So you’ve mastered the basics. You understand the nature of the game, starting hand qualities, the importance of position, how high and low possibilities affect your pot odds, why a dry A2 is not the second coming…etc. The $64,000 question is: how far will this take you and how do you improve?
The first answer will depend to a large degree on your game selection. Some $5/$10 games are a lot easier to beat than some $2/$4 games. The basic trait of good omaha games is looseness. (Be sure not to confuse looseness with short-handed aggression!) In general, the loosest games will be the easiest to beat. But with increasing knowledge on how to play the game, the game seems to play tighter. What is your edge beyond basic play? What separates merely “good” players from excellent players and experts? Something clearly makes a difference. Fortunately, most of these “special” qualities can be understood and developed to a high degree. I will address two that often separate men from the boys, so to speak.
The Pivotal Factor
The less leaks you have, the more you will make. In a game where players have roughly equal playing abilities, psychology becomes the pivotal factor. This does not merely apply to “big bet poker” (pot limit and no limit). Sure, it is faster to tilt your bankroll away in a no limit game, but experiences of many testify that it is just as easy in a limit game. Curiously, even very successful high limit players have huge leaks here. Chip Reese, long acknowledged as one of the best all-around players in the world, said in an interview: “I can give you names of guys who are up-and-coming superstars, who are supposed to be great players. I see them when they play in the big games and things go bad; you can’t believe how they play. They break down…” (Gambling Wizards, 62-63).
Not that hard to believe, really. Watch some of the “superstars” eliminated early on in the World Series. How many throw a tantrum? How many are prone to negative self-defeating reactions that cripple their game? Most players do not realize that the maxim “we have met the enemy and it is us” amply applies to them. By reacting in destructive and disruptive ways, you are not only damaging the quality of your play, you are making your opponents feel better! Keep saying “I just cannot win in this game” and soon everyone will really believe it, including you. Make an honest assessment of how you fare in this category. You can be your own best friend if you want to. Most people do not and their marginal earning rate reflects that. Plug the biggest common leak and you’ll be more than on the way!
There’s a Pattern to their Madness
If you post one “poker truth” next to your computer to read every day, this is it. Ed Miller said it and he said it well: “every cent of your long-term profit playing poker comes from exploiting your opponents’ errors and predictable tendencies” (Small Stakes Hold’em, 16). The same is equally true of omaha, if not more so. The tendencies of many omaha players can be easily observed, understood, and used against them. Where are the errors? What should you look for? Which area of play should you analyze and dissect?
One of the most rewarding and distinguishing area of study is the “science of raising”. Some players will raise preflop with any dry A2. Others with raise with an A2XX and at least some counterfeit protection. Others will raise only with an A2 that has some counterfeit protection as well as a suited ace. You want to understand the meaning of your opponents’ actions. The raise of a rock is very different from the raise of a maniac. By observing tendencies, you can make some very educated guesses about the possible holdings. You will get better with practice. Some players will become very “obvious” to you with time. I would in fact suggest that once you select your competition and do your “spying”, you should stick to it! Why double your effort and re-do your homework? If you find players whose play is fairly transparent to you, why look for anybody else? If you have a very good idea about what the raises mean on each turn, how your opponent thinks and what he is capable of, your edge increases dramatically.
Some players feel that poker education is improving the quality of play and makes the games less profitable. The truth is, if you know that your opponent is playing a good, basic game, you know more about their play because their actions at the table are meaningful. They have a pattern.
Your Best Friend
No, I am not talking about dogs (although having a pet can really take loads off!). I am referring to Poker Tracker Omaha (or other poker tools that can track poker play). Use it. Let it run on your favorite tables and collect all the data. Sit back, relax, or go to sleep. I routinely keep my omaha software on during the night. In the morning, I check on the players I am interested in. Some of their stats are more familiar to me than my own phone number. I know how often and in which situations they raise, how well they understand the quality of their hand, when they tilt and how to spot it, how aggressive they are…etc. You do not need to collect the data via the “caveman” manual method of watching the table. Your computer can do that for you. How easy is that? Put some distance between you and your competition.
When You Cannot Beat that @#$ing Limit
One final tip that is extremely useful. Suppose you cannot beat a certain limit. Here’s something that helps. Collect a mass of detailed data on the players who can! You will likely see that they do certain things (“small things”) differently than you. With Poker Tracker Omaha, winning ceased to be a secret. You become successful by studying success! What’s stopping you?
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