PokerStars FUSION, being a gradual transformation of Holdem into Omaha, features a very unique street – the flop, where we have not two, not four, but three hole cards! This kind of format has never been seen before in a widely accessible poker variant, so how do we handle the intricacies of flop play in PokerStars FUSION?
Big 3rd Cards on Dry Boards
Perhaps the easiest way to make sense of this new alien territory is to examine it with reference to Holdem, a game with which the vast majority of the poker world is more familiar. In Holdem, if we are behind and have no pair, we are quite significantly behind. Let’s imagine that as the Big Blind we are dealt 10♠7♠, call a 2.5bb open from the Button, and go heads up to a flop of 8♣6♥3♦. Button makes a one-third pot c-bet; a very popular choice of action to take with a very wide range of hands. Game theory advises us to raise or call this hand. We have connected too well with this flop and are too far up our range to consider folding to this small sizing. Our equity against a made hand like JJ is just 20%, but calling and raising become defensible options due to a combination of implied odds and future fold equity against the weaker parts of Villain’s range. Nevertheless, we would class both calling and raising here as marginal plays – choices that are likely to neither gain nor lose much EV.
Now let’s take a parallel case in PokerStars FUSION. The pre-flop action remains the same; remember that PokerStars FUSION has the same structure as Holdem does before the flop. On the same flop of 8♣6♥3♦, our hand becomes 10♠7♠A♦. This is a huge 3rd hole card for us for a few reasons. Firstly we have just grabbed another four outs against a hand like JJ4, taking our total outs to seven instead of four. Secondly, we can now win unimproved at showdown against hands like [KQ2, QJ5, A54] and other bluffs that were previously beating us.
It is tempting to see this Ad as a blank, but it considerably improves our EV. Had our hand become 10♠7♠2♦, it would be questionable whether we even have enough equity plus future fold equity to continue on this flop. After catching the ace, there is no question; we must continue in one way or another. I would err on the side of calling this particular part of my range. The ace brings enough showdown value to not require as much fold equity and gives us the chance to make top pair – a medium strength PokerStars FUSION hand on the turn or river on a dry texture, and not one we want to have inflated a pot with. Had we instead caught the 5♦, making our hand 10♠7♠5♦, I would be inclined to raise given the lesser showdown value, but greater potential to make a nutted hand, which thrives in an inflated pot.
One Pair on Wet Boards
PokerStars FUSION is a game in which flop equities run much closer together than in Holdem. This means that weakish made hands are much more vulnerable to being outdrawn by a wide array of random unmade hands. Particularly, one pair hands with limited or no redraw potential become a lot weaker and harder to play than in Holdem where they hold up more often than not.
Imagine that we start off with A♣A♠ and open UTG to 3bb. The CO calls us and we proceed to see a flop of J♥9♥8♠. Our hand now becomes A♣A♠4♦. This is a very precarious situation, and if we’re not careful we might easily overestimate our profitability here. CO has cold called after we opened from early position and so, provided that he is not a loose splashy player, he started with a relatively tight range, rich in pocket pairs, medium suited connectors and suited broadways. This means that his two card hands were all over this flop like a rash. The nail in the coffin is that, he’s been dealt a potentially useful third hole card and we most certainly have not. While there are still some hands in our opponent’s range that we are faring well against such as AQ, AJs, KQs, and A5s, we are blocking many of these hands with our two aces, and they have just gotten a chance to improve or pick up more equity to have a double shot at improving on the turn, where not one, but two more cards become available to hit.
If we are ahead, we are usually quite marginally ahead. If we are behind, we are completely crushed, relying on a third ace, which may not even be an out. Checking and folding to a large bet here is not as ridiculous as it looks, and would be a solid choice given the frailty of our hand against our opponents live, compact, and nut-filled range. Starting with a check here seems mandatory and this is a flop which, in game-theory, we should be checking very frequently so as to protect the abundant weak parts of our range that wish to simply check/fold.
Since our opponent’s made hands are more difficult to get to showdown with than in Holdem, it follows that draws, especially ones with multiple avenues for improvement are extremely suitable hands with which to apply pressure on the flop. Take this classic Holdem situation and observe how it changes in PokerStars FUSION:
The SB opens to 3bb and in the BB we call with J♦9♦. The flop brings 10♠8♣4♦ and our hand improves to J♦9♦Q♥. Note that, while we do not yet have a straight since we are only allowed to use two of our hole cards and three of the community cards, we have an equity powerhouse. Any Q, J, T, 9 or 7 will make us the nut-straight. That’s a grand total of 17 outs making us a favourite against an overpair. However, being a favourite does not guarantee that we will win the pot. If you’ve played any Omaha, which is the game PokerStars FUSION takes the form of on the later streets, you will be accustomed to the painful phenomenon of wondering how your enormous draw could possibly have missed when two bricks roll off on the turn and river. If we can make Villain’s more marginal made hands fold now, then we profit greatly by securing the pot vs. that part of his range, even when we would have missed our monster draw.
Raising here in position is a very powerful play and this so called draw should really be treated as a nutted hand that does not mind a little fold equity. We might call it a value-bluff; raising is win-win.
Conclusion – The Golden Rule
We can summarise flop play In PokerStars FUSION with the following rule:
Dry flops play more similarly to Holdem and wet flops play more similarly to Omaha.
If you are somewhat of a jack of all poker trades, it will be useful to apply your Holdem knowledge in situations where it is difficult to have connected heavily or have a crazy amount of outs to improve even with the third hole card present. Your Omaha expertise and caution should come in handy on boards where there is a vast array of plausible nutted hands and easily improvable hands in both players’ ranges.