The Turn

“Hooray for new math…it’s so simple, so very simple, that only a child can do it!” – Tom Lehrer

In this lesson we will examine playing the turn. There are times when a bit of math helps: we will look at the concept of pot odds and how it impacts Omaha.

Playing the Turn

Remember the five questions from Lesson 6? They’re just as applicable now (although there are a couple of additions). The questions you need to answer are:

  • How does my hand fit the [board]?
  • If I make my hand, will it be the nuts? If I have a made hand, what can go wrong on the river?
  • How much of the pot am I drawing for?
  • Who am I up against? What do they hold?
  • How much money can I win?

Let’s look at a few examples. Your hand for all of the examples is A238. In each of the examples you have four opponents, the first player has bet, the second has called and you are third to act.

The first Board is KQ7/7  (the slash separates the flop from the turn). Hopefully you know what to do – having a draw to the non-nuts is not a good reason for putting money into the pot. Fold. Even if you make the nut flush you’re not likely to have the best hand.

The second Board is KQ7/5 . Now you fit the board well (you have the nut flush and the draw to the uncounterfeitable nut low). You have a good chance of scooping. But something can go wrong – if the board pairs you’re likely to lose the entire pot. After all, what do the other players in the hand have? If all four opponents stay, at least one has (at minimum) two pair. Remember, if it’s possible, it’s probable in low limit Omaha. This is a raising hand – you want to make the other players pay for their draws.

The third board is K75/8. Answering the questions, you have the uncounterfeitable nut low, with almost no chance for high. You will get the low but you could be quartered (there is the possibility of someone else having A2). The river cannot hurt your low, and, in fact, an Ace or deuce on the river would improve your hand (it’s less likely that someone will stay with A3 or 23; additionally, while two pair rarely wins high in a low limit game rare events do happen). You will most likely get half the pot, but could be quartered. This hand is certainly worth calling.

The last board is K73/9. Here, all you have is a draw to the low (albeit the nut low). This is the kind of hand where you need to compute your pot odds and see if it makes sense to draw for half the pot. By the way how many outs do you have? (Answer below, before the quiz.)

Pot Odds

Assume that you have KK32, and the board is KQ5/9, and you know that the flush is out against you. You are second to act and the first player bets. Do you have the correct pot odds to call?

In order to determine the pot odds we must first determine the chance of making your hand. There are 10 outs (one King, three Queens, three nines and three fives), with 44 unknown cards – or 10/44 (equivalent to 22.7%, or a 3.4 to 1 chance of making your hand (To compute the x to y chance, take the reciprocal of the percentage – 44/10 – and subtract one from it. 44/10 = 4.4; 4.4 – 1 = 3.4. The two methods are, of course, equivalent.))

Next, we need to determine whether the pot is offering you the correct price. Assume that six players saw the flop for two small bets each; that five players put in one bet each on the flop. That means there are 17 small bets in the pot before the turn (in a $4/$8 game, that is equivalent to $68, before the rake, in the pot; assuming a $4 rake, there is $64 in the pot before the turn betting). We must examine the ratio of what you must bet to how much money is in the pot. Given that you must make one large (double) bet to potentially win 9.5 large bets, and that your chances of winning are 3.4 to 1, you have a clear call. (Some players look at pot odds in terms of money in the pot; some use number of bets; some just look at the percentages. It doesn’t matter which way you view pot odds – all methods lead to the same result.)

Now let’s change the scenario slightly. You have the same hand, but you are last to act. The betting pre-flop and on the flop is identical. On the turn, the first player bets, the second player raises, the third and fourth players fold, and you believe that the first two players will cap the betting. In order to see the river you must make four large bets on the turn. Assuming your prediction is correct, there would be 16.5 large bets in the pot (before your four bets needed to call). You would still have the correct pot odds to see the river.

The Fallacies of Pot Odds

Pot odds are great, but there are two major problems with them in Omaha. First, you must make an adjustment for the high/low nature of the game and second, you must ignore pot odds in certain situations.

Let’s assume that you have A234, and the board is 789/Q. Assume that there are 14 small bets in the pot, and that you have five opponents. Do you have the correct pot odds to see the river?

You have twenty outs, or a 20/44 (46%) chance of making your hand, equivalent to a 1.2 to 1 chance. You don’t even have to look at the money, it must be right to stay in the pot. Except that because you have only a low draw, you’re only competing for half the pot. So cut the percentage in half and double the odds – it’s really an effective 23% chance (or 2.4 to 1) of making your hand. (Given the amount of money in the pot, you should still call.)

But pot odds do not substitute for poker judgment. What if you are convinced that two other players have an A2 draw? Or that you are drawing with a set of Queens, and your opponent has a set of Kings? So remember, even if you have the correct pot odds, if your poker judgment is telling you to fold, folding may be correct. Drawing dead is no fun!

Reading the Opponents

When you’re playing poker what else are you doing? Are you watching the football game on the television? Are you reading the Journal of Accountancy? I know, you only play 10% to 15% of the hands so you use the time when you’re not playing a hand to catch up on work. Or watch the game. Or whatever except studying your opponents!

Watch your opponents – see if they have betting patterns. Do they bet their low hands? What hands do they raise with? When they have good hands do they eat an M&M (I hate Oreos)? Take the time to learn how your opponents act. This is a skill that is difficult (if not impossible) to learn by reading a lesson. But I guarantee that if, during your next session, you watch one opponent and pay attention to how he bets (and what he bets with) that you’ll begin to be able to read your opponents. We’ll cover this again in future lessons – but I can’t stress this subject enough.

Lesson 8 will cover the river. Until then watch your opponents, not the football/basketball/baseball/hockey game!

Answer to above: You have 15 outs (4 fours, 4 fives. 4 sixes and 3 eights).