Last month, I was playing a session of $4/$8 Omaha8 (Gamboool8) at the Venetian poker room. As my readers know, I enjoy the Pot Limit all-high version of Gamboool, but the hi/low split version is still a game I’m trying to learn. I have done some reading about it, and played occasionally in the regular Friday morning $6/$12 game at the Meadows ATM. But a low stakes game like the Venetian spreads is a solid training wheels opportunity that was too good to pass up, particularly on a night where I had decided to lock up my poker profits for the trip and was looking for a recreational game to kill a few hours.
The table was generally friendly, and the action was pretty straightforward. One of the young gun local pros at the table openly discussed his plans for “getting baked” later in the evening, which was hardly surprising once I learned he had attended Grinnell College back in Iowa (a fine institution of higher learning proud of its ultra-liberal culture). When he later let on that he was born and raised in West Virginia, I inquired how he wound up in small town Iowa for college. “Because I wanted to hang out with hippies,” he replied rather matter-of-factly.
Now one reason I enjoy the various forms of Gamboool so much is that novice and casual players are prone to misreading their hands and making rather boneheaded mistakes. Often players making the transition from Hold ‘Em forget the “must use exactly two cards from your hand” rule, and put money in the pot thinking they have a flush, straight, or even full house when they actually have a very weak hand, or they fail to realize when their made hand on the flop or turn has been counterfeited by the river. These mistakes are more pronounced in the hi/low version of the game, where novice/casual players have two different hands to misplay and misread each time they get involved in a pot. Combine these hand reading mistakes with a Hold ‘Em mentality about hand strength, and novice/casual Gamboool players are among the juiciest fish around.
Since it was the smallest limit game being spread at the time, there were three tables with maybe six solid players spread among them (and no, I do not count myself among the ranks of solid Gamboool8 players). So most pots were multiway to the river, and the showdown often resembled a troop of monkeys, cackling and picking lice out of their hair while they figured out what high and low hands they held.
On one hand, I was in late position with As-Qx-Jx-Ts. Now this is a solid high-only hand, but without a low draw, it’s a little more speculative in Gamboool8 since my hand is looking to connect with a high board for a scoop pot (and on a high-only board, you typically get fewer bets in the pot from the low chasers). Still, my hand had some decent value, and I limped in along with pretty much the entire table. The flop was decent, J-T-5 with one of my suit, giving me top two pair (on the rare Omaha board where that holding has much value), along with a gutterball Broadway draw and some potential additional straight and flush draws that could develop on the turn (there’s always hope in Gambool). Six or so of us called the big blind’s bet; I probably should have raised here, but I tend to be a little passive in early rounds of Gambool8 with just altos dos pairs. The turn was a beautiful King, giving me Broadway and the current nuts, but also foreclosing any low draw while also putting a backdoor flush draw (not mine) on the board. A middle position player bet, got a couple of callers, and I raised, getting two callers. The river was an annoying offsuit Queen. Obviously I had just been counterfeited, chopping the pot with any player holding an Ace with any other Brodway card. Still, when it checked to me, I bet, hoping to get some value from a yahoo with a King-high straight, or maybe even getting an inattentive player to fold a Broadway chopping hand. Unfortunately, I got one caller.
I rolled over my hand and declared, “Nuts. Broadway.” I waited for the other player to table his hand, but as is often the case with Gamboool players, he held his hand up in front of him gin rummy style and shifted cards around as he tried to parse out what his best hand might be. The player held an Ace, which I could see, but the player was confused: “I don’t think I can make Broadway.” The dealer was looking at his hand and helpfully blurted out, “Oh yes. You got it.” The player looked back at his cards in confusion. The dealer said, “You have the Ace and the King, that’s Broadway.” The player yanked those cards out, put them on the table, then threw his other two cards down as well. Presto, chopped pot.
It should go without saying that the dealer was out of line here. Nobody, including the dealer, should help read a player’s hand. This is especially true in Gamboool, where players often misread their hands and muck winners. In a bit of irony, this dealer had earlier warned players about reading hands that weren’t tabled. To be fair to the dealer, however, the practice is endemic to low stakes Gamboool, and short of tasering offenders, the practice is just a hazard of the game. But, for those of you playing Gamboool tempted to be the helpful hand reader, just don’t.