Poker: Running into trouble

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The Independent Culture
WHEN you catch a 'trouble' hand, you need to be especially aware of danger. A trouble hand is one that looks good, and usually wins, but has a high downside risk if it goes wrong.

Donnocha O'Dea, who is one of the most experienced players on the circuit, ran into a typical trouble hand the other night: second best trips at Omaha (the four-card version of Texas Hold 'em).

When you flop second-best 'set' (three of kind) at Omaha you feel excited, but very nervous. The danger of someone else flopping top set is obvious. This particular hand proved tricky because, as it turned out, three players flopped a set.

Tony: (3 3 x x)

Rick: (J J x x)

Flop: J 8 3 - -

Don: (8 8 x x)

First player to speak was Tony who bet the pot, pounds 200. Next player, who was the early raiser in the hand, dropped, and it came round to Rick, who raised it by pounds 600. One thing Don knew about Rick's style of play was that he liked to hold back on good hands, in order to check-raise. So why would he raise pounds 600 if he held three jacks? Rick's bet implied a holding like top two pairs, where he wanted to drive out hands drawing to make a straight. Don was certainly not going to fold his trip eights at that stage. He could either flat call, and hope the hand fizzled out, as often happens at Omaha if flush or straight cards appear on board; or play the man and raise him back.

Don pondered a long time over which way to go. His instinct was to play safe. But Rick's raise indicated that he did not hold three jacks. So Don re-raised pounds 2,400, which was all his remaining chips. Tony, who had not much money left anyway, called for about pounds 1,200. Rick, of course, stuck his money in with alacrity. The next two up-cards failed to change anything and three jacks won a nice pot.

Afterwards, Don was rueful. If he had merely called Rick's raise of pounds 600, he would have got away from his trouble hand. Tony, on short money, holding trip threes, would have re-raised, and Don would then have folded, at minimum cost. So why had Rick not checked his top set on the flop, in his usual style? He had been running badly and did not want to risk giving the others 'free' cards. Don was right, but wrong.

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