Independent Pursuits: Poker

I PONDERED a lot about this hand and still don't know whether I played it correctly or not. At Omaha, the four card-version of Hold 'em, I was dealt 8-8-6-3 and the flop came down 8-6-3 off-suit.

Top trips is a nice hand. But will it stand up? The 6 and 3 on board make it much harder for these cards to pair up and give me a full house. But I can't just sit there and do nothing, giving opponents a free draw. So I bet the pot, pounds 10. Everyone folded round to Chen. He blinked behind his specs and raised me pounds 20. Now what?

The cautious play is to call and see what happens. If he hits a straightening card such as a 5 or a 9 on the turn and bets out, I will know the strength of his hand. But I knew I was best at that point and wanted to shove it in. So I re-raised pounds 90, assuming he would have the sense to fold (especially against me!). Instead of which Chen called and stuck in his last pounds 30. Now I knew he was on a straight draw. Which he duly hit, catching a 7 next card. I failed to improve. Was I right to bet it up on the flop?

Answer: in a regular four-card version of Omaha, yes. But in the six- card version of the game, as this deal was, my re-raise was out of line. My opponent could easily be holding five or six cards which if he hit anything from a 2 to a 10 could improve to a straight, with two chances to draw to it. Whereas only five cards (one 8, two 6s and two 3s) will help me.

Then I completely misplayed a hand and still won a big pot . This was the six-card version of Omaha high-low (8 or better for low). The flop came down with two low cards to my A-2. Next card was 8h, giving me a cinch for low, with a possible flush on board for the high. A good player bet the pot and I raised back him on my low. We both checked on the river, and I announced my nut low.

The only trouble was this was not high-low - but straight Omaha. I had failed to look at the dealer's plaque announcing the choice of game. My opponent had bet on the turn to represent an ace-high flush and only had trips. If I'd realised the game was Omaha, high only, I'd certainly have folded. But when I spread my cards I found I'd cobbled together a low straight. I took down the money but - will you believe me? - felt ashamed of my careless play for days afterwards.

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