Occasionally in poker the counterintuitive situation arises where it actually helps to have a weaker hand rather than a stronger one. Playing NL you have the premium Ah-Kh and get the money in only to find Villain has the dreaded A-A. Your chances are a miserable 12% but with the weaker 7c-6c, your equity skyrockets to 23%.
This has a practical application in pot-limit Omaha (PLO). In PLO there are (massive over-simplification coming up ...) generally two types of profitable hand: high-card hands and “rundown” hands. A rundown is a connected hand that can, well, “run down” a more powerful one. Typical examples are 8-7-6-5 and J-10-9-7. Such hands can make straights and beat powerful holdings such as
A-A-K-J. Rundowns are happy against strong hands but really hate facing better rundowns. When 8-7-6-5 butts up against 10-9-8-7 the former hand is in trouble as the latter makes bigger pairs and higher straights.
Here is a PLO hand I played recently where we all had stacks of approximately $250. An early player (Villain 1) opened with a raise. The next player (Villain 2) reraised, which usually represents either an exceptionally strong hand or a powerful rundown. I was on the button with the rundown 8s-7c-6c-5s. Folding is fine but I decided to call the $22 bet, taking the highly disciplined attitude that it was a more interesting thing to do than fold. It was a little less than
10 per cent of my stack. Anything more and it’s a clear fold as the speculative investment becomes too great.
Villain 1 now raised once again, indicating a monster, almost certainly with A-A as a component. And here we have an interesting moment. If Villain 2 called, I would fold (regardless of how fascinating calling may prove to be). So far, Villain 2’s hand is clearly strong but, from my perspective, structurally undefined. A call would indicate that a strong rundown would be a significant component of their range. However, Villain 2 raised yet again, leaving no doubt that I was in a three-way battle against King Kong and Godzilla and that all the money was going in pre-flop.
Because of the pot odds, I needed greater than 30 per cent equity to get the money in profitably. Knowing that it was unlikely I was up against a better rundown, this was an easy call. Villain 1 showed up with Ad-Ah-Qh-Js and Villain 2 had As-10s-Kd-10d (Villain 2 has overplayed their hand – an initial call is much better). The Villains’ hands are suffering from what is known as the proximity effect, a fancy way of saying they need the same cards to improve. I am actually the favourite with 38.1% equity (Villain 1 has 35.4% and Villain 2 26.5%). Slow and steady wins the race. Only I didn’t – King Kong’s aces scooped the pot.
PLO is a great poker variant and a pleasant change from endless NL. Fernando (Jnandez) Habegger is one of the best players out there and his book, Mastering Small Stakes Pot-Limit Omaha, is a brilliant introduction to the game. It identifies the basic PLO principles, has numerous examples of these in action
and also eplains how to transition from NL.