The following hand came from a PLO8 multi-table tournament I played earlier this week.

The blinds were 50/100 and I had about 2,400 in chips. I posted the big blind and was dealt A 2 3 4, a good hand, but not very useful when the blinds are big compared to the stack sizes. (I have a post explaining this concept) A bunch of players limped in, including the chip leader. He was playing nearly every hand, which I think is not the best strategy for this type of tournament. You need to be selective with your starting hands to avoid dangerous spots as the one that follows.

The flop came A 6 7, mixed suits, giving me the nut low with good protection and a top pair. I, however, proceeded cautiously: someone could have a 2 3 and I would get quartered. I made a small bet of 300, half the pot, to try to see what my opponents would do. If there was a raise, I was fairly sure I was up against another nut low, but if the pot could be heads-up, I actually had some good chances: my pair of aces could be enough, and I also had an inside straight draw and the protection in case a 2 or a 3 happens to appear on the board.

A guy in middle position called and the chip leader raised to 1,000. At this point, considering the range of the raiser, who was playing too many hands, I was fairly sure I could get half of the pot. The other guy could have the nut low as well, but getting quartered in a three-way pot with some dead money on it would not hurt my already shallow stack. My major concern here, nonetheless, was how to maximize the profit: if I reraised, the caller could easily fold, and I would get heads-up with a very slim chance of scooping the pot. Calling, however, could give the other player the oportunity to come in ''cheaply'', and it would be possible to get half the pot, but a three-way pot.

Many players make the mistake of raising to much with the nut low (or nut high) in a three way pot. The problem with that is very simple: if one of the players fold to your raise and you get called by someone with a decent high (or low, in the other case), you split and your profit is very small. But if you call instead, a player wiith the second best low and second best high might want to call, and you end up getting half of a three-way pot - a bigger payoff.

So I called. The opponent called as well and we've got to see the turn. The 5 of hearts, a marvelous card, came in. Now I've got bottom straight to go along with my nut low, but the pot size is so big that it doesn't matter if I should bet or check, and I check. After thinking for a while, I guess bet would be a better play, because the player in middle position would have to call my small bet before the chip leader played (he would probably push a bigger bet). But it was just like this: we all got all-in on the turn.

And this lead us to the title of the post. The bigger the better. That's right. There was middle set versus top set at the flop, a very costly situation. While some unexperienced players may say this was just a cooler, the good Omaha players would tell something different: don't play middle cards in PLO8!

Even in PLO high, middle cards can be troublesome. You are willing to play them similar to suited connectors in hold'em: just for a small percentage of your stack and only continuing if you hit a piece of the flop. They are terrific when they make straights, but middle sets are slightly dangerous. And playing PLO is all about managing the danger.

Coming back to the hi-lo split, middle cards are a huge problem. Say you have J T 9 9 in a three-way pot and the board comes 8 5 7 6 K. You have the nut straight, but you're probably only going to get half of the pot. And things could be worse: you have the same hand and the flop is A 4 9. You bet trying to chase away a low draw and one of your opponents raises. You end up getting all-in and he shows A A 3 8. That's not a cooler. You've played sloppy preflop, and your opponent just played a hand that nearly everyone would play. And he ended up with a bigger set.

So, always remember: the bigger the better.