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Barry's Bulletin

Observation Skills for Omaha Eight-or-Better


Wouldn't it be great if you knew whether your opponent started with a high or a low hand?

How about if you knew that he had an A-2 or two aces? That sure would make your game easier.

Well, in many cases, you can - and it is completely legal. In between hands, instead of looking at the cocktail waitresses or discussing the day's sports event, try polishing up your observation skills. Last time, I wrote about things to observe in hold'em; today, I will address Omaha. The general concept here is that people are creatures of habit. They tend to play similar hands in similar ways over and over again.

As is the case in other forms of poker, rule No. 1 is that you should do most of your research when you are out of a hand. While you are in a hand, you need to concentrate on maximizing the outcome for that hand, not on how to play the person in the future.

Rule No. 2 is that these skills work best against the vast majority of players who are average, not against the very worst or the very best. Since the worst players are inconsistent and have no clue themselves as to what they are doing, you can't pick up much information. Furthermore, you don't want to be fancy at all against them. The very best players purposely mix up their play. They have to do so when playing against other great players. In a typical Omaha eight-or-better game, you should be able to come real close to determining the playing style of all but one or two players after just a couple of rounds.

Force yourself to notice something important about someone in each hand. Let's just look at starting hands for a moment. Some players never raise before the flop in Omaha. Obviously, you can't assume anything about their starting hand except that they have one.

Some people start only with A-2.

That's very good information. Some folks raise only with two aces. Isn't that important information? Some people raise only with high starting hands because if they come in, they might scoop. Others raise only with low hands because they think those hands are the best starters. The point is that people tend to do the same things over and over again. Are you catching my drift?

If a player calls a raise and later shows a 9-8-7-6 as he takes the high half, haven't you learned something? Some players just won't lay down a blind, no matter what. If that is the case, they might show up with anything. On the other hand, not too much respect needs to be given. Others call the small blind only with a big hand, because they are out of position. Give these hands respect. Also, be more comfortable stealing blinds from these folks.

The turn gives us new information. If the board flushes on sixth street, some folks always bet their flush. Others bet only the nut flush, while others check until the end to make sure that a full house doesn't hit. This is great information to know. You can't even get it by asking another player. Even if he would tell you, he probably doesn't know himself. You might be the only player at the table who does. Some players bet big low draws here. Others check until the low is made. Wouldn't it be nice to know that when a player bets the turn with two low cards, he is on high for sure?

It might make your call with A-4 a lot easier. The river brings new information. Some players just won't bet a nut low with three players because it is too risky that they might be quartered. Others always bet the nut low because they are oblivious. Knowledge of their habits certainly would make your play easier.

Observation skills not only make winning sessions out of losing sessions, they also can make you look clairvoyant. It is always a kick to check-raise with a hand with which others might not even call and then lay it down with the confidence that you have the nuts.
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