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Omaha Hi-Lo at the WSOP
Yesterday I played in my first 2023 WSOP tournament. I chose to play in an Omaha Hi-Lo Limit game. In Omaha Hi-Lo, you must use exactly two cards in your hand combined with three cards on the board. The highest five-card hand splits the pot with the lowest five-card hand, but the lowest hand has to have all cards 8 or less (where A is counted as a 1). If there is no such combination, then the highest hand wins the entire pot. For example, the hand on the right has the lowest possible hand, A2358. The hand on the left has a king-high flush.
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And this is a limit game, which means you can only bet a small amount and only four raises are allowed among all the players. No one can go all in or raise a huge amount, which means the game moves more slowly and there are many fewer bluffs. It's more about the odds than about fooling your opponent.
This is the game that I learned from my friend Rick Tavan and played every month for years at his home. I think I got good at it, but this would be the test.
I sat down at the table just as the first hand was being dealt. I won it!
I continued winning hands and stacking up slowly.
I found I was winning or chopping (i.e., splitting the pot) almost every hand I played, and I was playing most hands.
I saw Barry Greenstein playing on the table next to me. He's the pro I beat in my very first tournament about 10 years ago. He's also the founder of Symantec. See Barry Greenstein - Wikipedia.
I won a 3-way pot with my favorite cards... 72 off suit, when I flopped a 7 and a 2.
I got to the first break and was doing well.
The hard part about Omaha for me is that in Rick Tavan's game, the blinds (min bets) were fixed. In a tournament, the blinds increase every 2 hours. As this tournament went on, I think I played too many hands, but I'm not sure where to draw the line. In Omaha, the odds change significantly after the flop, so I'm always tempted to bet before the flop in order to see the flop.
My luck wasn’t holding up when the first break was over. I started to lose hands. I still had a decent stack but not great.
Omaha is hard. I knew I had the high hand but didn't realize I also had the low hand until the other players pointed it out. Fortunately, everyone at the table was nice. The dealer is supposed to recognize the hands, but sometimes they don’t. It's nice to have 9 pairs of eyes on the cards.
My stack started getting good again. Above average.
I got to the second break, and my stack was about up to average. There were over 1,000 players in this tournament.
I knocked out another player when I flopped a set of 9s. I didn't realize how short stacked he was.
I eliminated yet another player. Just call me "The Eliminator!"
I began winning hands and building my stack again.
I was suddenly winning or chopping every pot again. My stack was very good.
We have 15-minute breaks every two hours. There are 1,141 player that need to pee. 80% are men, heading to 2 or 3 men’s rooms. And I kept running into bathroom zombies on their phones, lumbering in front of me, blocking my path. Very annoying. One guy at the urinal had his head down, addressing his... private parts. "How are you doing? Is everything going okay?" "You know I love you." Then I saw his earbuds.
Back from the break, I had A467. The board ran out 44564. So I took high hand with quad 4s but split the pot with another player who had A2 for the low hand.
We were down to 782 out of 1,143 players. I lost a really big pot when I had the nut low until I got counterfeited on the river. I had A2. The flop was 456, so no hand was lower than mine. I bet but the other two players called. The turn was 10 and I bet again but the other players called. The river was 2 meaning A3 was now a lower hand. Another player bet. I called. He had A3. I lost a lot of chips.
I flopped the nuts (best possible hand), a straight. The other player kept betting, and I kept raising. The board paired on the river. Turned out he had two pair, but the river gave him a full house. I was then down to 2 big blinds.
I got KQQ6. I shoved. Three players called. The flop had two sixes, so I felt pretty good. But the board ran out with three hearts. A player had a flush. I busted out at #728.
I had a long run, so I don’t feel too bad. On the other hand, I think I shouldn’t have raised with A2 for the nut low earlier. Since the other player was calling, he either also had a good low hand or he had the high hand. I was probably going to split the pot with him, so there was no point in increasing the pot. But if his hand improved, as it did, all those extra chips would go to him. On the other hand, there was a third player in the hand, and I thought we might split the third player’s chips, so increasing the number of chips in the pot made sense. As you can see, I need to think about this some more.