When you play in a regular game, you should be getting to know the habits, moves and plays of your competitors. Your game may have a Mick the Maniac, Russ the Rock, etc. When you’re out of a hand (which, if you play like me, is a lot of the time), you should be watching your opponents. You may pick up a tell, or you may learn how or why they make their bets and raises.
In the game that I frequent, we have a cast of characters. One of my favorites is Olma, a Russian immigrant. Now I’ve been playing with Olma for a couple of years, and I understand how she plays. When she’s in a hand – look out! She either has the nuts, or a good draw to the nuts, or draws to the nuts. When she bets she has the nuts; when she raises, she has the nuts with re-draws! Olma always buys in for the minimum (her husband doesn’t like her losing a lot). I’ve never seen her raise on the come.
A few weeks ago we were playing in the $6/$12 Omaha game (with a full kill to $12/$24). It was a kill pot, and I picked up K854. I was in late position with Olma on my right. Olma was the fourth caller, and I folded, of course. (If you’re thinking that I should have called, this is a trash hand. Yes, you have two cards to a wheel, but unless the flop is A23, you won’t like the hand much.) Seven players saw the flop: Q78. The exercise is to determine what Olma holds, given only my hand, the betting, and the Board cards. My guesses, and her actual hand, will appear at the end of this article.
On the flop, the blind checked, the next player bet, the following Togel player raised, and Olma, along with five others called (the blind folded). The turn card was the 6.
The raiser bet, the next player raised, it went fold, Olma called, call, call, and call (by the original better). The river was the intriguing 9.
The first player bet, call (with a disgusted attitude, mumbling, “What can I do?”), Olma raised, fold, call; raise by the first player, call, Olma capped it (in Southern California, a bet and 3 raises is the norm), and everyone called. So what did you think Olma held, and why, on every street?
Pre-flop, when Olma enters a hand, I know she holds A2, or A34, or a low suited Ace (up to A5) with some other back-up. In a kill pot, I expect her to hold either an A2 or A34.
Now on the flop (Q78) she cold calls two bets. Either she has the Ax (with x=3), a set of Queens (unlikely, given the raise – the raiser probably has that hand), or possibly A2T9. I’m not sure if Olma would play that hand in a kill pot.
The turn card was the 6. Again, Olma cold calls two bets. Given that this will be a split pot, Olma has the nuts (for either low or high) with a draw to the nuts the other way. I put her on A2. Another possibility was A245 (she’d have the nut low and the idiot end of the straight), but given that I held a 45 I thought that was unlikely.
The river was the 9 (making the Board Q78/6/9). Olma raised, was re-raised, and Olma capped the betting. When Olma re-raised I put her on A2; but when she was re-raised and she capped the betting it became clear, to me, that she had the straight flush and the nut low; indeed, Olma held A2JT, and got ¾ of a monster pot (the “What can I do” player also held an A2, along with a T9; the player who bet the river had the A3 and was annoyed, to put it mildly).
Now you may be thinking that the game you frequent is much tougher than my game; that none of the players have any habits or betting patterns; that it is impossible to figure out what they hold. My reply is to quote Rex Stout: Pfui!
It will take practice, but in Omaha reading your opponents is a much easier task than in hold’em. The regular denizens of your game do have habits. Start by following just one player in the session. Watch what he bets with, what he raises with, what he calls with. If necessary (to remember what’s happened), make surreptitious notes. When you get home, study the notes and look for the patterns that will be there. You’ll find that most of the players you play with have patterns. Even maniacs can have patterns: one I play with raises with garbage (about 90% of the time) and calls with his good hands.
You may not be lucky enough to have an Olma in your game, but I’m sure you have her relatives. So begin to look for the patterns in the play of your opponents, and you may be pleasantly surprised in what you find.