The Migration of High Stakes Poker to PLO

May 29th, 2012 by Dev Ops Leave a Comment

There’s no doubt poker boom was fuelled by the simplicity and exciting nature of No Limit Holdem (NLHE). It contained exactly what people look for in a card game: one that can be picked up in just a few minutes but can take an eternity to master the subtleties of. Why it took so long is a bit of a mystery. Slower, more math oriented games like Stud ruled for many years in the US, while 5 Card Draw was king in Europe until online poker made Holdem the game of choice. Even in those early days of online poker it was the limit tables that saw most of the traffic.

Now, almost 10 years on from the beginning of the boom, online poker is at a crossroads in many ways; legislation has taken the game away from some, and No Limit Holdem strategy is now so advanced thanks to discussion forums and video training sites, that even the fish are aware of the power of position and the 3-bet with air.

The Migration of High Stakes Poker to PLO

The hugely lucrative higher stakes NLHE games that started off at $10/$20 on Party Poker and moved up to $50/$100 and above have dried up. The time where there was a wide spectrum of skill levels amongst the pros has gone; these days the best regulars at $50/$100 only have a tiny edge over the average grinders, and the shrinking edge has the knock-on effect of creating massive variance as people have to get stacks in as a 55% favourite to make money rather than the 80% they may have been able to several years ago. Furthermore the economic situation has all but choked off the supply of dead money coming in at the top of the pyramid.

All of these factors have led to a paradigm shift at the high stakes tables. Around the time when Isildur1 was doing his best Batman impression, the high stakes games tended to be split evenly between NLHE and Pot Limit Omaha (PLO). There are a couple of reasons why PLO has risen in popularity. Firstly, it re-invigorated the games. Pros wanted to jump in and learn a new game, and the fish had something to attract them to the tables. While they were probably well aware that they were getting crushed at NLHE, a though process of ‘maybe I can get the better of them at this game’ prevailed and all of a sudden there were full tables and waiting lists at $25/$50 again. Another reason PLO became popular again is because it blurred the lines between the pros. Everyone knows a bonehead NLHE play when they see it now, but in PLO there’s much more room for someone to make a mistake and convince themselves it wasn’t so bad. There are a lot of unexplored strategies in PLO and opponents aren’t playing as close to ‘perfect poker’ as they would be at the NLHE tables. Ranges are wider, and thus harder to narrow down; the more room there is for hand reading skills, the bigger the potential edge and the potential for poor players to convince themselves they’re better than they are and that their approach to the game is the correct way to play.

The Transition to PLO at Smaller Stakes

At the lower limits, the same shift hasn’t occurred. NLHE is still by far the most popular game. There are a couple of reasons for this; firstly at the small to mid- stakes there’s an element of inertia and ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. Plenty of players are beating the $1/$2 and $2/$4 games using the same strategy they’ve been employing for years. They can 8-table without too much stress and some can even still put up three-figure hourly rates. Why would a player in this position want to abandon the cash cow in favour of learning a new game? The poker TV shows and marketing by the online rooms will always keep a steady flow of fish coming through the low stakes doors and losing their money. The second main reason for people staying put is variance. Variance in PLO is much worse than in NLHE. If you could make the same hourly rate at both, you’d be much better advised to do it in a game where your standard deviation is 80 big blind per 100 hands than one where it is 120 big blinds. In fact the additional variance can be so cruel that even if you’re a small (1-2 big blind per 100) winner in PLO your breakeven stretches could easily reach 500,000 hands quite regularly, while in NLHE the swings aren’t nearly as extreme. If you’re relying on poker for some or all of your income, you’d be better advised to even take a hit to your hourly rate to play NLHE over PLO due to the increased danger of going months without earning anything.

PLO Results this year – so far!

May 28th, 2012 by Dev Ops Leave a Comment

It’s pretty clear that Omaha has become the game of choice for the high stakes games on PokerStars these days, with well over 90% of $25/$50 and above action taking place at the PLO tables. Phil Galfond who plays as MrSweets28 on PokerStars was quizzed about why there has been a shift from holdem to PLO in recent years during a recent appearance on the twoplustwo Pokercast. The basic gist of his answer was that he believes no limit holdem is close to ‘solved’ at high stakes, particularly for heads up matches. He suggests that there is much more room for an edge in PLO as people can ‘believe’ they are playing optimally, but be incorrect and that the battle of adjusting to your opponent’s play in PLO is much more dynamic and allows for a skill edge to shine through.

So, with the World Series of Poker nearly upon us where the online game quietens down a little, it’s a good time to look at the big winners and losers at the PLO tables in 2012.

Popular poker tracking website PokerTableRatings has moved to an opt-in system for PokerStars so these days its back to using HighStakesDB to check out how the games are going. Things have changed a bit since poker’s heyday and instead of games regularly running at $500/$1,000, you’ll usually see them topping out at $50/$100 these days, with the occasional $100/$200 game. By far the biggest winner this year is EireAbu who is up over $1.7M in 2012 over 150,000 hands, more than anyone else. Although he has an Irish screen name and is located in Ireland, EireAbu is in fact Dutch player Jorryt van Hoof who moved to Ireland several years ago, and not Irish pro Andrew Grimason, as was reported by Pokernews.

Ben ‘sauce123’ Sulsky comes in second on the winners list with almost $1.3M over just 75,000 hands. Longevity is a rare quality in online poker players, but sauce123 has been crushing since the days when $5/$10 on PartyPoker was the biggest game online.

Other big wins include Finnish player bernard-bb who is thought to be Ilkka Koskinen, a $1.225M winner in 2012, and Phil Galfond who plays as MrSweets28 and moved to Vancouver so as to be able to play online poker; he’s up $1.14M this year. The only other million dollar winner for 2012 is Jeans89. Jens Kyllönen is the owner of this account and another in a long list of big winners from Finland. At one point this year he was up almost $2M, but is on a pretty big downswing. That didn’t stop him registering for the $1M buy-in Big One for One Drop event at the upcoming WSOP however.

So where’s all the money coming from for the winners? The biggest loser for 2012 is Zypherin. This account is thought to be another one owned by circus master Guy Laliberte and is down $2.3M for 2012 in just 42,000 hands and $3.5M overall. Next on the losers list is the infamous Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom. Blom’s speciality is no limit holdem, and he’s always been considered something of a PLO mark. Through 142,000 hands in 2012, Blom is down $1.1M. 1Il|1Il|1il| is down $809,000 through 115,000 hands but his identity remains a mystery. Other big names that appear on the losers list are Ilari Fin owned by Finnish player Ilari Sahamies, and Fake Love888 which is almost certainly Patrik Antonius, who is down $385,000 in less than 20,000 hands.

Mixed Games at the WSOP 2012

May 24th, 2012 by Dev Ops Leave a Comment

If mixed games are your thing, then WSOP 2012 is your time to shine. This year’s Series has a wealth of mixed events with softer fields than you’ll find anywhere else on planet poker, with buy-ins ranging from $1,500 to $50,000 across all of the popular poker variants.

The first mixed tourney is Event #3 on Tuesday May 29th at 12 pm, a $3,000 heads up No Limit Holdem/ Pot Limit Omaha mix that’s perfect for big bet game specialists and a new addition for 2012. It has a cap of 512 players and round one starts with 9,000 chips and the blinds at 25/50, but you can take your chips in chunks of 3,000. Levels are 20 minutes long and each round sees players start with about 180 big blinds.

The first chance for more traditional mixed action comes on Wednesday June 13th at 12 pm in the form of a $1,500 HORSE event, which is Event #27. Players start this one with 4,500 chips and the blind levels are an hour long, with the starting big bet fixed at 100. Aaron Steury won this one last year, besting a field of 963 entrants and walking away with $289,000.

The $10,000 HORSE championship Event, #32, kicks off at 5pm on Saturday June 16th. Players begin this one with 30,000 chips and the big bet is set at 800 in the first round. Again, each blind level lasts an hour. French pro Fabrice Soulier won the bracelet last year and the 240 runner field netted him $609,000 first prize payment. He saw off some big names like Tom Dwan and Shawn Buchanan at the final table in taking down the title.

Next up is Event #35 on June 18th at 5 pm, the $2,500 mixed Holdem, which switches between the limit and no limit variants of poker’s most popular game. Levels last 60 minutes and the game swaps over every 30 minutes. For the first level, the no-limit blinds are set at 25-50 and the limit blinds will be 50-100. Players start with 7,500 chips. Last year’s winner was Matt Matros who took away $303,500 in an event that saw 580 runners. Past winners of this one include Gavin Smith and Erick Lindgren.

The next mixed event comes the following day, June 19th at 5 pm. This is an Eight Game Mix event which feature HORSE, No Limit Holdem, Pot Limit Omaha and Limit 2-7 Triple Draw. The structure sheet for this one is a bit confusing for people not used to Eight Game tourneys, but the upshot is that you start with 7,500 chips which is 300 big blinds for the PLO/NLHE and 50 big bets for the limit games. For most of the tournament, the big bet in the limit games is 4 times the big blind in the NL/PL games. Games change every 8 hands and the blind levels are an hour long. Tables will be 8 handed but 2-7 Triple Draw can only be played 6 handed, so the two players to the left of the big blind will be forced to sit out each 2-7 hand. The reigning champion for this one is John Monnette and it drew 489 runners last year.

Friday June 22nd at 5 pm sees the start of Event #42, a mixed Omaha hi/lo / Stud hi/lo event with a $2,500 buyin. Players will receive 7,500 chips and the big bet for the first level will be 150, with levels lasting an hour. Owais Ahmed saw off 449 opponents last year in this one, and took away the $256,000 first prize.

Event #45 is the big one for mixed game players. The $50,000 Players’ Championship kicks off at 5pm on Sunday June 24th and is another 8-game mixed event. The levels for this one are 100 minutes long and it sees the field start with 150,000 chips with the starting big blind for PLO and NLHE set at 300 and the starting big bet for the limit games set at 1,200. Brian Rast won last year after a memorable battle with Phil Hellmuth that saw The Poker Brat denied his 12th gold bracelet. Other winners of the event and the accompanying Chip Reese trophy include Scotty Nguyen, David Bach, and the late Chip Reese himself.

Your last chance for mixed game action comes on Friday June 29th at 5 pm in Event #53, the $2,500 10-Game Mix. As well as the games from the Eight Game Mix, this one contains No Limit 2-7 Single Draw and Badugi. Again the structure sheet is complicated for this event; players start with 7,500 chips and the blinds for the big games are 25-25 with the big bets for the limit games set at 150. As with the Eight Game, the big bet usually hovers about four times the big blind for the NL/PL games. Levels in this one are 60 minutes long and last years event got 431 players. Chris Lee topped the field and won $255,000 seeing off Shaun Deeb along the way, who only this month won 5 events during the PokerStars SCOOP series.

Omaha at the WSOP 2012

May 22nd, 2012 by Dev Ops Leave a Comment

Fans of four-card poker will have plenty to get excited as the Summer, and the 2012 World Series of Poker rolls around. Beginning on May 27th, the 43rd Annual WSOP offers no less than 10 bracelet events for Omaha fans, in various combinations from straight Pot Limit Omaha, to Mixed Holdem/Omaha and of course an array of Omaha hi/lo tournaments.

Your first chance at some PLO action comes on day 3 of the Series, May 29th at 12pm, when a new $3,000 buyin mixed No Limit Holdem/PLO tournament gets underway. This one has a 512 player cap and 20 minute blind levels with the game changing after every level. In each round, players get 1/3 of their starting chips at the start of the round and may add on the additional two increments of 1/3 whenever they please during the match. The total starting stack represents 180 big blinds.

The next Omaha action comes in the form of a limit $1,500 Omaha hi/lo tourney on June 1st at 12pm. This one has one hour blind levels and a starting stack of 90 big blinds. In 2011, this event got 925 runners and the reigning champion is Francesco Barbaro who took home in excess of $263,000.

Next up, on Monday June 4th at 12 pm is the first straight Pot Limit Omaha event, a $1,500 buy-in tourney. The blinds start at 25-25 in this one, and players receive 1,500 in chips to start, with one hour blind levels. Players can also take two 1,500 chip add-ons any time within the first four levels. Elie Payan won this event last year, taking home $293,000 while besting a field of 1,071 players.

Monday the 11th of June at 5 pm sees the start of another limit Omaha hi/lo event, the $5,000 Championship. This one sees players starting with 15,000 chips and the blinds at 100-200, where they remain for the first four levels, with each level being an hour long. Vyacheslav Zhukov saw off the challenge of George Lind, Steve Bilirakis and Richard Ashby at the final table in this one last year, as well as 198 other players to take home $465,000.

The next Pot Limit Omaha action comes around on the 12th of June at 5 pm. This one is a $3,000 buy-in event where players start with 3,000 chips and the blinds at 25/50. Again, players can add on two increments of 3,000 chips any time within the first four levels which are an hour long. Sam Stein emerged victorious from a field of 685 players last year, and won $421,000 in doing so. This event saw 2011 Player of the Year Ben Lamb finish second to Stein.

The $5,000 short-handed PLO event takes place on June 18th at 12pm. The blinds in this one start at 50-75 and a 5,000 starting stack. Two 5,000 chip add-ons are also available to players until the end of level 4. Jason Mercier won this event last year; seeing of a field of 507 players stacked with Omaha specialists, he took down almost $620,000 in the process.

Event 39 is the big one for Omaha players, the $10,000 Championship event. It begins at 12 pm on June 21st and all entrants will hope for it to be their longest day at the WSOP. Blinds start at 50-100 with a 10,000 starting stack and two 10,000 chip add-ons. Again, the blind levels for this one are an hour long. Ben Lamb won this one last year for $814,000 beating Sami Kelpuro of Finland heads up. Previous winners of this one include Phil Galfond and Marty Smyth.

Friday June 22nd sees an event for the mixed games specialists, a $2,500 mixed Omaha hi/lo and Stud hi/lo event. This event has a starting big bet of 150, and starting stack of 7,500 chips with one hour levels and the game swaps over every eight hands. This one attracted 450 runners last year and Owais Ahmed was the last man standing and was $256,000 richer after it, beating Michael ‘The Grinder’ Mizrachi heads up.

The first pot limit Omaha hi/lo event comes around on the 26th of June at 12 pm. This $1,500 entry tourney has a 1,500 starting stack with two 1,500 chip add-ons, and the blinds start at 25-25 with one hour levels. David Singontiko took away $268,000 for winning this event last year

Event 58 is your last chance to get in on some Omaha action, with the $3,000 pot limit hi/lo event. This one kicks off at 5pm on July 3rd with a starting stack of 3,000 and two 3,000 chip add-ons. The starting blinds are 25-50 and there’s a one hour clock. Nick Binger walked away with $397,000 last year, emerging victorious from a field of 352 and a final table that included Phil Laak and Nick Shulman.

Omaha Event Calendar:

May 29th at 12 pm $3,000 Mixed NLHE/PLO
June 1st at 12 pm $1,500 Omaha hi/lo
June 4th at 12 pm $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha
June 11th at 5 pm $5,000 Omaha hi/lo Championship
June 12th at 5 pm $3,000 Pot Limit Omaha
June 18th at 12 pm $5,000 Short-handed Pot Limit Omaha
June 21st at 12 pm $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship
June 22nd at 5 pm $2,500 mixed Omaha hi/lo and Stud hi/lo
June 26th at 12 pm $1,500 pot limit Omaha hi/lo
July 3rd at 5 pm $3,000 pot limit Omaha hi/lo