Tony is a regular on-line and card room player living in England. He mostly plays Texas Hold'em and Omaha (High and Split) at fixed, pot and no limit, at both cash and tournament tables.
When I first started out playing Omaha on-line, I stuck exclusively to fixed limit stakes tables. Pot Limit Omaha was way off the radar. Why was this and how did I finally make the transition to playing pot limit? Having taken the plunge, what was the outcome?
I will try to recap my learning processes to answer those questions as most new players to Omaha may often find themselves questioning their motives in the same way. Are you motivated by a desire for progress, learning or greed?
I started off playing on-line poker by learning how to lose. Each time, a chunk of credit would hit my plastic and I would clear it off from the day job. It took a number of re-loads and plenty of reading of poker books before I finally started cracking Texas Hold'em and began building my bankroll up. Once I felt under control, I began venturing to other fields of play other than fixed limit Texas Hold'em tables.
One factor that I believe is significant is that my learning took place before poker was shown on TV in such widespread terms as it is now. This meant that I did not begin my on-line playing days with a memory full of TV shows depicting fearless players betting the bank on the turn of a card at No-Limit stakes. On the contrary, I had no desire to play No-Limit cash games. No Sir!
My aim from the outset was to play fixed stakes and it soon became clear that money could be won and often lost doing just that. I was therefore dedicated to turning around my fixed stakes game. I had no desire to drop my entire roll on one hand.
These days, new players with an adventurous bent will bet the bank at No-Limit despite being poor players. It certainly helps others make money so I am not complaining in that regard!
And so it was, back then, that I transferred directly from limit stakes Texas Hold'em to limit stakes Omaha. Once I had the feel for the game, and only then, did I dip a toe into pot limit Omaha. The first thought was that "this is only Pot Limit, not No Limit, therefore the damage can be restrained". A fallacy of course!
The Volatility Factor
All went well until I had a hand I felt was good for a big bet. This was a time when there was no such thing on-line as a micro-stakes table. The lowest stakes were $0.5/$1 blinds which allowed for a maximum entry stake of $100 which I placed in front of me. I was promptly outdrawn and I kissed goodbye to my $100. That was quite a blow for someone not accustomed to big bet poker. I tried again another day with the same eventual outcome. So, I decided to leave it and go back to fixed limits.
However, I continued to watch pot limit games with a gruesome fascination mainly because there was usually one player who would manage to build his initial $100 up to many multiples of this and proceed to take pots with regularity because of an ability to put everyone else's stack at total risk with his pot betting.
So, eventually, I waded back in playing carefully until the time would come to "back or stack" a monster hand. It was then time to slide the button to pot size, fire the bet out and shut my eyes!
In fact I would open them again because of the grim attraction of waiting, watching and hoping to see the "Winner" sign flash up and a gigantic pot slide my way after one or more callers have committed themselves to my bet. Suddenly it is me that is the chip leader. One or two more winners and I am in a position to bet with a more relaxed attitude knowing that I will not be busted out if the cards fail to turn for me.
I have since found that, when that happens, I can occasionally find myself cocooned "in the zone". Nothing perturbs me and I bet when I should, raise when I should and fold likewise. On many occasions I have developed my initial $100 into $700 or $800. I usually call it a day then.
Yet, this is not a regular occurrence. I have found out the stark truth that pot limit is insanely volatile. I sometimes read the web-log (or "blog") of some high-stakes players, one of whom is a regular pot limit Omaha player at $10/$20 and higher. Every contested pot moves four-figure sums around. On one particular day, the player lost several pots and was $8,000 worse off. By the end of the day, he was $17,000 to the upside.
The simple fact is that pot limit Omaha requires you to make bets on hands where you may have a 60% chance of winning and are therefore committed to the bet because the pot is paying you far more than 60% of your bet if you are successful. Pot limit Omaha betting is exponential in nature. Each time the pot is raised by itself, the next player can re-raise by the size of the new pot and a bit more besides (because of the rule of pot betting that states you can call the last bet and then bet the pot including your new call).
I headed this piece "A Test of Faith" for a very good reason. If you are not used to or comfortable with big-bet poker, you will need to develop a preparedness to make leaps of faith to play pot limit Omaha. You need faith in your abilities to read the cards and betting of the other players. You need faith in your resilience to take a beat and a dent to your bankroll. You need faith in your knowledge that you will make the same bet again because the odds are in still your favour.
Mostly, you need faith that you are doing things correctly and that the day will come when you get into the zone and dominate your table!
28 October 2005
Ed Note: Test your faith in your Omaha game at Noble Poker.