Monday, July 13, 2009

Should I Focus on Games Other Than No Limit Hold’em?

On the drive back from Las Vegas, Michele made a suggestion that maybe I should try to specialize in some of the other games besides No Limit Hold’em. We were listening to one of the poker podcasts I had on my ITouch in the car and the guests were commenting on how much harder the online No Limit games had become over the last few years. The theory is that with all the coaching sites, books, and message boards out there, that the poker IQ of the average NL Hold’em player has gone way up and it is tougher to beat the game.

I happen to think that there is still money to be made at the low stakes levels of No Limit Hold’em online, but I was a little burnt out on Hold’em and I figured that I would rededicate myself to Omaha for the next few weeks and see if that is really the answer.

As I have written about in my previous posts, I have been learning how to play Pot Limit Omaha High over the last few months. I pulled up my Omaha Poker Tracker Stats and across all levels I have been losing .32 BB/100 over 8,430 hands. That is not a very large sample size and honestly, that could turn positive in about two sessions of .50-1 PLO.

Many players claim that PLO is the game of the future. It is much more complex than Hold’em and therefore, there are very few experts at the game and most of them are playing at nosebleed stakes. According to a couple of authors that I have read, the skill difference between an expert and pretty good player in PLO is very small, because it is very rare that you get someone all in drawing dead or close to it. I disagree with this statement because I have found that I have seen players get their whole stack in the pot drawing at non nut hands, when someone else already has the nuts.

I think there is definitely a profitable niche in these games, I just have to improve enough to take advantage. Plus it has become a very popular game, so it is not hard to find 12-20 tables running of 6 max or full ring at Poker Stars or Full Tilt.

The other game I wanted to investigate was Limit Omaha Eight or Better (O8). I have heard that this game has less variance that Limit Hold’em and that a good player can clean up in these games because most people have no idea how to play split pot games. I only have 988 hands in my Poker Tracker data base for split games, but I am slightly ahead.

I have seen evidence in every game I have played over the last week, that there are some really bad O8 players. I even tried to observe the 3-6 O8 game at Casino Arizona while I was waiting for a seat to open up. I had heard that it was a bunch of old men who only played the nuts. Instead, in the hands I observed, there was a fundamental mistake made by somebody on almost every hand.

The problem with O8 is that it is not nearly as popular as Pot Limit Omaha. If I’m lucky there is one 3-6 and one 6-12 live game running at the Casino. That can make for a long wait if there are a few people in line ahead of me. Online is not much better as I have been playing the .5-1 games on Poker Stars and Full Tilt. The full ring games will have 3-4 tables running. There is not a lot of chance for game selection there. It’s even worse at the higher levels where you are lucky if there is one full ring table running at each level.

The other problem with O8 is that that it is a very slow game. The dealer has to deal 4 cards to everyone, so that takes more time. Every pot at the end is usually split so it takes longer to read the hands and separate the chips. It could really drive a guy nuts who is used to playing 3-4 tables at once online. I might have to play at very high stakes live, in order to compensate for playing ¼ as many hands as if I was playing online.

I have cracked open my books on Omaha and over the next few weeks I plan on posting some strategy for Omaha. I doubt any of it will be ground breaking stuff, but I figure if I write it down in my own words, it will help me synthesize the lessons and make me a better player. I also plan on taking at least two hands from every session and posting them on Cardrunners or Two Plus Two to get feedback from the other players.

For the next month I am going to become an Omaholic.

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