This is the finale of a three part series on mistakes made by mostly competent players in mixed games. Most players are very familiar with flop games so when compared to the stud and draw variants the mistakes are probably not as frequent and pronounced. So this article primarily focuses on some subtleties of hand selection and not really on egregious mistakes.
Pot Limit Omaha
As many reasonably experienced players know, the worst mistake one can make in Pot Limit Omaha is taking a deep stack down to the felt with hands like middle set or a non nut flush. Many players, however, may not give full value for the opportunity that dry pair hands may represent while at the same time highly overrate rundown hands. Most strategy books go out of their way to tell you that hands such as KK72 and QQ84 unsuited are terrible hands because they only really have one combination and that it is vital that your hand works together. It is true that these hands are one dimensional but when you hit your hand you typically have both the best hand and the best draw and that is exactly the type of situation you want to be in any poker game.
Consider the following $2/5 PLO hand with $1,000 effective stacks. An early position player raises to $20, there are three calls, and the action is up to you on the button with Q♦ Q♥ 7♣ 2♠. This is an excellent hand for the situation. If the action was limped to the button a raise to around $25 or $30 is great for pot manipulation purposes. When you flop top set, this pot sweetening raise could easily make the all of the difference between winning someone’s entire stack or just 20-30% of it.
On the other side of the coin are rundown hands such as T♣ 9♠ 8♥ 7♥ where every combination works for you. The problem is that when you get in a multi-way pot it is somewhat likely that other opponents share at least some of your straight cards and worse yet someone else may have higher hearts. When we make a straight we can’t really play a big pot without a redraw and by the time you get to the river the board will often change to make full houses, flushes, and higher straights possible. While this may not cause you to lose the hand, it can definitely get in the way of getting paid off by inferior hands. These hands are overrated in pots with many opponents; they probably play better shorthanded even though they appear to be a multi-way hand.
When you flop top set with Q♦ Q♥ 7♣ 2♠ no one can possibly share the same hand as you and have the redraw should someone straighten or flush on the turn. A big pair appears to be a hand that craves a shorthanded pot but they are probably more profitable when played multi-way. If you limit the field with a re-raise you may eliminate someone that was destined to make middle set or a flush when you end up with a full house. Playing multi-way means you will win less often but the object of poker is to win the most money not the most pots.
By no means is this advocating playing Q♦ Q♥ 7♣ 2♠ and folding T♣ 9♠ 8♥ 7♥. In the playing example above, you should call with both hands. However, the Q♦ Q♥ 7♣ 2♠ might just be the better hand in this situation and folding it would certainly be a mistake.
What if the raise had come from the cut-off on your direct right? I’d be more apt to re-raise T♣ 9♠ 8♥ 7♥ then a hand with a high pair. If your image is relatively tight you are representing a hand quite different than the one you hold and you will often clear out players holding the same straight cards and/or higher flush draws. Both hands are profitable in many situations; however, the optimal play of them can be counter-intuitive.
Omaha Eight or Better
Hand selection in Omaha Eight or Better is of vital importance; especially at a full table. Be careful not to leak money by playing marginal hands because you overestimate the value of position or your skill. If there is a raise and a few calls it would be a very rare table where a hand like A♥ 5♥ 5♣ 8♠ would show a profit. Your low is very weak and the small pair is a handicap. However, exchanging the 5♥ for a 4♥ would make a world of difference as you now have three wheel cards, more low possibilities, and can make more straights.
On the other hand many players do not recognize the value that hands containing 23 and two broad-way cards present. Hands like K♥ K♠ 2♣ 3♣ may have a higher hot and cold equity than 2♣ 3♣ T♥ J♠ but the latter offers far more in terms of playability. When an ace flops the K♥ K♠ 2♣ 3♣ loses much of its high value and often has difficulty recognizing its equity. In contrast, when an ace flops the 2♣ 3♣ T♥ J♠ is often helped in both directions. For example on an A♦ Q♥ 5♠ flop you would hold the nut low draw and two gut-shots; one to the wheel and the other to broadway. There are even ace-less flops such as K♣ Q♥ 7♠ that hit the 2♣ 3♣ T♥ J♠ holding very hard. Here you have an open ended straight draw, a backdoor flush draw, and a backdoor low draw.
These hands typically play better in shorthanded pots because the lack of players indicates that the deck is rich in aces. They are fun and profitable to play because when you get a favorable flop you can take an aggressive posture, win more than your equity share of pots, and at times surprise your opponent greatly with your holding.
Limit Omaha High
Many players look down at this game but it is always a great one to add to the mix if players are only interested in playing limit. There is usually a ton of multiway action which leads to big pots and big swings. It keeps players in the gambling mood and helps liven up the entire mix. Plus it is another flop game which helps balance out the draw and stud variants that typically dominate the mix.
In a loose game you should try and play hands that can build big full houses and flushes. High rundowns are okay because they do make big full houses on occasion and you will often make high straights. The hands that lose value when compared to its pot limit big brother would be the middle rundowns. I would not fold a hand as pretty as 9♥ 8♥ 7♣ 6♣ but you must realize that even a premium hand like that loses a lot of value in the limit structure. Due to the inability to blow anyone off their hands before the flop you will often run into higher flushes, higher straights, and more shares of the same straight. So unless your medium rundown is of very high quality, it should probably be mucked pre-flop.
Playing with two boards is certainly a fun variation. There big pairs and hands that can make nut flushes also hold a lot of value because they have many ways to win both boards.. For example, suppose you flop top set on one board. By playing aggressively you can potentially limit the field and win the other board as well with your high pair. A nut flush draw could also be played aggressively which could allow you to win the other board with a relatively weak hand. Remember you can hit the flush on one board and still have completely live cards upon which to pair on the other. In contrast, a fistful of unsuited high cards such as A♥ K♦ J♣ T♠ needs a lot of help to scoop two boards.
Outside of tournaments Limit Hold’em isn’t usually played that often in mixed games because the games are typically populated by players that enjoy getting dealt more than two cards. When playing Limit Hold’em in tournaments the variance when compared to other games is extremely high.
For example, if you are playing the $1,000/$2,000 level with $500/$1000 blinds the opening raise would be to $2,000 and due to the nature of the game and the pot odds you are receiving you must continue on in many situations even though it’s highly likely you will not be getting your chips back. Of course you are allowed to fold but it might come at a price of relinquishing significant equity relative to the pot odds you are receiving. Comparatively in the stud variants the opening completion at this level would be $1,000 and in many hands depending on how the cards fall it is completely standard for either you or your opponent to fold on 4th or 5th street. If your opponent continues on when he clearly should not you would welcome his action as he usually has way the worst of it.
If you feel as if you have a definite edge in the other games it can certainly be a wise move to play the Limit Hold’em round in mixed game tournaments somewhat snug. For example, suppose you are playing the WSOP Dealer’s Choice event at the WSOP and many players are making big mistakes in the draw games and others such as the Stud High-Low Split with no qualifier. In a cash game defending your big blind against a button open with the 7♥ 5♥ would be completely standard. However in this particular tournament it would probably be a significant mistake to lose a sizeable portion of your stack with this hand after flopping middle pair.
Certainly you would play it like a cash game early one but once you hit the middle levels it can be a good idea to lock it down and only play big hands while highly respecting position. This strategy would only be applicable to live tournaments where each game is only played for one round. In an online tournament the levels are timed and thus you play a disproportionate number of hold’em hands so you would give up way too much by playing too tight. So in that situation you should only tighten up just a little bit and simply hope to run good.
Mixed game rotations with a large variety of games are extremely challenging yet very rewarding. It’s impossible to play perfect mistake free poker. Thankfully you can win a lot of money simply by making fewer mistakes than your opponents. Hopefully this series was of some aid in achieving that goal.