Independent Pursuits: Poker

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The Independent Culture
OMAHA (THE four-card version of Hold 'em) is now a favourite game at the Grosvenor Victoria casino in the Edgware Road, London W2. Most nights you can find games running from a pounds 50 buy-in to a pounds 1,000 buy-in in the big game. In the small game the blinds are pounds 1 and pounds 2, with pounds 2 to the next player in line if he wants to to call, which is not ruinous. I saw one lady who said she had never played the game before (why do people rush in like this?) completely misunderstand her cards and miraculously win the first pot with a single 10 high!

In Omaha the golden rule is that you must either hold the nuts or be drawing to the nuts. Anything less is dangerous - for example, trying to hit a king-high flush. But I have been much impressed by another precept of winning play, which underpins the golden rule. It is to try to play heads-up (two-handed), by knocking out as many other players as possible.

Here is an example of strong technique by Dave "Devil Fish" Ullyott, "playing down" in the pounds 100 game for a change. Boris bet before the flop, Dave raised, Spyro called and Boris raised again. Dave had a pretty mediocre hand - Q-10-6-2 but he knew where Boris was at - he was marked with two aces.

The flop came down 9-8-2 off-suit. Boris bet the pot, around pounds 150, as he should in this situation, and Dave raised! He hasn't really got anything but he wanted to drive out Spyro, so he could take on Boris heads-up. Spyro, however, had hit trip 9s and called. The turn (fourth) card was a Q. As it happened this gave Boris a straight, because he had J-10 with his pair of aces. He bet pounds 300 and Dave, on queens up, raised again! He did not know, of course, that Boris, who was nearly all in, had made a straight; he simply wanted to drive out Spyro, which he did.

The river (last) card brought another deuce, giving Dave a full house 2s on queens. You could say he was lucky, which he was, but he out-played his opponents in extravagant style. No wonder the Asian gamblers in Las Vegas dub him "Devil Fish".

I am not suggesting everyone should play like this. For one thing, you need a complete disregard for money. You also have to read your opponents well. But if a player continually takes the initiative, hammering in raises on every round, he can run over the game. Alternatively, he can go home broke.