Friday, October 7, 2011

Wet, Dry, Heavy, Light

Years ago, Mr. Multi (back when he, ahem, actually played poker) used to state that he didn't want to waste any time learning other forms of poker. He said that he would learn Omaha or Stud or Razz after he learned Hold'em, and that working on those games now would just muddy the waters for him mastering Hold'em.

Ignoring for a moment that no one ever truly masters Texas Hold'em, I think ignoring other forms of poker actually handicaps a player. If you and I play heads-up in Hold'em, and we're both equally knowledgeable about the game, but I also am proficient in Omaha and Stud, I will have have an advantage over you. Yes, we both have equally deep understandings of the specific game we're going to play together, but I have a wider understanding of poker in general, which means I will have an edge over you.

Studying and playing other forms of poker (for me at least) often results in "a-ha" moments and/or alternate ways of looking at Texas Hold'em that I might not have discovered if I'd been focusing just on Hold'em. Case in point: I watched a pot-limit Omaha (PLO) training video this morning during my cardio/card-io workout. In this 30-minute lesson, I learned a refinement on thinking about board texture that I've never seen in any Hold'em discussion, book, or video. Specifically, the instructor said that in Omaha, advanced players tend to think of flops and board texture in two separate classifications: wet/dry and heavy/light*.

An Omaha wet flop is one in which there are lots of draws possible, such as Q-J-8 two-tone. A dry flop is one in which draws are not likely, for example K-7-3 rainbow.

So far, no big deal, right? The same wet/dry classification could be said about those two board textures in Hold'em.

Yes, but now let's add in the next layer of thinking: are these boards heavy or light?

In simple terms, a "heavy" board is one that is likely to connect with your opponent's range. A "light" board is one that doesn't hit your opponents range.

A flop can therefore be wet+heavy, wet+light, dry+heavy, or dry+light. Said another way, just because a board looks scary, it doesn't necessarily mean that your opponent's range connected to it.


In Omaha, this is pretty powerful stuff**, but it's just as useful in Hold'em. A board of A-J-T sure looks scary, but if your preflop read indicates your opponent mostly likely has a small or middle pair, this board probably didn't connect. I.e., it's a wet+light board, and therefore you can probably bluff into it profitably. On the other hand, if your read says that big cards make up a large part of your opponents range, you're into a wet+heavy situation, and you should probably not bluff.

The Guru used to teach his students that one should be wary of flops that contain J-T. For a beginning student, this is good advice because J-T connects with big cards that opponents are often likely to play. As you advance in your poker education, however, flops that contain J-T might actually offer good bluff and semi-bluff opportunities if it's "light."***

All-in for now...
*These are related but independent factors, much like VPIP and PFR are related but independent.
**Because Omaha is a game of the nuts or near-nuts, board texture is even more important to pay attention to than in Hold'em.
***I'm not so sure I like the terms "heavy" and "light." I think better descriptors might be "hard" and "soft," as in: "this flops hits my opponent's range hard." Dunno. In any case the concept is useful, regardless of what it's called...

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