At one of the European sites I play on, many levels of play are frequently empty, making it hard to get a game above a certain stake. This is in contrast to sites like Pokerstars, and others attracting similarly huge numbers of patronage, where almost all tables are in constant use.
Even at the bigger sites, it is not a guarantee to get a game immediately at Omaha, as opposed to Texas Hold'em, but for most players of modest means, usually there is no great difficulty. At the smaller sites, the choice is very limited for Omaha, and usually the vast numbers in use are all at the smallest stakes, such as $0.25/$0.50 and $0.50/$1.
So, on my smaller site I seek out opportunities for a game. I prefer short-handed games, five or six players. Interestingly, there is one phenomenon - if I might call it that - I find fascinating. This is the existence of a type of player I regard as a "predator", a player who sits and waits for his prey. There are at least a couple of them I see regularly at the Omaha Hi/Lo tables, and I always drop by their tables (once they have some customers) to have a look at how they are doing. Usually they are showing a solid profit.
Most of the regular players looking for a game tend to join full tables. I've often opened the list to find several full tables with one or more on the waiting list. Yet, when I open a new table, nobody joins for an age! It's not because of any reputation I have at the site - believe me. It's because very few players are comfortable playing heads-up Omaha, or short-handed come to that.
The exceptions are the "predators". Any one of these guys will be sat there all by himself (or herself - who really knows?) at three or four empty tables waiting for business. They tend to choose the stake levels that are the highest currently in use (say $0.5/$1) and maybe the next one or two levels above that ($1/$2 and $2/$4). They sit there hoping that a stray beast separates from the pack and wanders into their domain, for their aim is one-fold - to bring the detached beast down and devour it!
The psychology of the players in this typical scenario is fascinating. As I said above, the vast majority do not like being away from the crowd so they will only join a full or busy table but will not join a new table. Being in the crowd means they can hide from confrontation and only when they have a solid weapon in the form of a strong hand take the courage into their hands and bet out or re-raise. Heads up, they have to do that with much weaker looking hands and that takes a different kind of courage. It is a little like having to face up to an aggressive person without their friends about.
The "predator" knows this, so he or she is a patient being. Amongst the players looking for tables or moving around them, there will be one who is confident either through experience or through bravado and decides he will have a go at the higher level. He probably thinks along the lines of "well, you never know, I could make a quick double-up and leave", or "once we are 2-handed, others will see a new table is on the move and start to join and soon it will be 10-handed".
What one of the predators does, early on, is to play a tight, patient game while taking no risks with his chips. He folds regularly and makes the new player feel welcome by allowing him the luxury of a few pots. This he does because if he were otherwise to be in the face of the newcomer with bullying tactics and frequent raises pre-flop, he would most likely lose his customer before his opponent had played many hands or lost many chips.
So he plays easy, seeing plenty of flops. Then the predator gets a promising flop with dozens of draws high and low. He hopes for action from his one or two opponents and, usually at the turn card, pot-raises. Invariably, he gets the call, and the victim is down.
This is the typical action of one individual I have watched. One of the others is a little different in that he is not so concerned about enticing the player in. He is aggressive from the outset and often picks up the chips simply because no-one wants to play at those stakes. I have found a player like that easier to handle because I am the one who knows I just have to wait like the other predator does and swoop when the big hand hits. It is not always easy in the face of aggression but it is pleasing when my pot-raise folds him over.
What these guys have in common, whether they are passive-aggressive or just plain aggressive, is the knowledge that many players joining them may not have the experience they do at short-handed Omaha poker and that their passive game that is more suited at a full table will betray their hands too easily giving the predator a soft target into which he can sink his teeth.
I sometimes wonder why I don't take that approach a little more often myself!
Overall, then, when seeking out new games, beware the predator. Watch out for the lone player who has been sat for a good while waiting for someone to play with. On second thoughts, maybe play is not the right word!
Watch out behind you!
Ed Note: Go find all those filled up tables at Poker Stars