Here are two hands that I played in heads-up post-flop confrontations against my buddy “TT” in my weekly 50¢-$1 ($100 minimum/$200 maximum) pot-limit Omaha (PLO) game on the electronic tables in the poker room at Excalibur in Las Vegas. TT is a former full-time professional player who plays all of the games (primarily limit poker games, including hold’em, stud, stud eight-or-better, badugi, triple draw, and Omaha eight-or-better), but he hasn’t played much PLO up to this point.
Now, I’ve played poker with TT only a few times – entirely in this PLO game at Excalibur – but we already have a bit of a history, thanks in part to the fact that TT plays virtually every hand, and in part to how fast the electronic poker table can deal PLO. This game is relatively small stakes for both of us, but there is a little bit of pride on the line.
Hand No. 1: The Idiot Savant Hand
My position: Button
My hand: J 10 5 3
Preflop: Everybody folds to TT ($650) in the cutoff, who raises to $3.50. I ($250) reraise to $12. Both blinds fold. TT calls.
J-10-5-3 with a single suit isn’t really on the recommended list of three-betting hands, but if there is a time to mess around and experiment to see what I can get away with, it’s better to do it at 50¢-$1 than $5-$10.
Flop ($25.50): K 2 2. TT checks. I bet $12. TT calls.
My bet was actually about half the pot (the electronic table takes the rake out of the pot during the hand, so there was actually $23.50 in the pot after the rake), so it was a fairly standard continuation-bet, representing A-A-X-X; either he has something to call me with or he doesn’t. I give TT credit for a king here.
Turn ($49.50): 2. TT bets $40.
All I have here is basically jack high, but this big bet looks like a bluff; it appears to me that TT has a king, got counterfeited, and is trying to buy the pot. I could fold – or I could put in a raise and try to represent A-A-X-X or K-K-X-X, or whatever will make him fold.
Action: I raise to $125. TT calls.
That’s not what I expected.
River ($299.50): 7. TT checks.
There are basically two possibilities here: TT has either a deuce or A-A, or he has a king, misread his hand, and thinks he has a full house.
Now, I have $100 left, and I definitely can’t win by checking. I still believe that TT has a king. My problem is that I’m not sure that he hasn’t misread his hand, and I am afraid that he is going to call me whether he has a full house or king high. I decide to give this one up.
Action: I check. TT wins with A-K-X-X for ace high.
TT would say that he thought I was bluff-raising – that I would have just called on the turn had I had a pair in my hand or A-A. I guess he’s right, but I still thought it was a pretty good bluff, as probably 99 percent of players (that is, everyone else but TT) would have folded to the raise.
“I guess I’m sort of an idiot savant with poker,” he said.
Great. Well, it was a pretty good read on his part that I didn’t have A-A-X-X, but I’m still not convinced that TT didn’t misread his hand. That said, it is also true that in order for TT to call that raise on the turn, he has to have some reason to believe that I am actually capable of bluff-raising in that spot. However, I haven’t actually shown anybody that move yet (bet the flop and take the initiative, and then bluff-raise against a possible steal bet/reverse float).
This next hand came a week later.
Hand No. 2: Check-Raise Bluff, Bluff-Reraise
My position: Big blind
My hand: A Q J 8
Preflop: TT ($300) raises to $3.50. Everyone folds to me. I ($450) call.
This is standard. I have a nice hand, but I don’t want to three-bet here, to play a bigger pot heads up and out of position.
Flop ($7.50): 10 3 3.
I expect TT to follow through with a continuation-bet here if I check. That said, a paired board is a good flop for a check-raise bluff.
Action: I check. TT bets $5. I raise to $15. TT calls.
TT’s call here is a warning sign that he actually has something. That said, TT knows that I am fully capable of bluff-raising, so he doesn’t have to have much. He may be calling just to see if I’ll bet the turn; in fact, looking back to the previous hand, it is possible that TT may have called the raise on the turn, perfectly willing to fold to a river bet.
I think, given our history, that I am a little more willing to follow through and fire another shot here against TT.
Turn ($37.50): 7. I bet $25. TT raises to $75.
I’ll put it this way: If TT is playing correctly, there are only two legitimate hands he should have here, and those are 10-10-X-X for the overfull and 3-3-X-X for quads. That said, I know that he knows I could have total air here, as we have played this sequence and variations of it before. I haven’t actually seen him call a check-raise and then bluff-raise on the turn, but I wouldn’t put it past him. Moreover, he is still pretty raw at PLO, and it is possible that he is overplaying something like A-A-X-X or dry trips.
I can reraise to $200, and employ leverage to effectively force TT to commit his entire $281.50 (or so) stack to see the hand through (at least in his mind). If he has nothing – as I suspect – he will fold. And even if he has something, he may come to his senses; he hasn’t seen me three-bet as a bluff yet, so this check-raise, three-bet sequence will look strong.
Action: I reraise to $200. TT deliberates for a minute and mutters something about “who has the bigger one” (my take is, well, if you have to ask …), then folds.
I actually thought TT was just trying to save face by thinking about it. But then he said he had trip threes, which I kind of believe. But if that’s true, he made a huge mistake by raising on the turn, because I am not going to give him further action unless I can beat trip threes (or unless I reraise on a bluff). His proper line is to smooth-call the turn and see what I do on the river, at which point I am probably not going to bet again unless I can beat trips.
This article was originally written by Jeff Hwang. Jeff Hwang is a semiprofessional player and author of Pot-Limit Omaha Poker: The Big Play Strategy. His latest book is Advanced Pot Limit Omaha Vol.1 and will be releasing Vol 2.