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Swimming With The Sharks: Two Pair Too Many

Posted at 17:49 2010-05-20

Most players who make the transition from Hold’em to Omaha will notice a lot of similarities in the way both games are played. For example, both games have community cards for everyone to use. The reason why I say this so bluntly, is because there is often a misconception that made hand values are the same, when this is in fact quite far from the case. I’m going to use the example of flopping two pair on a reasonably unconnected board to show what I’m talking about.

Let us say you have AQ97. The suits in this example aren’t important. However, for whatever reason, you have seen a flop with this hand and it comes out Q94 rainbow. You have flopped top two pair, with a small redraw to a better two pair if an ace comes along. I have to warn you, this is a very dangerous hand to play. Let’s think about the hands that have you beat. In this case, there are technically only 3, 44xx, 99xx, and QQxx, however mathematically you are behind a much wider range of hands. You have to factor in drawing hands, which in this case involve just a wrap. A hand such as KQJT is actually a slight favourite against your hand, and very dangerous to go up against with such a small redraw.

In Hold’em, top two pair is a very strong hand, but in Omaha, because of the number of cards in play, the strength of the hand decreases considerably. For those who don’t play a lot of Omaha, consider that top two in Omaha is like top pair with a very weak kicker in Hold’em. It could be the best hand, but is very susceptible to being beat.

This is on a reasonably unconnected board, keep in mind. A board such as Q98, perhaps with two of the same suit…that is far more dangerous. Against a player who has a strong hand, not only could you be far behind, but drawing potentially semi-dead. For example, on that second board, against JTxx you are about 17%, against 88xx you are roughly the same, against 99xx you are around 8% and against QQxx you need runner-runner.

None of this is to say that you don’t have the best hand. It’s not uncommon to have the best hand here and be up against a monster draw, the concern is whether you are willing to gamble at this point in whatever game you’re playing. This applies to both cash games and tournaments. In both, your aim is to get your money in as best as possible. Now, whilst being in front technically means you have made the right play, it is tough to know whether you are in front to begin with. On top of that, calling yourself all-in here means that you either think you have him beat, or that you don’t think you can get your money all-in in a better spot. Remember that even if you technically have the best hand, it doesn’t mean it’s mathematically correct to get it all-in.

In the second flop of Q98 with two of the same suit, and an aggressive player raising you, you have to consider what he makes that play with. It is tough to bluff that board because it’s very possibly you’re betting with the nuts, so his bet is either a very well-placed bluff, or (most likely) a big draw or set. In the first flop, the player will not raise you with bottom two pair or naked top pair (naked, meaning he has no redraws with his other cards), so he’s either got a big draw, a set, or sometimes a bluff.

Each situation is different, and each requires a different mode of thought. Always keep in mind that Omaha hands do not have the same strength as their Hold’em equivalents. Be careful not to get caught with too many of your chips in the middle and not enough information to know what to do next.

I will be attending some of the events at this year’s Melbourne Poker Championships, so if you have any questions or comments, or perhaps would like to discuss some strategy, don’t hesitate to come say hi. I’m the young guy with the shark on his stack.

Until next time, I wish you all the best of luck at the poker tables.

- Michael ‘The Shark Boy’ Palti.

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Swimming With The Sharks: Two Pair Too Many Swimming With The Sharks: Two Pair Too Many

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