PLO: Hold’em on Steroids

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I introduced four-card poker to the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas in the spring of 1982 with my friend Gwen from Seattle. The game we spread at the Nugget started out as limit, but after two hours of boring, short-handed poker, we decided to change it to pot-limit.

Then something strange happened.

The game filled up as players started to arrive for the WSOP. They loved this new four-card version of Hold’em. The game was later called “Nugget Hold’em” by Bill Boyd, the card room manager and a legend in the poker world.

Nugget Hold’em became a regular game after the WSOP concluded. When Steve Wynn closed the poker room, the game moved across the street to Binion’s and became $4/$8 limit Omaha, and the rest is history.

When I moved to California in 1985, I spread the PLO mix at the Horseshoe Casino in Gardena, where I was the casino general manager. I could never imagine then that Omaha would become the second most popular poker game in the world.

But after fifty years of playing the game, I realized some things never change; the best poker players still win the money.

PLO Starting Hands

Here are a few strategy tips that will help you become a winning player at Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO).

If you look at hand charts, AAKK double suited is listed as the top starting hand. The next best hand would be any AAJ10 double suited while some charts list AAQQ suited as the second best hand.

I spoke with a few professional PLO players who win consistently. Eric Garcia, Peter Cutler, Dimitri Gazetovici and Warren Oberman come from a wide range of backgrounds from a PhD to engineers and a VP of a software company.

When it comes to starting hands, they generally agree on the top starting hands, which include AAKK, AA10J, KKQQ down and all paint double suited. The bigger the pairs and connectors, the better pre-flop your hands are.

Nick Savadian, the Hollywood Park Casino host for PLO games, gave me his top hands: “AAJ10 double suited and 2nd probably AAJQ double suited and third 10J 78 double suited. For PLO mix my favorite starting hands are AA23 and AA2J double suited or A234.”

Strategy for Beginners

Stop Light

Tip 1: Group your top hands together into three groups: Group A, Group B and Group C with about ten starting hands in each group.

As you gain experience and expand your game, you can expand your hands. It’s best to start out playing tight to avoid the temptation to gamble. It’s important that all your hands be suited (ideally double suited) and connected with as few gaps as possible.

Now picture a traffic signal with red, yellow and green lights. A red light is the first three spots to open where you will fold most of your hands. A yellow light is next three spots to open, so proceed with caution. The green light is the last three spots on the button and blinds, so feel free to go if the conditions are right since you have all the information on the action before you act.

In the red light zone, you can open or raise with the hands in your Group A or Group B. In the yellow position if someone has opened the pot with a raise, then proceed with caution and only use hands in Group A. You can play any group in green depending on what’s happened because you have all the information from the previous six spots.

Tip 2: Know your players. Watch for a few minutes before playing. Look at their chip stacks and analyze their behavior.

Tip 3: Chip stacks and pot size determine how you will proceed with the hand. Remember when you bet, it opens the pot for a much larger bet. Bet sizing in PLO separates great players from weak ones. You can often tell a new player because they only have one move–”Pot.”

Beginner Mistakes

Don’t shut yourself out of a pot because you want to be to aggressive. Let me give you an example. In the Main Event at the WSOP, I picked up KQ of spades. I flopped an open-ended straight flush draw. Two players checked, and I bet $300. Both players called. The next card paired the board on the turn. Both players checked again, so I decided to steal the pot and bet $1400. Both players moved all-in.

It was obvious they had full houses, and I had to throw my hand away. They had given me a free card, but I didn’t take it, and that hand has haunted me ever since because the river was an Ace of spades making me the royal flush.

I shut myself out of my pot. The principle is the same in PLO. No shame in checking.

Another beginner mistake I often see is a player betting second or third best hand. For example, it is checked to them when they are drawing to the third or fourth flush draw. They bet the pot and another player comes over the top for all their chips.

Now what? Our player should have taken the free card.

Ready to Play

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Hollywood Park Casino, located in Inglewood, California, offers a variety of Omaha games, including $4/$8 Big O (five-card Omaha), $40/$80 limit Omaha high-low and $20/$40 OE mix of Stud and Omaha.

They also spread several PLO games such as PLO mix and PLO high only. The best way to get practice is to get on the table and play. If you like No-Limit Hold’em, you will love PLO.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995 and Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

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Gardena: Poker Capital of the World

facebook_1461345592678 (1)Robert Turner as part of Larry Flynt’s  Original Hustler Casino Management Team

The Normandie Casino has been rumored to be an acquisition of the Hustler Casino by Larry Flynt. If this happens, the Gardena poker legacy will be gone, and all that will be left is one corporation controlling the remaining two.

Poker was started in Gardena in 1936 by legendary card club owners Ernie Primm and Russ Miller, the patriarch of the Miller family who owns the Normandie Casino.

The six clubs of poker that made up the Gardena landscape are now just a memory, and if Larry Flynt takes over the Normandie Casino, the last of the original six, a poker era will varnish forever.

As I reflect back, it has occurred to me that I managed four of the six casinos in Gardena, a small city ten miles outside Downtown Los Angeles. When poker boomed in California with the legalization of Hold’em around 1986, many characters came out to play in Gardena, including myself.

A Storied History: The Horseshoe Club

Horseshoe Club Gardena

Some were very famous for their play while others were notorious for having a shady past like Shoeshine Nick. Legendary poker author Mike Caro was also part of Gardena history.

Caro recalls of that time, “Old Gardena was a poker garden where money grew, but there was also treachery, and you had to avoid the cheating. You dealt your own cards, which was fine, but so did they, and there was always danger.”

Caro continues, “The producer — weak players who provided you profit — came, and many went broke or disappeared. But along came new producers, so you survived. It was five-card draw, high or low, and the draw could determine your fate for now. But there was always tomorrow. So, we won.”

“Gardena called itself the Poker Capital of the World. And it really was,” Caro concludes.

I agree with him. When I was General Manager of the Horseshoe Club in 1986, I had many problems to solve including rampant cheating, which I solved with stationary dealers. Before that, each player took turns dealing, which led to mechanics and teams plying their trade at the expense of the producers.

Some of the problems I had to deal with at the Horseshoe not only had to do with the players but also involved the owners. One day I discovered a security guard in the count room area taking chips out of the drop boxes.

After an investigation, it was determined that one of the owners had given him the key. That particular owner was the general partner of the casino; I knew my days were numbered there. The casino was sold, and my contract was bought out. It was closed for remodeling, and it never reopened.

Poker Legends in Gardena

Huck Seed

1996 WSOP Main Event Winner Huck Seed

 

But while I worked there, I added new games, such as seven-card stud and Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO), which was spread in California for the first time at the Horseshoe. These games attracted the best poker players in the world. Regulars in these games were Freddie Deeb, Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan.

Hellmuth would fly into Los Angeles, take a taxi to Gardena to play PLO and sometimes he would go broke and turn right around. The first time I met World Series of Poker Main Event winner Huck Seed was in Gardena. He was playing $15/$30 Limit Hold’em and was a consistent winner, who showed greatness even at that time.

The first World Championship of Omaha was played in Gardena at the Horseshoe. It featured a $500 buy-in, and people came from all over the country to play.

I left Gardena for nine years while I managed other clubs, such as the Regency, the Bicycle Club and Hollywood Park Casino. I returned to Gardena in 2000 to open Hustler Casino with Larry Flynt as his executive host in charge of the house players and, of course, promoting Omaha.

Eric Drache and Yosh Nakano created a huge stud game hosted by Larry Flynt himself at the Hustler with great players from all over the world. Regulars in that game included a who’s who of poker royalty—Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Thor Hansen and Danny Robison.

In 2006, I was hired as the poker manager of Normandie Casino. I remember Mike Sexton roasting me for my sixtieth birthday and referring to my Horseshoe days in 1986. He said, “Robert Turner came a long way in his poker career—right across the street.”

At one time, the Horseshoe was located right across the street from the Normandie Casino. It is pretty funny that after twenty years I had come right back to where I started, the other side of the street.

Today the Normandie is facing some serious fines and legal issues, so passing the torch to Larry Flynt may be their best opportunity.

Only time will tell where Larry Flynt takes Gardena, the former poker capital of the world. He owns it all now.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino/billiard marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for creating the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995. He also helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM.  He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner. Subscribe to Robert’s blog “Beyond the Numbers” to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Best Poker Tournaments in the West: Summer 2015 by Patricia Chavira

WPTDS Reno

As summer winds down, it’s a great time to play poker tournaments in California and Nevada. These events feature buy-ins that will appeal both to professional and recreational players. At the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens, California, the World Poker Tour’s Legends of Poker Main Event will consist of three starting days beginning on Saturday, August 29 through Monday, August 31. The $3,700 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament final table with 6 players will be filmed on Friday, September 4 at 4 p.m. The winner will receive a seat into the WPT World Championship. Last year’s winner, Harry Arutyunyan, topped a field of 593 entrants and collected $576,369. Previous winners of this prestigious tournament include Mel Judah and Dan Harrington.

The Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nevada is currently hosting the WPT’s DeepStacks tour, which runs through Sunday, August 30. The 11th stop on the DeepStacks’ 16-stop schedule features both No-Limit Hold’em and Omaha events with buy-ins to suit every budget. On Wednesday, August 26 there are two No-Limit Hold’em tournaments—one is a two-day, $550 buy-in event with a $40,000 guarantee, the other is a $150 buy-in tournament with a $5,000 guarantee.

The three-day $1,100 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event begins on Friday, August 28 and runs through Sunday, August 30. The last event of the series is a $150 No-Limit Hold’em Turbo at 6 p.m. on Sunday. If you get knocked out, you can play in the Atlantis’ poker room which spreads a variety of poker games including $6/$12 Omaha and $1/$2 Mixed Pot Limit while earning $2/hour comps. Call the poker room at 775-954-4142 for more information.

If you like to plan ahead, the next California stop on the WPT DeepStacks tour will be held at the Ocean’s 11 Casino in Oceanside, California just north of San Diego and will run from October 17-26.

The Commerce Poker Series at Commerce Casino starts Wednesday, September 2 and runs through September 20. The Series kicks off with a $350 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament with $200,000 guaranteed. There will be four starting days held from Wednesday, September 2 to Saturday, September 5 with 2 flights on Friday and Saturday at 1p.m. and 5 p.m. The $1,650 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Main Event will begin on Friday, September 18 with a $500,000 guarantee. For more details and structure sheets, visit commercecasino.com.

 

Pot-Limit Omaha: Poker’s Next Big Thing

PLO

I’ve been teaching my wife Patty how to play Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) this week, and it got me to thinking about the differences between PLO and Omaha High-Low, which I taught her how to play two years ago.

PLO is an entirely different game than Omaha High-Low because you have to manage the betting so as to draw as cheaply as possible or attack the pots aggressively as most European players do. The British have a perfect name for the game–pop it up or fold Omaha.

When you switch to Omaha from Hold’em, you’ll notice it has so much more gamble while at same time it’s a game of the nuts with back door outs which creates a lot of action. Like any poker game, the best players will win the most money.

You must have more discipline in Omaha poker. Just because you have four private cards doesn’t mean you should play more hands.

Starting hand selection is a key feature of any poker game. My friend Greg Gensicki, a specialist in mixed games, puts it this way: “To the unsuspecting, it would seem every hand is playable. ‘How can I miss when I am getting four, count ’em, four cards?!’  Years spent playing seven card stud instilled in me the importance of appropriate starting hand selection.  The same holds true for Omaha.”

Greg continues, “Well coordinated hands (e.g. KQJT, T987) fare much better than uncoordinated ones (e.g. KQT6, T945). Coordinated suited and double suited hands can provide redraws for the win when your less discerning opponent has the same hand. They can be the difference between having a lowly open-ended straight draw or a powerhouse having 20+ outs.”

Secondly, you want to get in the pot as cheaply as possible to see the flop. I like to say No-Limit Hold’em is played before the flop and PLO is played on the flop. Just like any poker game, you can expand your hands selection playing short-handed versus a full game.

Lastly, the real finesse of Omaha begins after the flop. Since it’s usually a multi-way pot, not only are you analyzing multiple hands and players, but you must decide how fast and furious you want to proceed. You must continuously evaluate what to do since so many changes occur in Omaha on every street.

As my friend Greg says, “Whereas Texas Hold’em is often a game of pairs and position, Pot- Limit Omaha is apt to be about straights, flushes and full houses due to each player holding four starting cards. Experienced Hold’em players new to the game quickly learn, to their chagrin, top pair top kicker doesn’t have the same value.”

In the book “Mastering Hold’em & Omaha Poker” by Mike Cappelletti, Mike Caro writes, “It would not be surprising if Omaha surpassed hold’em in popularity sometime within the next 40 years.”

I agree. I predict this is the year that Omaha will explode in popularity, especially at the World Series of Poker this summer, where I believe the cash games will double in number. It took a while, but Omaha is growing on the West Coast faster than any other poker game.

Omaha has really grown in the Southern California. The most popular game played is a mix format of eight hands of Omaha High-Low and eight hands of High only. High only is a much easier transition from Hold’em than Omaha High-Low; it’s Hold’em on steroids.

In Los Angeles, PLO has quadrupled in the past year with more young players stepping up from No Limit Hold’em. It seems they are tired of coin-flip poker and want a better game to protect their money. Mastering Omaha will open lots of opportunities for your poker earning power.

As Mike Cappelletti writes in his book, “For many players, it is much easier to win at Omaha than hold’em simply because few players play Omaha correctly. Even most decent-to-good Omaha players cost themselves money by playing incorrectly both before and after the flop.”

Every game has its learning curve. I recommend you read all you can on the subject then choose games with players entering many pots and raising a lot of hands. To get better, you have to practice.

Over the past three years I had the opportunity to teach my wife not only about Omaha but about poker and the poker life. She made me look at poker through new eyes and fall in love with the game all over again.

I want to dedicate this article to my wife who has helped me take a long look at my poker career and help me put into words the experiences of playing for over 50 years.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiards/casino marketing expert. Robert is most well known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995 and Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has over 30 years experience in casino marketing and player development. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner. He can also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.

Omaha Poker: Best Places to Play in the West

Omaha

If you’re traveling to the western part of the United States and are ready to practice playing the game of Omaha in a live setting, here is a rundown of the action and where to play.

Many consider Los Angeles to be the center of the poker universe, and Commerce Casino, located about 30 minutes from Los Angeles International Airport, features the largest card room in the world and the best range of Omaha games and limits from which to choose.

Beginning with $4/$8 Omaha Hi/Lo (O8) games and Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) with a $100-$300 buy-in all the way up to a $2,500 buy-in PLO game that is spread every day in the high limit section, the non-stop action at Commerce Casino makes it one of the top spots to play in the world.

Other Los Angeles-area casinos also spread Omaha daily. The Bicycle Casino located in Bell Gardens also features a $4/$8 Omaha Hi/Lo game and a mix game of Stud Hi/Lo and Omaha with a $20/$40 limit. A Pot Limit Omaha game is also offered on certain days. They also have a weekly Omaha tournament on Mondays.

The Garden Casino in Hawaiian Gardens offers a variety of games including $4/$8, $6/$12 Limit Omaha and also a Pot Limit Omaha game with a $100 to $300 buy-in. They have also added a Seven-Card Stud 8-or-Better mix game and will join Hollywood Park Casino and Commerce Casino in offering  a mix game at the $6/$12 limit.

My favorite place to play Omaha in Southern California is the Hollywood Park Casino located just minutes from the Los Angeles Airport. Their offerings include $4/$8 Omaha Hi/Lo, $6/$12 Big O (5-card Omaha), $40/$80 Omaha Hi/Lo and a $20/$40 mix Omaha and Stud Hi/Lo.

Hollywood Park also has added a high stakes PLO game. Hollywood Park Casino hosts a $60 buy-in $2,500 guarantee Big O tournament every Saturday at 3 p.m.

Several Native American casinos in Southern California offer limit Omaha. Pechanga Resort and Casino, the largest casino in California in Temecula, spreads a $3/$6 Big O game daily. Agua Caliente Casino near Palm Springs spreads a great $6/$12 Omaha Hi/Lo game.

Just outside Los Angeles, The Players Club in Ventura, California, offers small limit and pot limit Omaha games full of great action. Omaha on the West Coast is growing, and I predict the amount of games will double in the near future.

Las Vegas is a great place to play Omaha and has some legendary spots like the Orleans Hotel and Casino, which is famous for its low-limit Omaha games and large jackpots. If you need to build a bankroll, one of the best places to play is Boulder Station which features a $4/$8 limit Omaha high only game with some of the best action in Las Vegas. It seems like there are always six people going to the river.

For bigger action, the most consistent place to find it is at the Venetian Las Vegas, which features $4/$8 Omaha and $8/$16 Omaha along with $15/$30 and Pot Limit Omaha. Aria spreads Pot Limit Omaha daily, and Bellagio has some middle limit Omaha if requested.

As far as tournaments go, the LA Poker Classic running now through March 3, 2016, at Commerce Casino is a great place to try your hand at playing mixed games in a tournament setting. Tournament Director Matt Savage and his staff, including tournament coordinator Jeffrey King, have done a great job creating a new tournament schedule with less rebuy and less re-entry events.

The LAPC has a great mix of events that will appeal to both recreational and professional players. Several Pot Limit Omaha and No Limit H.O.R.S.E and other mixed games are featured. I was fortunate to play in several of these events.

Matt explained his philosophy this way: “I have always believed that there is much more to poker than just No Limit Hold’em, and I think it’s important to keep mixed games available not only to play but to introduce to the next generation of poker players.”

He continues, “The last thing I want as a player that loves mixed games is to see Limit Hold’em, Omaha/8, Stud/8, and Razz go the way of Lowball and Draw. I feel really fortunate to be the Tournament Director for a series like the LA Poker Classic where I can be creative with the schedule and even try new variations and games like No Limit H.O.R.S.E., Crazy Pineapple, and Triple Stud.”

I really like when casinos do things that put customers first like Commerce does, such as the Player of the Series with $25,000 added money and food vouchers for all tournament players.

The bottom line is Omaha and mixed games are becoming more mainstream in the Southern California poker scene. If you want to become a professional poker player, it’s time to master these games.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiards/casino marketing expert. Robert is most well- known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995 and Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner. He can also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.