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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Monday, 18 December 2006
Short stack play in online omaha.
Topic: Poker

There's been an interesting thread on 2+2 recently. No, not that one. I'm talking about the growing dissatisfaction with the fact that so many online pot limit omaha players are playing with short stacks. I recently spent a couple of weeks multi-tabling PLO at Pokerstars, so it's a subject that's fresh in my mind. It was while playing there a few weeks ago that I suddenly thought of a winning strategy for playing omaha with a small stack on several tables at once. I didn't follow through on it because I was already winning by playing a deep stack game, but I did wonder whether any friends of mine had thought of it too.

When I asked around, a couple of people mentioned that Rolf Slotboom had written something similar to it in a book. I decided to see whether anyone on Stars was playing the way I was thinking of, but concluded that the small stacks weren't doing what I would have expected them to. Basically if you're going to go all in before the flop with a small stack then you either want to have two aces in your hand or none. Yet I kept seeing people doing it with one, which makes no sense to me.

A glance at the PLO forum on 2+2 shows a great deal of irritation with Slotboom for encouraging short stacked play. Technically he's not the first writer to have floated the idea. One of the Sklansky/Malmuth books explains why the ideal buy-in for limit 7-card stud is the running ante only, which isn't allowed. However Slotboom has gone much further and outlined a practical 'system'.

When his critics aren't complaining about his book, they are petitioning for an increase in the minimum buy-in. They say that too many short stacks are killing the game. I think they have a point. In my opinion, the fact that the stack sizes are so much lower in relation to the blinds, compared to typical live games, is a far more significant difference between live and online play than the presence or absence of physical tells. To see whether the complaint is valid, I decided to check out the state of affairs on four full ring (nine-handed) $1/2 games on Pokerstars.

This is what I saw:

Neva -$282, $342, $210, $279, $386, $145, $200, $27, $150

Leo Minor - $255, $96, $194, $200, $219, $179, $170, $207, $42

Jiangi - $177, $558, $120, $112, $209, $178, $177, $189, $196

Chalonge - $140, $175, $191, $220, $124, $14, $38, $198, $133

Compared to the Victoria's omaha games, this is very shallow stuff. On table Jiangi, there are only two players with more than the max buy-in. One of them only exceeds this by $9! Has only one person doubled up? Perhaps; but if not, where's the rest of the money? The answer to that is one of the reasons I tend to get fed up with online poker after a few weeks of it and return to live play - the incredible, by live standards, preponderance of the hit-and-run. Seriously, does anyone apart from me stay longer than three minutes after a double-up? I've lost count of the times I've gone a couple of buy-ins behind, only to see after a quarter of an hour that none of the people who won my money are still there. The flip side is that when I double through and stick around, after an hour or so, I start to wonder what the point is, when nobody else is close to matching me dollar for dollar.

Perhaps having an hourly charge discourages nursing a small stack. The Vic's £10 per hour in the hundred game is just over three big blinds (five, when the big blind was £2 not so long ago). That might deter people from clinging on for dear life with only seven or nineteen BBs, as two players on table Chalonge were doing. Whatever the case, I'll be interested to see what happens. Will 'stars take notice and raise the minimum buy-in? I would like to think so. But in order for that to happen, there would have to be some senior decision-makers working in the company who understand the game from a player's point of view rather than a marketing exective's. I've told Lee Jones, Rich Korbin, Conrad Brunner and Dan Goldman that the Sit'n'Go lobby is far too cluttered and splits the liquidity providers (people who sit down first) several times. But instead of being simplified it gets more and more complicated, with the end result that you get a large number of lists, with only a few names each on them. Surely the reverse would be more profitable?

Meanwhile the omaha games are still profitable for now because, as Big Dave D reports, many people are not correctly applying Slotboom's strategy. But in the long term there is a danger that the short stack approach will kill the game. Will 'stars react in time before the game dries up or drifts elsewhere? The race is on!

Tuesday, 19 December 2006 - 11:16 AM GMT

Name: "Andy Ward"

Yes, that one.  As one poster rightly said, it's a Christmas Miracle Thread.  Best ever.


Tuesday, 19 December 2006 - 8:00 PM GMT

Name: "toryboy2"

A year ago someone posted saying you were wrong about everything.   Iraq, wmd's, the scope of limit poker and the death of omaha.

You defended your position heroically...however I find it strange to see you now play a lot of this previously despised game , online. And to write long articles on the omaha scene.

Frankly you are a first class hypocrite.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006 - 11:42 AM GMT

Name: "David Young"

It's taken me a while to figure out what omaha post you are referring to, but I think you mean this:

Sample quote: I never bought into the idea that omaha was the 'action game'. I certainly never accepted that there was as much mental action involved. I don't mind playing it for a few hours and I think it can make an interesting tournament game, but I find cash omaha boring compared to cash hold'em. For a start you don't get anywhere near as many hands per hour.

What I did last month was stick $600 into 'stars with a new idea in mind - instead of playing NL hold'em, where the games are increasingly tough - I thought I'd try playing multi-table PLO. The point I make above: 'you don't get anywhere near as many hands per hour' - isn't a problem when you're playing three or four tables at once. In fact, PLO lends itself to multitabling better than hold'em.

And multitabling is what online play is all about, I now think. If you're not multitabling, you might as well be playing live. There are big drawbacks with online play - lack of physical tells and, as I keep stressing, the money is far shallower due to maximum buy-ins, endless hit-and-runs and so on. The point about there being less mental action involved I stand by - it's one thing that makes it possible to play four tables at once. But after about two and a half weeks, I was fed up and cashed out. I'd made $3,800 profit, but I wasn't enjoying it. Back to live hold'em play.

In addition, with respect to something else I wrote - Omaha games at the Vic now resemble those 7-card games of years ago. The average age at the table is nearly double that of the hold'em games. Most people look miserable most of the time. There is very little banter.

Some nights there are good omaha games at the vic and on those rare occasions I may join in. But often there is no game at all and many times when there is a game it's awful. The average age thing and the miserable demeanour is slightly better than a year ago, but not much. So that still stands.


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