Poker table with cards

Preflop Play in Omaha 8 or Better Part 2

Best Omaha Preflop Hands

In part 1 we discussed different types of A2 hands, and what qualities we look at when comparing them.


In this part we will look at some other types of hands, and consider when and how they might be played.

Wheel Aces with High Potential

These are the bread and butter hands of Omaha 8 or Better. Hands with an A that can make a wheel for the low, while also having cards with some high potential. Hands like:
AKT4 AQJ3 AJ46


A key concept with hands like these is that they will often play better with fewer players in the pot. As we discussed in part 1 the ability to make the nuts with a hand shoots dramatically up in importance as the pot goes multiway.


Hands in this category are excellent hands to play in pots with 2-3 total players. 

High Hands

High hands, or hands that cannot make a low, are dangerous hands in Omaha 8.  They will very rarely see a “clean’ flop where they know they will never have to split the pot with a low, and also rarely flop a hand so good that they can never be beat for high.


That’s why it’s important to only play the very best hands in this category, and be selective about when to play them.


Consider a hand like QsQcTs9h.  In Omaha Hi this hand is a premium, hovering around the 5% rank.  But in Omaha 8 or Better this hand is closer to the 35% mark, and it’s easy to see why.  Let’s look at some flops:


Jh8h5s:  This is one of the better flops for QQT9 where we flop an overpair an open ended straight draw, but against a reasonable 20% range of hands we are not even a favorite with only 43.5% equity.


K54:  On common board types like this with a possible low and overcard our hand has only 30% equity and cannot continue.


J98:  A slam-dunk board for us, and we still only have 75% equity against a reasonable range of 20% of hands.


We can actually graph how often our hand will be a favorite on the flop:

When evaluating high-only hands it’s important to remember a few points:

  1. They don’t do well in two player pots
  2. They don’t do well when your high cards will rarely draw to the nuts (IE AKQJ is much better than QJT9)
  3. They don’t want to pay a high-price preflop because they will frequently have to fold on the flop

Low Cards Without an A

Hands like: 2345 2456 3568


These hands fit into a category that is similar conceptually to high hands. They will rarely hit a flop in a very strong way, and will often have to fold immediately on the flop. They perform poorly in two player pots. 


Just like with high hands it’s important to be very selective with which of these we play, and when we play them.


We want to make sure we plays hands that can hit flops hard, and that we are in position to maximize when we do. This means only playing the lowest, most connected versions of these hands. Hands like 5678 are complete trash and should always be folded. And it also means only playing these cheaply before the flop in hands that are most likely to go multi-way.

 

 

Poker table with cards

PreFlop Play in Omaha 8 or Better Part 1

Omaha Preflop Strategy

Omaha 8 or Better (frequently written shorthand as O8) is a Hi-Low split the pot version of Omaha poker played fixed-limit, meaning you can only bet in fixed increments.  The low hand must be five cards of 8 or less, including Aces.


As with most poker games, preflop decision making is a very important part of winning Omaha 8 strategy. Generally, you want to play hands that can scoop, that is capture both the high and low best hands. You certainly want to play hands that can win the high, because in some hands there are not five cards for the low (8 or less). So it often does not make sense to play for the low, especially since low hands are more likely to tie, meaning even if you win the low you may get only 25% of the pot if someone has the same low hand.


Players used to Texas Hold’em might be surprised to learn that there are no “preflop charts” for Omaha 8. This is because Hold’em has 1,326 starting hand combinations whereas Omaha has 270,725 starting hands.  It’s impossible to give a concise and accurate description of what hands to play from each position for Omaha 8.  This makes Omaha 8 a very dynamic and interesting game with no concrete guidelines available each pre-flop situation can be truly unique and is an opportunity to apply your problem-solving skills to determine the best course of action.  


Unlike most poker games you will find top players who disagree about what the best hands are preflop, and how they should be played.  You’ll even find players who have been playing the game for many years who do not have a good grasp of what a “good” hand even looks like.  

To give you an idea of what I mean let’s consider a few similar looking Omaha 8 hands:

Hand 1:  As 2s 3c Kc

Hand 2:  As 2s Qs Jc

Hand 3:  As 2c 8c 9c


All of these hands are superficially quite similar.  They all contain (A2) which is the 2-card combination most likely to make the nut low.  However they vary dramatically in quality.


Hand 1 is a super-premium, top 1% hand.  It’s double suited to both high cards, contains (A23) which is an extremely powerful low-draw, and (AK) which is a powerful high hand.  It’s such a good hand that not raising with it, even when facing a raise, will almost always be a mistake.  It’s a significant favorite over even a tight player only playing 10% of their hands.


Hand 2 is also a premium hand, but it doesn’t have the super-premium status of Hand 1.  We see that the hand is no longer double-suited, but single suited.  It also has an extra spade, which hurts its value somewhat.  However, significantly, it’s still suited to the Ace, and it still contains strong high-card potential.  This is a strong hand that should be usually played for a raise, however unlike Hand 1 it is not an equity favorite over a tight player’s opening range.  


Hand 3 is one of the worst (A2) hands.  (A2) is strong enough in Omaha 8 that even the worst (A2) hands will be playable in most situations, but this hand is far from a favorite over a tight opener’s range.  Unlike Hand 1 and Hand 2, this hand has limited high potential.  Our 9-high flush draw will always be in danger of domination, and neither the 8 nor the 9 make particularly powerful pairs. When we pair our A we are likely to be out-kicked.  


In Part 2 we will look at other types of Omaha 8 hands, and how to evaluate them. Then finally, in Part 3 we will look at how the specific qualities of our hand can affect preflop decisions in non-obvious ways.

Poker table with cards at the californa grand casino in east bay

WHAT IS HOT ACTION BLACKJACK?

The old gambling saloons of the Barbary Coast played a French game called “Vingt Et Un” or “21” which gave every advantage to the dealer.   The dealer could require the players to double their wagers after  the dealer saw his or her first card.  The dealer could decide whether to stand, hit or split after seeing how each player hand was completed.  The dealer could even collect quadruple payouts from the players if the dealer had a 21.  The dealer won all ties, which added to the dealer edge.  The players could not double down.   All the strategy decisions belonged to the dealer.  Understandably, the French game proved unpopular.

Casinos later developed the American game “Blackjack,” where the dealer had no discretion and the players could make the strategy decisions including, hitting, doubling down and splitting after seeing the dealer’s first card.  There are now hundreds of variations of Blackjack with different rule sets and odds played all over the world.

At the California Grand Casino, we offer the newer and more player-friendly “Hot Action Blackjack:” blackjack with better action and better odds than Vegas.  We add Jokers to the deck for more winning hands and more payouts for players.  The Jokers count as 12 or 2.  Players win more easily when Jokers appear, and players don’t bust at 22 if the dealer also has a 22.  

  • Players win 4 times their wager if their first two cards are Jokers.  (“Natural 24”)
  • Players win 2 times their wager if their first two cards are suited Aces.  (“Natural 22”)
  • If the Player and the Dealer both have a Natural 24 or Natural 22, the Player still wins.
  • Players are paid 6:5 for any Blackjack unless the Dealer also has Blackjack.
  • A Player 22 is not a bust if the Dealer also has a 22.

We also offer the Buster Blackjack Bonus Bet, which allows you to wager on the Dealer going bust.   You can win up to 200 times your bonus wager.  And with the added Jokers, there is more opportunity for dealer busts that pay more.

Unlike Nevada Casinos or Indian Casinos, at the California Grand Casino you also can wager on the dealer hand against all the other players.  The Las Vegas Casinos and Indian Casinos would never let you do that. At the California Grand Casino, there are more ways to Play and Win.

Girl with two cards at the californa grand casino in east bay

TEXAS HOLD ‘EM POKER TELLS PART TWO: POST-FLOP

Now that you have seen the other players look at their starting hands, the flop is your next opportunity for information.  As tempted as you might be to watch the dealer put out the cards for the flop, turn and river, it can be far more profitable to watch the other players watch the dealer put out the cards, especially the pre-flop raiser and any players who act after you. 

You are looking for some of the same poker tells we talked about in our first article about Pre-flop poker tells, but now your initial focus is on the other players’ reaction to the board. Do they stare at the board trying to make sense of it or do they look at the flop quickly and then look away because they connected (just as pre-flop a player with a good hand will look at their hand quickly then put it down)? Are they touching their chips? Are they shaking their heads or did they talk because they just can’t get any luck or help? Are they relaxed or tight when and after they bet? Are any of the players acting differently than normal?

Think about how long they take to act.  In no limit Texas Hold ‘Em, a value bettor on the river may take more time determining whether to bet and how much.  A bluffer may act faster.  While pausing may be a sign of a value bet, someone who checks slowly at any point may want you to think they have a stronger hand than they do and needed more time to decide.  However, in limit Texas Hold ‘Em poker many players find less reason to be deceptive and these indicators can change.  A quick bet may be stronger.  A quick call may indicate a drawing hand or a weak kicker.

Also pay attention to how your opponents place their poker chips in the pot when betting and calling.  Do they count out the chips deliberately?  Do they drop a pile out haphazardly, or place them down carefully.  How much force do they use to put the chips down?  For some players excess force when betting can indicate a bluff.  Regardless, you are looking for a relationship between how they act and what hands they show.

Lastly, remember to consider the players who have already folded their cards.  If two 5s come on the flop and a player who folded pre-flop grunts or makes a face, they may have folded one of the remaining 5s.  You can use this tell to narrow your opponent’s range. 

For example, suppose in a no-limit game, you open the betting from late position with a pair of 8s.  The small blind, a loose player who checks and calls, is the only caller.  The flop comes 6-6-9.  The small blind checks, you bet a little more than half the pot, and he calls. The turn is a 9 and you see another player who already folded make a face and turn away.  You suspect that player folded  a 9.  The small blind checks and you check back.  The river is an 8.  The small blind checks, you bet and the small blind immediately shoves all in for 5 times the size of the pot. 

Well, the small blind clearly has a hand.  He usually folds on the river when he misses, but here he quickly shoved.  If he thought you were bluffing or he had only a straight, he may have paused longer before he folded or called. 

So with this board there are a few possible strong hands: quad 9s, quad 6s, and full houses: 9s over 6s, 9s over 8s, 8s over 6s, 6s over 9s or 6s over 8s.  You have the fifth best of these hands.  Your first thought might be that you are in danger, but then you start running through his possible hands.  You are pretty sure another player folded a 9, so that rules out quad 9s.  That also means that the chances of 9s over 8s or 6s is less since there is only one 9 not accounted for.  So even though there are four hands that beat you, the odds of the small blind having a six is higher than the odds of him having two 6s or one 9.  You put this information together with your read of the small blind’s play , then you call.  The small blind turns over a K 6 suited. 

Don’t forget to watch the other players, even the ones who already folded.  Players who have already folded generally aren’t trying to hide anything, and you may get a good read on what they folded which will help you narrow your opponent’s range.  When you are playing Hold ‘Em every bit of information can help.  The California Grand Casino is a great place to improve your poker play and win in the Bay Area.

Girl's eyes and four cards

PRE – FLOP POKER TELLS: PART ONE

In movies the key to winning at poker often is reading your opponent’s body language.  “I don’t need to look at my hand, I saw you look at yours.”  While you can’t make a living solely by noticing when a player reaches for his Oreos after he bets, every piece of information helps.  And there is a surprising amount of information available from watching the other players even after you fold, especially in No Limit Texas Hold Em. 

How Can I Read Hands in Poker Pre-Flop

You can start with whether the player seems comfortable or uneasy. Are their body and eyes relaxed or does the player seem stiff? Then see if you can find patterns in other players’ behavior, and notice when they deviate from those patterns. What did they do differently and why? Where are they looking? Be careful as well to distinguish how they act when the action is on them, while they are waiting for action and after they act. The same behavior may mean different things in each instance.

What are specific things to look for?   Well start before the flop by watching other people look at their cards.  How long does the player look at their cards?  Players that see two Aces tend to keep their hand close to the table and put their hand back down quickly.  There is an almost instinctive fear that other people may see their cards.  Players looking at hands closer to the bottom of their opening range may lift their cards higher and perhaps look at them a split second longer.

Notice what the player does after they put their cards down.  If the player looks at or touches their chips, that may mean they intend to play that hand.  Notice how they look at or touch their chips.  See if you can discern a pattern correlated to when they raise or call.  

And definitely look to your left.  The information about what people may do after you act is potentially more valuable since the players to your right will have acted before you.  Notice if any of the players look at their hands before it’s their turn to act.  If so, then watch them do so whenever you can.  If you see that a player to your left is likely to call, you may want to play your drawing hand and see if there is a multi way pot, or raise to chase them out.  If you see they are going to raise, you may want to tighten your range.  If on the other hand, you can tell they are going to throw away their hand, you might play more aggressively. 

These are a few basic concepts pre-flop.  In the next part, we’ll talk about other things to pay attention to after the flop.

Table with chips in the casino

TEXAS HOLD’EM: CHECK-RAISING IN POKER WITH NOTHING … REALLY?

 

Often when you are out of position and check after the flop the player who took the lead pre-flop will bet into you.  You think “should I call or fold?”  One thing that separates good players from beginners is their willingness to take aggressive action when the situation warrants it.  You should consider also asking yourself  “should I raise” even if your hand doesn’t immediately warrant it.  You may end up raising as a bluff or semi-bluff.

Suppose pre-flop you are in early position with Q J of diamonds.  You limped or made a small raise pre-flop only to have a solid player in middle position raise or re-raise, which you called.  You go into the flop heads up.  When the flop comes 10, 8, 4 rainbow with one diamond, you have a backdoor flush draw, a straight draw and two overcards.  You check. 

The pre-flop raiser bets and you think you are behind but before folding you pause to consider the odds of calling to see if one of your draws improves.  At first, you don’t think about raising.   But as you start to put your opponent on a hand, you consider whether his bet is a continuation bet with overcards (probably stronger overcards than yours) or whether he is protecting a pair or better.  You know that pairs are less common for starting hands than his other possible hands, like AK – AJ, all of which missed the flop.  Even if he has a pair it might be an under pair and the 10 on the flop may make him nervous and ready to give up, although he may wonder why you didn’t bet it after the flop. Given how he has played, you think he probably did not raise with an unpaired 10 pre-flop so maybe it’s time to think about check-raising.

Check-raising is a very strong move in poker, and sends a clear message that you think you are ahead.  By check-raising you are putting a great deal of pressure on your opponent to decide whether continuing with the hand makes sense.  They have to consider not only the chips needed to call, but what may happen after the turn, when you possibly bet again.  You also have to consider your own table image in calculating the odds of whether they will believe your check-raise is strong and fold.  You will have to make the same calculations after the turn if they call your check-raise.  Of course, if you check-raise and get re-raised you will know where you stand.  In addition, if you do check-raise here and then give up your hand to a re-raise, next time you check-raise with a monster, you may get called or re-raised.

One thing to consider when check-raising as a bluff or semi-bluff is how much money you will have left in your stack after the raise.  You must be careful check-raising when short-stacked.  Without the threat of more bets to come your bluff will be less powerful, and you may find yourself committed to the pot with a marginal hand.

So while in most cases I would fold in this situation and not continue to play this hand out of position, if you think you have a good read on your opponent, check-raising can be the right move.

Poker table with cards

ADVANCED PAI GOW POKER STRATEGIES

Our Pai Gow (Double-Hand) Poker game is fun and exciting to play.  In our Pai Gow Poker game, the Joker is fully wild — it can be any card — and can be used to make any hand, not just as an Ace or to complete straights or flushes, giving you more ways to make a winning hand.  You can also wager on the Dealer hand and have the advantage of playing against all the other players.

PAI GOW POKER IS A VERY SIMPLE GAME TO LEARN AND PLAY.

You separate your 7 cards into a 2-card and a 5-card poker hand. Your 5-card hand must outrank your 2-card hand. Your 2-card hand plays against the Dealer 2-card hand and your 5-card hand plays against the Dealer 5-card hand. The object of the game is to set your hands so that both your hands defeat both the Dealer’s hands.  The hands are ranked using standard poker hand rankings, i.e., straight flushes, 4 of a kind, a full house, flush, straight, two pair etc…

If both your hands rank higher than the Dealer’s two hands, you win. If you win one hand and the Dealer wins one hand, you push, which happens about 40% of the time.  If the Dealer wins both hands, the Dealer wins. It’s that easy!  

The Dealer wins any 2 or 5-card hands that tie. This is a built-in advantage for the Dealer hand but at the California Grand Casino every player gets a chance to bet on the Dealer hand.

SETTING THE HANDS.

You are often dealt hands that can be set in different ways. If you want to increase the odds of a push, you might set one hand very strong and the other weaker, or you might try to balance your hands in order to win both. The most common decision you make is when you are dealt two pair.  When should you put both pair in the 5-card hand, and when should you split the pairs and put one in each hand?  In addition, since we play with a fully wild Joker, how does that change how you set your hands?

Don’t want to set your hand?  We can set it “house way.”

At the California Grand Casino, you also can ask the house dealer how to set your hand the house way and you will stay almost even playing this way.  The Dealer hand is always set house way, but the player betting on the Dealer hand can reset the hand another way. 

Setting Your Hands: Both Hands are Equally Important

If you set your own hands, because you need both hands to win in order to win your wager, you should never neglect your 2-card hand.  A simple rule to remember is that ideally you would like to have an Ace high or better in your 2-card hand.  And you would like at least of pair of 7s in your 5-card hand. 

Here are a few specific situations, including advice on how to play your Joker.  At any time you can ask the dealer for advice.

  • Five of a Kind. Put the Joker with the highest single card in the 2-card hand, and keep four of a kind in the 5-card hand.
  • Four of a Kind (with a Joker). If these are fives or lower, keep them together. Otherwise put the Joker with the highest single card in the 2-card hand, and keep three of a kind in the 5-card hand.
  • Four of a Kind (No Joker). Keep them together if these are fives or lower. If you have an Ace or King to put in the 2-card hand, you can also keep nines and higher together, except if these are Queens or better, in which case you are usually better off splitting them.
  • Full House. Put your highest possible pair in the 2-card hand and three of a kind in the 5-card hand. If you have four of a kind and a pair or three of a kind and two pair, put the three of a kind, full house or four of a kind in the 5-card hand.
  • Flush or Straight. Keep your flush or straight together, unless you also have two pairs or three of a kind, in which case you should follow the rules for three of a kind or two pairs. If you have one pair, keep the flush or straight in the 5-card hand and split the pair.
  • If you have a six or seven card flush or straight, put the lower cards that make the flush or straight in your 5-card hand and the highest cards in the 2-card hand.
  • If you need your Joker for the straight or flush, put the two highest cards in the 2-card hand that will still leave a flush or straight in the 5-card hand. If you make the straight or flush without the Joker, use the Joker to make the highest possible pair in the 2-card hand and keep the flush or straight in the 5-card hand.
  • Three of a Kind. Keep them in the 5-card hand unless they are Aces in which case you put a pair in your 5-card hand and one Ace in the 2-card hand. If you have a Joker, play your Joker with the highest other card in the 2-card hand. If you also have a straight or flush, then put that in the 5-card hand and a pair in the 2-card hand.
  • Three Pairs. If you get three pairs, the best pair should be used for the 2-card hand and the other two pairs should be in the 5-card hand. If you also have a Joker, keep it with the 5-card hand to make a full house.
  • Pair. Put the pair in the 5-card hand and the highest two other cards in the 2-card hand. If you are using a Joker to make a pair, play the first and third highest cards in the 2-card hand and use the Joker with the second highest card to make a pair for the 5-card hand. If you have a natural pair and a Joker, match the Joker with the highest other card and follow the guidelines for two pair.
  • Pai Gow / No Pair. If you do not have a pair or better, put the highest card in your 5-card hand and the second and third best cards in your 2-card hand.

Setting Two Pairs.

There are several ways to play two pairs depending on whether you are trying to push or win.

  • House Way.  If the highest pair is AA, KK or QQ, place that in the 5-card hand and the other pair in the 2-card hand.  If the highest pair is JJ, 10s or 9s, split them unless you can put an Ace in the 2-card hand.  If the highest pair is 8s, 7s or 6s, split them unless you can put an Ace or King in the 2-card hand.  If the highest pair is 5s, 4s or 3s, split them unless you can put an Ace, King or Queen in the 2-card hand. 
  • Another method is to make the 5-card hand stronger.  For example, when your second pair is deuces, you may want to keep your two pair together and play the two highest remaining cards in the low hand.
  • Some people want a stronger 2-card hand  and they will split two pairs unless the highest pair is 77 or less and you cannot put an Ace in the 2-card hand. 

However you choose to play your hands, we are here to have fun.  You can always ask the house dealer for advice.  And you can always make friends and enjoy the camaraderie at our Pai Gow game, along with great food and service right at the table. 

What is the Optimal Strategy for Three Card Poker

Playing Three Card Poker is Easy and Fun. You are dealt three cards and the dealer is dealt three cards. The object is to have your three card poker hand to beat the dealer’s three card poker hand. You first make an Ante bet. After receiving your three card hand, you can surrender your hand and Ante wager or make a Play bet equal to your Ante bet before the dealer’s hand is revealed. If you win, you win both of your bets. The Ante and Play wagers pay even money (1:1). This is how the game is played nearly everywhere, including Las Vegas.

However at the California Grand Casino, because we show you one of the dealer’s cards before you make your Play bet, you are Playing With Better Odds Than Vegas and other casinos. Seeing one of the dealer card’s also changes the correct strategy for deciding when to make your Play bet. You will want to adjust your strategy so you can maximize your opportunity to win.

You are also playing against other players, not the casino. So at the California Grand Casino you have the opportunity to wager on the dealer hand if you want to do so.

3 CARD POKER – THE BASICS

Let’s start with a few basics. If you bet and the dealer does not have Queen or better, the dealer does not play; you win your Ante bet and your Play bet pushes (neither wins nor loses), even if the dealer’s hand beats your hand. If the dealer has Queen high or higher then you must beat the dealer to win. If you win, you’re paid on both your Ante bet and Play bet. If you lose, the dealer takes both bets.

The ranking of most hands is the same as in Poker except you are using only three cards and a straight is higher than a flush. So a mini-royal flush (AKQ) and straight flush are at the top of the hand rankings, followed by three of a kind, straight, flush, pair, and high card. If your highest card and the dealer’s highest card are the same, the tie is broken by the second-highest card, then the third highest card. If your hand and the dealer’s hand are exactly the same, you tie and the bets push.

BASIC 3 CARD POKER STRATEGY

The usual strategy for when to make the Play wager is to bet whenever you have Queen-6-4 or better, including any time your high card is an Ace or a King, no matter how high your other two cards are, and also anytime your hand is Q-7 or better, regardless of your third card. Fold if your hand is not at least that high. If your high card is a Jack or lower, fold, no matter how high your other two cards are.

MODIFIED THREE-CARD POKER STRATEGY WHEN YOU KNOW ONE OF THE DEALER’S CARDS

When you have the advantage of seeing one of the dealer’s cards, you should change your basic strategy. If the dealer card is:

  • A Jack or Lower = Always Make a Play Bet. The odds that the dealer hand won’t qualify or will be lower than yours are increased.
  • Queen = Only Play with Q, 9, 2 or better. If the dealer is showing a queen, your second card now needs to be stronger.
  • King = Only Play with a K, 9, 2 or better. The same logic applies here. You need at least the same high card as the dealer and a stronger second card better than the average card value.
  • Ace = Only Play with an A, 9, 2.

You also have the option of playing the hand house-way. This takes all the guess work out deciding when you should play. To play your hand house way, you put up your Ante and your Play bet, and the hand will be played according to the strategy outlined above.

OPTIONAL BONUS WAGERS

One of the exciting aspects of Three Card Poker is the opportunity to win large amounts through optional bonus wagers. You can win up to 1,000 times your wager on a bonus bet. There are two bonus bets: the Pair Plus bonus and the 6 Card bonus.

The Pair Plus bonus is based on the three cards in your hand. If you’re dealt a pair or better in your three cards, you win the Pair Plus bonus wager. The amount you win depends on what type of hand you are dealt.

The 6 Card bonus looks at the three cards in your hand and the three cards in the dealer’s hand. If, after combining the 6 cards, you can make a poker hand of three of a kind or better, you win the 6 Card bonus wager. The amount you win depends on what type of poker hand you can make with the six cards.

MONEY MANAGEMENT IN THREE CARD POKER

We want you to have a good time when you are here. When playing you should always think about money management. Your bet sizes should be relative to your bankroll. For example if you are playing win a $300 bankroll you should probably only make bets of $10-$20 per hand to make your play opportunities last longer. You should also think about win and loss limits. This means if you win you leave with your winnings and if you lose you do not lose more than you can afford.

If you want more information about how to play Three Card Poker, don’t hesitate to come to the California Grand Casino in Pacheco and ask a staff member. We are more than happy to explain any of our action-packed games.