Poker: Fluctuating fortunes

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The Independent Culture
OMAHA, Nebraska, the birthplace of Johnny Carson, has another distinction: it gives its name to a particularly exciting form of poker derived from Texas Hold 'em. In Omaha, players are dealt a hand of four cards face down, as opposed to only two cards in Hold 'em. With four cards in the hole, no fewer than six starting hands are possible (ab ac ad bc bd cd). The other important difference between Hold 'em and Omaha is that at Omaha, after the five community cards are dealt face-up, players must use two cards in the hand in the showdown.

(a b c d) x x x x x

hole cards flop

Omaha is a subtler game than Hold 'em, because card reading is more important than sheer aggression. Although high pairs like aces and kings are the best starters, in the ideal Omaha hand the four cards should work together, to give straight and flush possibilities. Here's a typical Omaha hand where I got lucky. I was dealt 7-8-8-9 off suit, which is promising but not great. One other player raised before the flop, and I called. (You never know what's going to happen.) The flop came out K 10 8. He bet again. As he was a strong player, I put him on trip kings, topping my trip eights. I have to call, though, because of my straightening chances. Sure enough, fourth up-card was a 6, giving me the 'nut' (best) straight.

(J K K A)

ho2703 (7 8 8 9)

I bet the pot, which he called, fairly quickly. He knows for sure I've got a straight made; I know he's got trip kings. (As it happens, he also has a queen draw for a top straight as extra insurance.) He is hoping to catch an open pair on the last up-card, which will give him a full house and win a handsome pot. (Though I would certainly not have called his bet if a pair showed on the last card.)

Sure enough an open pair did fall - the case eight. Without a second's hesitation, he bet the pot at me. That was what he was looking for. Reading me for a straight to the 10, he had no reason to suspect I also held a pair of eights as my other two cards, to top him with a lucky four of a kind.

In its fluctuating fortunes this was a typical Omaha hand. My opponent was best on the flop. I improved on fourth street. He improved again on fifth street, but I improved even more.