PLO Caution Play

Dave Colclough breaks down a session of play and focuses on when to slow-play and when to re-raise

I must admit I was slightly distracted while playing this particular session. I was up early eating breakfast and found myself a nice $3/$6 pot-limit Omaha game on Full Tilt where I had only one opponent marked in red. At the same time I noticed Durrrr and Phil Ivey were banging heads at $100k a pop on The Thunderdome table. I think the blinds were $500/$1,000, but somehow Durrrr was managing to get his whole stack in on the flop or turn on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, my session got off to a rather dodgy start. Having limped under the gun with A-Q-Q-6 one suit, I guess I got what I deserved. Willie Tann keeps teaching us not to play hands with danglers, but sometimes I guess I just don’t listen in class. Five of us saw an innocuous 4-4-9 flop and it was checked around. I was half distracted watching Durrrr lose another 100k. However, a rather nice Queen on the turn snapped my attention back to the main game.

I was even more pleased to see the big blind lead out for $18. I believe the new parlance is ‘donk bet’. Well I like to answer a weak bet with a weak bet and I still have a donkey avatar on Full Tilt, so I raised to $42. Surprisingly, the button and the big blind both called making the pot $156. The river was a Jack, which also put a flush on board.

Now the big blind led straight out with a pot-sized bet. No donk bet here. He had $98 left behind and the player on the button didn’t even have the $156. So I re-raised and was snap-called by the big blind with quad fours. Hmm, should I have saved the last $98 by not re-raising?
A re-raise almost certainly scares off the button, but he is probably too weak to call anyway when two players have already shown they have a hand. If I have the best hand I may have lost some equity from the player on the button. With the initial bettor it’s a matter of how many hands they can call a re-raise with. In this case, it’s not a pot size river re-raise, so hands such as 9-9 and Q-4 almost certainly call here.

However, if I was re-raising the whole pot ($468) on the river then these hands may not call. In fact, the only hand that will snap auto-call may be quad fours. So believe it or not in PLO, top full house isn’t an automatic raise, especially if there is also a chance of a third player putting some dead money into the pot.

However, in this case I don’t think it was a mistake, just an unfortunate situation. Well that’s what I told myself to keep the positive vibe going anyway.

Key point

Try to avoid re-raising with the second nuts in a multi-way pot, especially when it is likely to scare away dead money in the pot

The Power Of Caution

Thirteen minutes in and I’m $340 down, which pales into insignificance compared to Durrrr’s mark of at least £340k down. I’m sure they are playing with real money. After another 15 minutes or so of fencing and manoeuvring, I’d managed to claw the odd $40 back when the following hand developed. I had raised to $15 in the cut-off with K-K-J-9 and got called by both blinds. The flop was a very nice 7-8-10 (two hearts) giving me the nuts without a flush draw. The small blind bet the pot ($45) and the big blind passed. As I was sitting with around $600 and the small blind had $800, there are a couple of options of how to play the hand.

I prefer to smooth-call as I think it is more likely that the small blind is betting a made straight than betting a draw. We may have the same made nut straight and there is little point in entering a re-raising war when I have no improvement. My opponent could be freerolling with the nut straight and a small flush draw as well.

The key point is that I have position after smooth-calling the $45. So if the board should pair up or a heart should make a flush on board, the small blind is in a difficult spot. If my opponent checks or bets weak to indicate he didn’t like the turn or river, I will then bet strongly representing the flush or full house. Again you have to know your opponents though. This may not be too clever if your notes say ‘calling station’.

In this case the board didn’t improve as a black 4 on the turn was followed by a black King on the river. The small blind had bet the pot on the turn and a smaller $200 on the river into a pot of $435. Amazingly, he then passed for my final all-in re-raise of a further $220.

So in fact, the other very good reason for not raising on the flop paid dividends. I disguised my hand until the river and didn’t scare off my customer. The small blind claimed in the chat box to have the ‘small straight’, but could have been betting the blockers, betting a draw, or just plain bluffing with air.

It may have got complicated if he was betting a draw and the board had improved. When making notes on opponents, one of the most important note is whether or not an opponent bets his draws as opposed to check-calling with them. It is crucial knowledge for hands like this one.

Key point
Keep a close eye on the way your opponents bet their draws, as this makes extracting value from textured boards a lot easier

When Not To Re-raise

Another 10 or 15 minutes of sparring ensued and I watched Durrrr disappear leaving over $600,000 behind with Mr Ivey. Six hundred thousand in less than one hour! I was sat in front of the sports news eating Crunchie Nut Clusters, happy I was winning a whopping $100. Where did I miss the boat?

The next hand I got involved in was a typical PLO hand where I dug myself a hole not knowing if I was happy with the situation or not. Having called a raise with 8-10-J-J the flop showed a rather scary but attractive Q-J-5 with two spades. My opponent bet the pot $51 and I re-raised to $204 hoping for a snap-fold from a pre-flop raiser with dry Aces. I was not happy having to call another $200 as my opponent moved all-in.

Fortunately, he didn’t have three Queens leaving me drawing at the case Jack. However, he did hold A-A-K-Q nut spade draw. I’m a small favourite but have to dodge bullets, tens and spades. The poker gods were with me and I somehow managed to make a full house.
Now I’m cooking on gas but yet again the game tended to dry up a bit. Online PLO is not as wild as it used to be a couple of years back. I managed to give a few hundred back with another typical two pair versus straight draw. Then the following hand developed which is a bit similar to the earlier hand I described.

I’m in the big blind when everyone passes around to the small blind who raises the pot to $18. I called with a rather dubious A-4-6-7 but was pleased to flop the nut flush. Similar to when I flopped the nut straight earlier, my opponent bet the pot ($36) straight into me. My instincts were again to smooth call and disguise my hand but there are several key differences here. Firstly we are in the blinds and only the two of us saw the flop. In this situation the player’s testosterone rush often exceeds any brain activity. Therefore there is a greater likelihood my opponent may not believe me if I raise him.

The pot is also slightly smaller and could do with a raise along the way to beef it up. I also wasn’t the original raiser in this pot, so opponents are less likely to put me on a nut flush. Finally there aren’t as many improvement draws against a nut flush as there are against a straight.

I decided to smooth-call, but I think a small raise may be as equally correct. I was rewarded with a blank on the turn and my opponent led out for $90. I raised to $300 which set him all-in. He called and showed me the King flush. I suppose it was a bit of a cooler in the blinds but maybe he didn’t have to lose his whole stack here.

I think if I was him, I would prefer a check-call on the turn and the river. It gives me more opportunity to steal and value bet worse flush draws. Also if I have the nut flush I may well bet smaller to make sure I don’t lose my customer. In that case, he may only lose half his stack.
However the key is that we are in the blinds and anything is possible when the testosterone takes over. Breakfast done, Thunderdome entertainment ceased, I logged off, content.

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