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Lesson 11: Misc. Thoughts

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

This lesson covers a number of topics that are important, but don't lend themselves to categorization. Some of the thoughts have been mentioned previously; others are new to this lesson. All of them, though, are important.

Always Look for the Added Out

Assume you hold A299, and the flop is 56T. You have the nut low draw and nothing else (and, barring running nines, no chance of high). Now assume the same hand, but the flop is 569. Now you have top set along with the nut low draw. You have an added means of winning - if the board pairs, you're likely to win the high. The hand has changed from mediocre to excellent.

Similarly, it's much better to hold A23x than A2xx - you have counterfeit protection for your low. A2 by itself is usually playable. A23 is always playable. A23, with the Ace suited, is a premium hand. When you have added outs you may have a raising hand. When you don't, you're going to be a caller.

The Dangler

You pick up your hand and see A239. Wouldn't you rather that the nine be a low card, or a King? The 9 is a dangler, a card that doesn't match the rest of your hand. Danglers add no value to your hand. This principle is the corollary to the added out discussed above. If you have a marginal hand with a dangler, you really don't have a marginal hand - you have a trash hand. Wouldn't you rather play A457 than A45T?

Remember, each Omaha hand contains six two-card combinations. The more of these combinations that are complementary, the more valuable your hand. Play hands where everything, or most everything, is working, and you're well on your way to being a winning player.

The Straight Danger

You're in the big blind, and got a free look at the flop. You hold
46QQ, and the flop is 357. Are you happy?

You shouldn't be. You have, for now, the high; however, your hand is quite vulnerable. You have no chance for low. You have no protection if the board pairs or if a third club comes. Count your outs: three Aces, three deuces, three tens, three Jacks, two Queens, and three Kings. And it only gets worse on the river.

Straights are regularly overplayed in low limit Omaha. Play them with the utmost care and you'll be ahead of the game.

Reading the Opposition

Throughout many of the lessons I've commented on reading your opponents. This is not a skill you can get by reading a lesson. By playing many hands against an opponent you should, if you're paying attention, be able to judge his actions.

Take this hand, for example. You hold A255, and are on the button. Six players have seen the flop: 5JK. You have bottom set, and the backdoor nut low draw. The blinds both check, the next player bets, it then goes, raise, fold, and now you must act.

Math can only get you so far. You can compute your pot odds, but are you going for 1/4 of the pot (low) or 1/2? Is your bottom set any good (usually it isn't), or is the raiser a habitual bluffer? I can't answer these questions about your game, but you should be able to. Listening and observing are skills you need to be successful in poker.

Sleep, Exercise and the Cubs. Those who know me are aware that I am quite a fan of the Chicago Cubs. I grew up in Chicago and went to many games at Wrigley Field as a child. I can watch almost all of their games (on WGN and DirecTV) even though I live 2000 miles from Chicago. Can I watch the Cubs and play Omaha at the same time? Perhaps. Can I do both well? Of course not.

When other things are on your mind (e.g., your spouse, a problem at work, any stressful decision, etc.) stay away from poker! If you learn nothing else from this series of lessons, this thought alone will save you a substantial sum of money. There are very few individuals who can play good poker when some stressful event is happening in their lives. If you can you are quite an exceptional person. More likely, when you're under stress your game suffers. So stay away when that's happening.

Do you get enough sleep? According to a study at UCLA, at least 20 percent of Americans don't. The experts define 'enough' as between seven and eight hours each night (although everyone is different; you might need as few as five hours or as many as ten hours). If you don't get enough sleep your judgment, reaction time and other functions will likely be impaired. Given that while playing poker you need good judgment and other skills, this can be a problem.

I used to be able to do all-nighters (for both work and fun). I can't any more and function well the next day - I'm just too old, I guess. When you start feeling tired consider racking up from your game. When you know you're tired you've already likely been making mistakes that cost you money (in poker). Remember, the games will be there tomorrow.

The final thought of this lesson concerns exercise. Are you engaging in a regular program of physical activity? Of course, before you start an exercise program you should consult with your doctor. He or she can evaluate you for heart disease or other problems to see if you should take any precautions before you begin.

What does exercise have to do with poker? Well, according to the American Medical Association and the University of Michigan Health System, the benefits of regular exercise include increased endurance, more energy, better ability to cope with stress, a sense of well-being, and, of course, various health benefits. Take the thirty minutes a day and you might find your game improving.

In the last lesson of this series I will present an introduction to playing Omaha high/low tournaments.

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