Two of the most interesting hands I played at the World Poker Open
in Mississippi involved trips in my hand while playing pot-limit Omaha high. This holding is, of course, a serious drawback to yourBob Ciaffone is one of America’s best-known poker players, writers, and teachers. He has numerous poker tournament wins and placings, the most prominent being third place in the 1987 World Championship. He has been a poker teacher since 1995, with his students having earned well over a million dollars in tournament play. Bob's website is www.pokercoach.us
chances of winning the pot. Normally, to ever get involved, you would need to have three aces or three kings on the button (most likely with a suited card with them), or be in the big blind in an unraised pot — or be a little bit crazy.
Can you win a pot on a drawout if you were never behind the entire time? Here is a hand that I played in an Omaha cash game in which I held the best hand throughout, yet felt as if I had drawn out to win the pot! I was on the button with aces, one of which was suited with the 8
. Everyone folded around to the player on my right, who opened with a raise. It seemed natural for me to reraise in order to knock out the blinds and limit the number of my opponents to one, as in Omaha, aces play much better against a single opponent than multiple opponents. That applied even more strongly to my hand than usual, as I held three
aces, a hand with which I would be absolutely terrified if facing more than one opponent. (If I get three aces in an Omaha game, I often muck them before the flop, but here, I was braver because of the way the betting had gone.) To my dismay, I not only failed to knock out both blinds, but my $100 reraise got reraised to $250 by one of the blinds. To my relief, the initial raiser on my right folded. Now, I had the choice of reraising the maximum, which would put me nearly all in, or trying to guess whether the flop helped my opponent when it came. There was, of course, no question that he would call if I reraised, as he was clearly pot-committed. I decided not to play any guessing games and popped him back, and he called.
The flop that came down looked like a miracle to me — A-K-9 with a two-flush. I had hit the case ace to give me quads. Of course, I could play only two of the three aces in my hand, this being Omaha, but top set is still a mighty fine holding even when the fourth card of the set is out of play. I bet my last $200. My opponent, who held two pair in his hand, kings and fives, had flopped second set, and of course called. When we showed our hands, he was thoroughly disgusted that I had hit a one-outer to have a higher set than his. The board paired nines on the turn — and I had helped my hand again. I won the pot when a blank came on the end.
Any Omaha player would much rather have kings and fives preflop than three aces. I sure felt as if I had made a huge drawout when the fourth ace came on the flop, even though I had technically been ahead all along.
This hand reminded me of a hand that I had played against Motorcycle Jack about two decades ago in a small pot-limit Omaha game. Back then, I had three kings and a queen suited on the button, and called in an unraised pot after lots of players had limped in. Jack was in the big blind with trip fours in his hand. After the flop came down, we both had flopped quads! He failed to draw out — since he had nothing to draw to. I felt more than a bit lucky after that hand, as well.
With one card to come, would you rather have a set or a draw? Don’t answer too fast; the game might be Omaha! Here is a hand that I held in pot-limit Omaha in which I had such a big draw on the turn that I was a solid favorite against a set with one card to come. I was on the button with the 10
. I do not like an Omaha hand pattern in which the gap is right below the top card, because when you flop a big draw, most of the straights you hit will not be a nut holding. However, I am willing to play such a hand when my position is good, as it was here.
The flop came down 9
, which gave me a 13-way straight draw, with the rarity of all of them being the nuts. The big blind led out for $70 and there were two callers in front of me. I will often put in a raise in this type of situation, but here, it seemed prudent to just call. The bettor was a sound player, I had a lot of money in front of me (about $1,600), and having the button with the bettor acting first in a multiway pot is optimal position, which is surrendered when you raise.
The turn brought the J, the best card in the deck for me that did not actually make my hand. If the last card did not pair the board, I could make a straight with anything from a queen to a 3, plus a flush with any club. I did not actually count my outs, but was well aware that I held a monster. The count of my outs is any card that pairs me makes a straight (12 outs), a queen or a 3 also makes a straight (eight outs), and the A, K, and 2 all make me a flush (three outs). Note that the rest of the clubs have either already been counted as straight cards or pair the board to give an opponent a full house. So, I had a total of 23 outs. As it turned out, the big blind did not hold any of the cards I needed, so the true odds were 23-to-17, about 4-to-3 in my favor. To be honest, I was feeling while playing the hand that I was even a slightly bigger favorite than this. My giant draw looks like it can’t miss — until it actually does.
The big blind now bet $400 into his three opponents. I knew he must have flopped a set, probably three nines. The two players in front of me both folded, and I had a decision to make. Should I move in, being a favorite in the pot although needing to draw out, or simply call, trying to make my hand? If I hit, maybe he would pay me off, and I would get all of his money anyway.
There was now about $1,200 in the pot, and I had about that amount left in my stack. I was under the impression that my opponent was even deeper in money than I was, but as it turned out, he had only $800 of my $1,200 covered.
I decided to raise all in, a bet that my opponent might not call if he had anything other than three nines. There was even the chance that he would give me credit for having made three jacks. Perhaps if I had known that he had only $800 in his stack, I would have just called, as this smaller sum would be an easier amount to get paid off, and it would make it harder for him to fold when I moved all in. On the other hand, how bad a poker play can it be to raise all in when you have 4-to-3 the best of it?
As it turned out, my opponent’s holding was three nines and a non-club ace. He had been in the big blind, and flopped a set with trips in his hand. After short thought, he called the raise. I did not help, and lost the pot. (Had I won, I would not be having second thoughts about whether raising all in was the optimal play.)
Let me assure you that it’s a lot harder to flop a set in Omaha when you hold trips in your hand than my column makes it seem. The actual odds are about 15-to-1 against it. And if you are a sound player, the odds are extremely high against your holding trips in your hand and playing a big pot with them. But, as you see, it can happen.