Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reversals of Fortune

I've been playing a lot of Omaha and Hold'em Rush lately, with my time split just about evenly between the two forms of poker. This has been going on for about a month now, but the interesting thing is how the two games seem to be out of synch with each other. In other words, if I'm winning in one of the games, I'm probably losing in the other. If I'm making money at Hold'em over the course of a couple of days, I'm most likely losing at Omaha during that same time frame, and vice versa. I can't seem to post consecutive winning sessions in both games on the same day. My 'roll has consequently vacillated greatly, up $40 or so in one of the games, but then down roughly the same amount in the other. I've made essentially zero overall gain to the 'roll overall, but the swings have been huge.

A few weeks ago, most of my wins were in Hold'em, with only a few winning sessions at Omaha. I joked on more than one occasion that I was financing my Omaha lessons with Hold'em winnings. On other days, however, the trend switched around. I've been all over the map. Take the last three days, for example.

On Friday, I had a couple of really good Hold'em sessions, making about $40 overall. I then tried my hand that evening at Omaha, and gave back $50 overall, for a net loss of $10 for the day. Ouch. But then on Saturday the roles were reversed, with Omaha scoring big for me, but Hold'em returning back 80% of my profits. I had a net gain of $15 for that day. Then, today, I played some Hold'em and had my a$ handed to me again, for a net loss of $30. Omaha, however, came to the rescue, and added $50 to the 'roll, for a net gain of $20.

So what's going on? I was worried that part of the problem might be that I was having trouble switching my brain between the two games, and that I was losing money playing "Hold'em" poker at the Omaha tables, and vice versa. After reviewing my stats, however, I don't think this is the case. In fact, I think I've had two distinct problems, one Hold'em-related, and the other Omaha:

Hold'em Swings. When I'm winning at Hold'em, my gains seem to be mostly small, grinding-type wins, with $2 here and $3 there added to the stack. When I'm losing, it's because I'm taking some awful beats. I've had KK's cracked so many times over the past few weeks that, like Pavlov's dog, I now start whimpering whenever I see cowboys show up. Same thing with AA. Today, I was dealt rockets and my wife, who was in the other room reading, called out, "what wrong?" Evidently, I was talking aloud to myself when dealt the AA and had said, "Swell. Time to lose more money!" This is not a good thing. Or maybe it is, as it means I'm losing due to just bad luck, and not bad play. I think.

Omaha Swings. In contrast to bad luck at the Hold'em tables, the reason I think I'm having such big swings at Omaha is simply because I'm still learning my way through the game. There are moments when I feel like I know what I'm doing, but then, at the worst possible times, I get taught that I don't, getting blind-sided by an opp who played me like a cheap fiddle. That's the bad news. The good news is I'm getting--incrementally--better at the game. I'm also finding that the more I play Omaha, the more I think it's helping my Hold'em game overall.

For instance, ABC Omaha emphasizes--and rewards--TAGgish behavior. It's very easy to dribble off lots of money playing too loosely, so tightening up as a beginner is a simple way to plug a common leak. Guys like the Guru can get away with a much more LAGgish style, but not neophytes like me. Tight is right.... is Aggression. Another help to my hold'em game by playing Omaha is the concept of hitting it hard when you think you're ahead (or are drawing strongly). Unless you're willing to get it all in PF w/ a strong drawing hand or big aces or kings, you will never make a lot at the game. Wait for good opportunities, and then ram-n-jam. Sound familiar? This is ABC Hold'em at its core.

Omaha also helps with board reading skills. Yes, I know, Omaha boards are different than Hold'em, and that the nuts on one board aren't necessarily the nuts on another. That said, playing Omaha forces me to continuously think "what are the nuts?" and "what could my opponent have that makes him unafraid of this board?" and "what draws are out there that I need to be afraid of?" I'm also constantly thinking "what cards do I want to see come on the turn and river?" and "what will I do when these cards come?" When I switch back to Hold'em after an Omaha session, I'm still thinking this way, and it's helped me put villains on hands and plan my action for the later streets. Board texture is vitally important in Omaha and Hold'em alike.

Position is also incredibly important. I've read that position is more important in Omaha than any other type of poker, and I believe it. Late position steals are paramount, as are folding "double hold'em" hands, like JJ55. These types of hands look pretty, but they're sure death when played in EP in Omaha... yet they can be 3-betting hands in LP against an aggro blind. Again, playing this way in Omaha translates to playing the same positionally-aware game in Hold'em.

I've tried to talk Mr. Multi into learning Omaha, but he has resisted thus far, stating that he wants to master Hold'em first. I understand this sentiment, but I also now firmly believe that learning Omaha actually improves Hold'em. Yes, they're different games, Omaha and Hold'em, but they're both poker at their core. And basic concepts like tight, aggressive, positionally-aware play in one translates to the other. In other words, working on one game has definitely improved my other, and vicey-versey.

Now if I could just get the two results in synch...

All-in for now...

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