Poker

ALL YOU you ever wanted to know about Omaha but perhaps were afraid to ask is now revealed. This is not, of course, Omaha, Nebraska (famous as the birthplace of Johnny Carson) but the four-card version of Texas Hold 'em, a tricky game because instead of just two cards in the hole you have four - which makes six possible starting hands (AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, CD).

The book is Championship Omaha by T.J. Cloutier, the champion pro at this game. It covers general principles, high-low, pot-limit and high limit. I think it is generous of pros like T.J. and his co-author Tom McEvoy to give away so many of their secrets.

During the recent world series in Vegas, Omaha seemed to be enjoying a revival. It is a game that offers a lot of scope for bluffing, with all the flush and straight combinations that come up on the board. It is also a game that breaks a lot of hearts, with its switches of fortune on the final card.

Here is a case in point from a ring game at Oceanside, a pleasant little poker town north of San Diego. Boston Billy had A# 10# 94 84 in his hand and the flop came down 7# 62 5#, three players in the pot. So he had flopped the stone-cold nuts, with a nut flush draw. Tony Dee made a big bet and the world champion, Phil Hellmuth, moved all-in. The pot had almost $30,000 in it. Phil had K# 3#, the second nut flush draw and nothing else, Tony had a seven to make a low pair and a jack-flush draw.

Fourth street the board paired 74, giving Tony trips. Phil was out of it, drawing dead. And the last card brought the K4, to give Tony a full house.

"We lost this $30,000 pot," laments T.J., who had a half share in Billy, "where we had one man drawing dead and the other one drawing to two running cards for the money. You can't get your money in any better than that."

`Championship Omaha', price pounds 34.95, from `High Stakes', 21 Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3JB (0171-430 1021)

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