Games: Poker

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A variation of poker that seems to attract mistakes like summer wasps is Omaha high-low. In this game, which is currently enjoying a revival at the Stakis Regency in Russell Square, London WC1, you have to use two cards from four in your hand, with three from a five card flop. Low hands must be 8-low or better to qualify. Instead of a declaration (which of course in home games provides most of the fun) hands are shown down to the dealer.

The best way to make money is to win both ways. A lock on the low side is not too difficult, especially if you start with a hand like A-2, or better still A-2-3. All you need then is three low cards on the flop which do not duplicate your own hand. The danger is that someone else will have the same holding, so your half is split, and you win only a quarter of the pot, or in a three-way tie only a sixth.

Sometimes it is prudent to fold such a hand, even with a lock. Here is a case in point.

B: 4A-42-!6-&K

Flop: &Q 48 !4

Four players in the hand, one raise before the flop, checked all around on the flop. Next card &7. Now player B, second to speak, has a nut low, with one card to come. Everyone has two or three hundred pounds in front of them.

A, the player to B's right, first to speak, bet the pot: pounds 30. It looks as if he has made a straight. Should B raise his lock low? The best he can hope for is to knock the others out and take half the pot; the risk is that someone will re-raise and he will be squeezed, out-drawn and quartered. So B merely called.

Player C then raised pounds 75 and D re-raised pounds 150. Player A called without hesitation. Now B is in trouble. His hand is lifeless. Someone has certainly got a lock low with him, and if the river card brings an ace or a deuce, duplicating his low cards, he will very likely be out-gunned by an A-3 or 2-3.

It is tough to put down a lock low, but in that situation, with no realistic hope of backing in for the high half (such as a straight or flush draw), I think it is the right play.

Player B disagreed and put all his money in. A deuce of diamonds came on the river, giving one man a flush and another a nut 7 low. In a pounds 1,060 split pot, B got back nowt.

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