Across different poker games, there is one thing that can be counted on: there will be players going on tilt. One often hears hold’em players complaining about losing large pots on the river (“oh man, another suckout, I can’t believe this”). Perhaps they have not played Omaha. It can be a game significantly more painful than hold’em. In Omaha, you will see many pots decided on the river because of multiple draws, re-draws, and “surprise” counterfeits. For example, if you flop the nuts for the high side, your hand is not nearly as strong as it may appear to you. The turn and the river will often make very strong hands possible (flushes, full houses, and quads). A player who does not understand this fact will be more prone to tilting. “I can’t believe I got outdrawn again!”. The first step is to understand the nature of the game. The second step is to prepare psychologically for your losses.
Is This Your Experience?
Let me explain what I mean. Most players enjoy the game as long as they are winning. Everything’s fine, they feel good, the game is fun. But once they suffer a significant loss (note that “significant” is a very subjective word), everything changes for them. Playing “hurts”, life is a depressing drag, an unhappy rollercoaster of pain and frustration. Consequently, their play deteriorates and most of us know the rest of the story. Players often lose significant portions of their bankroll (if not all of it), damage their own confidence and sometimes self-respect, and perhaps even quit the game altogether. In this article, we are looking at how not to do that, specifically when playing Omaha high/low.
Handling Losing in Omaha High/Low
I think one of the most important parts of being a winning player is handling losing. I used to be one of the players I describe above. But I made some changes that I found helpful. You may as well.
Education – know your odds and outs. How often will the river pair the board? How many live outs do I have to scoop the pot with my nut flush? How often will my low be counterfeited on either the turn or the river? Looking at the game this way, it becomes clear that there are really no “bad beats”. There are only results being produced every hand, fully based on probability. Two-outers will not suck-out frequently, but they will still happen.
Determination to enjoy – before each game, I decide to enjoy it no matter what happens. Most poker authors recommend that one takes the poker chips and the money involved extremely seriously. In some ways, that seems like a bad advice. It creates stress and dislike for the game when one is losing. There is indeed a need to acknowledge the amount of money involved, but clearly not to a point where stress and psychological pressure completely take over your enjoyment of the game. Playing Omaha high/low should be an enjoyable experience. The game affords many exciting aspects (large pots, difficulty of knowing which players are playing for high and/or low, pushing out second best hands with third best hands, …etc.). Do not ruin the fun of the game for yourself by insisting that the cards go your way every single time or even often. They most certainly will not. It is foolish to be discouraged by the inevitable. Focus on the quality of your play. Enjoy making good decisions. You will not only increase your winnings, but will have a blast at the table as well! If you don’t like what you do, what is the point?
Expect to lose – should not one expect to win? Yes, overall, one should have winning expectations, if there was effort and time put into improving the quality of play. But losing sessions are unavoidable. Because of various card distributions over time, it will be impossible for you win every session. Read that sentence again and again next time you feel like whining. It is the nature of the game that you cannot win all the time. Either accept that or don’t play.
Think of your losses as triple investments (win by losing) – losses are investments in three ways. First, you are investing in information. Every loss helps you to understand your opponents more. Second, every loss helps you to understand yourself better. How did you react? Were you able to enjoy the game despite the temporary downswing? Third, losses give you an opportunity to evaluate your play. When you’re winning, you are less likely to improve your game. Losses are wake-up calls. Am I playing right? If I am, then there is nothing to worry about. If I am not, then now is a good time to make some changes.
Perhaps the greatest martial artist of our era, Bruce Lee, was once asked about success and circumstances of his life. He replied: “Circumstance? Hell, I make circumstances.” Indeed, one creates one’s own circumstances by attitude and expectation. One player may lose 100 BBs in a session, still have a blast at the table, come back next time and run over the tables with his solid tilt-free play. Another player may hang himself after losing that same amount. These are obviously extreme examples, but all of us fit somewhere on that spectrum. Don’t ruin your Omaha high/low experience by having unreasonable expectations. Have fun playing the game no matter what happens. Know your odds and outs. Expect the cards to run cold. Learn from your losses. Don’t give up because of the unavoidable. Enjoy the ride!