This last couple of weeks has been frustrating, not through playing poker online but because of my inability to do so. In fact, my inability to do anything computer-related, hence no article last week - my apologies for that. The reason; I had a catastrophic computer meltdown and my back up image was not retrievable either. It caused my computer man to scratch his head, but in some ways it was a blessing in disguise. The operating system had been doing some strange things lately and it would not be beyond possibility that my back up was flawed too.
Now, after spending some poker profits, I have a nice new machine. I am glad to be rid of a lot of the junk that resided on the old one, to be truthful. Virtually the first things to download onto my shiny new beast were my poker rooms. So I have had a few pops at the Hi/Lo tables this week.
It is strange how a week away from playing freshens up the mind. I entered the games with a resolve to be disciplined as lately I've found Hi/Lo to be less profitable than Omaha High. Yet, I know I should do well at Hi/Lo because of the loose play evident from many players. Consequently you have to play tight, wait for the nut hands, the scooping hands, and strike. I have possibly been playing a little loose. The enforced break seems to have changed that for the better.
Four or five good sessions playing tight at low-stakes tables (where the loose players swim freely) has resulted in regular 100% to 200% returns on initial stakes. Usually this was achieved in one to two hours maximum, each session. However, last night I decided to have a game after coming in from a night out. That means an element of tiredness crept in and I ended up scraping a minimal profit in two hours. Yes, it is true that I took several half pots when the opponent chased the other half and caught it on the river card. I still believe I was too loose, and that was down to weariness. Tiredness promotes hazy concentration and decisions start to be made on hope and to hell with the consequences. I must avoid the element of craving a game. Maybe it was down to withdrawal symptoms from the previous week!
Another good way of picking up ideas and learning is to watch other games without taking part yourself. I sometimes watch some of the higher stakes games which feature some regular names. In recent weeks, and again last night, I have been watching a particular French-based player who seems to major on the hi/lo tables. I have rarely opened a table to find him losing. Often he has two or three times the buy-in and plays at two or three tables simultaneously. Yet I wouldn't say he is tight.
There seems to be a surprising amount of post-flop calling going on at these higher stakes tables suggesting players are reluctant to give up their hands. This is probably because the pre-flop betting is aggressive and players are committed early and do not give their opponents credit for good hands. The practice is to build the pot pre-flop so folding is considered a waste of money and the giving up of a potentially large pot. Raising and aggression are far more prevalent but to be a constant winner as this French player seems to be suggests his opponents are making errors.
The nature of the aggressive play at higher stakes means the variation at these games is huge. The swings in stack size are huge so you should play these levels only when you have a deep bankroll that will sustain a long run of bust-outs.
This is in contrast to the tight pay at a full table at low stakes where the majority of players tend to be passive pre-flop but will call off their entire stack chasing a nut low draw. When you have a potential scooping hand, you know there is a high chance someone will call off their chips to keep you honest.
An example from yesterday's play came when I was dealt As 7s 9c 3c. This hand was double-suited but only the spades were of excellent value. The club flush could easily lose. There was a decent low draw but little else of value in A379. However, in my game of full table low stakes poker, I deemed this worthy of a moderate pre-flop raise to boost the pot in case I saw a good flop. Pre-flop re-raises were as rare as dragon's eggs in this game so I was confident of seeing a cheap flop. With five callers, the flop came down Js 7d 4s. My nut flush draw was on at a low cost of 3 x the big blind, with a shout for a low draw. The low pot draw implied action would be forthcoming.
An opponent to my right who was the table action man, raising pre-flop and betting or calling post-flop regularly, bet out the pot. I and three others called. The turn was 8h giving me second nut low but still no high hand, still needing a spade for nut flush or a T for a non-nut straight.
I was expecting a big bet from my right and would probably have folded since calling for a 12-outer on the river with a non-nut low hand didn't make economic sense. My man could easily be pot-betting with the nut low.
Surprisingly, the player checked and so I followed in that vein hoping for the other two left to check too. They obliged and gave me a free card. The river was Ks. Glorious! A guaranteed half pot so I was ready to unleash the maximum. My friend to the right now decided to bet out a moderate amount.
I raised the pot immediately. If action man hadn't got a nut hand of either persuasion, he might struggle to justify a call. I needn't have worried, as another player to my left called after a short delay. The others folded including action man. Glory be! I scooped the pot. My opponent showed 7432 and had been chasing a full house with his 74 and had third-nut low with 87432. My 8743A took the low and the flush scooped the rest. I took a nice pot because my opponent called a big bet with 2-pair for the high and third-ranked low. He did this not knowing if the other two players behind him would also call. The likelihood of someone having A2 or A3 or two spades must make his decision an easy fold. Action man took that view and said he was holding 77xx. No-one, including me, took the chance to pot-raise the turn. That would have been a bold move but, knowing the table, it seems unlikely everyone would have folded.
No-one can say Omaha Hi/Lo is a walk in the park (except my French friend?) but it is exciting and sometimes manic. Like a boxer, your job is to avoid being drawn into a slugging match; instead learn to be agile (mix up your game by avoiding obvious moves like pot raising AAxx every time and limping in with everything else), weave around your opponents (fold when it is likely to cost you a lot to draw to half the pot), preserve your energy (be patient and wait for quality hands) and land the telling punch when the time is right and your opponents have their guards down (you have a scooping hand and they are probably calling to draw to a low or high hand).