Why I love PLO and a bad beat from 1984 that cost me a bracelet…

Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) is a game that most everyone loves once they start playing it. Why do players like it? That’s easy – it’s a really fun game that usually generates multi-way action pre-flop which results in far bigger pots than No Limit Hold’em (NLH). For PLO lovers, and you all should be, the good news is that partypoker are having an Omaha Series online which starts this Sunday.

 

The Technicalities

In PLO, you start with four cards instead of two. The catch to PLO is that you MUST play two cards from your hand and three from the board to determine your hand (unlike Hold’em where you can play one, two, or none of your cards from your hand where you just play the board). To newcomers, this is probably the toughest thing to grasp, but it won’t take you long to understand it.

When people start talking about PLO, you’ll hear words like ‘outs’, ‘wraps’, ‘blockers’, ‘redraws’, ‘pot odds’, etc. Don’t let all that scare you away. The game is fun to play and once you study it just a little and start playing the game, you’ll learn all that. And if you’re like a number of players, once you start playing PLO, you’ll prefer PLO to NLH.

 

My near miss on a bracelet in the first ever WSOP PLO tourney

I’ve played in a lot of private cash games in my life where you play one round of NLH and one round of PLO. Invariably, by midnight (if not sooner), the game changes to straight PLO as there is far more action in PLO with much larger pots. Let’s be honest – it’s not much fun playing NLH with a bunch of rocks. Because you start with four cards in PLO and because of the possibilities to flop sets, flush, and straight draws, PLO is a far more action-oriented game, thus more fun to play.

My first trip to the WSOP was in 1984 (and I haven’t missed one since). It so happens that the first-ever PLO tournament at the WSOP was in ’84 and not only did I play in it, but to this day, I felt I should have won it! I know I should let it go but I can’t. I took a bad beat that I’ll never forget – NEVER – because I believe it cost me a bracelet to say nothing of what was life-changing money for me at that time.

With five players left, it was myself, the reigning World Champion of poker Tom McEvoy, noted author David Sklansky, and two high stakes PLO players, Jim Spain and Bill Bennet (the eventual winner). And even with their reputations and experience, I didn’t feel like I was an underdog. McEvoy, who I’d never met, was far and away the most aggressive player at the table, raising pre-flop what seemed like nearly every hand. I wasn’t a huge fan of his over-aggressive style, but I’m sure he wasn’t a fan of my tight play, either.

We were all pretty close in chip count when McEvoy said, “Raise the pot”, for the umpteenth time and I looked down at A-K-Q-8 double suited (diamonds and clubs). The others got out and I called. (Yes, I know I probably should have re-raised him, but I was playing tight back then.) The flop came Q-8-3 with two hearts and a club. McEvoy bet the pot. I was fearful of hearts but with the top two pair, I knew I was going with this hand. McEvoy sensed it and said, “If you raise, I’m going to set you all-in.” (In those days, you could say what you wanted at the table without penalty.) I said, “Well, I guess you’re going to set me in then because I’m raising the pot.” And true to his word, he re-raised me all-in and I called.

I tabled my A-K-Q-8 (top two pair) and he turned up 3-4-5-8 (bottom two pair) with no flush draw! My heart was pounding. At that moment, I thought I was going to be rich and the bracelet was going back to North Carolina with me. Then it happened. The seven of spades on the turn, and the six clubs on the river. He back-doored a straight and as he yelled in celebration, I stared at the board in shock. I felt like an ice pick just went in my eye.

We all take bad beats and I don’t mean to whine, just thought I’d share that story with you. It happens. I still love PLO and much prefer it in cash games to NLH. Years later, after I met and got to know the late, great, PLO expert, David “the Devilfish” Ulliott, he would always say to me, “PLO is a game about straights and flushes”. I learned that lesson the hard way in the first-ever PLO tourney at the WSOP.

 

The Omaha Series on partypoker promises to be a great series and one that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. My advice is for you to give “the great game” of PLO a try.

Find the schedule and all the information for the Omaha series HERE. Good luck!

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