spade that wasn’t a 5 for nut flush with no pair on the board. Beautiful. The turn came down a glorious 2c. The river was 7h. No flush but a 5 high straight and the nut low.
The pro showed high cards again, notably QQ with his JT. Once again, the pro got it in with the best hand but probably accepted he was likely to see a low. Had he known how well-positioned my hand was on the high side he might have folded, but he could not make that assumption. Once again the cards favoured me but I had the odds with me that time.
It was peculiarly satisfying to clean out the sitting professional, proving to me that you never can tell what the online poker tables will serve up!
Until next time!