“Have You Lost Your *’ing Mind?”

I’m in Vegas this week, and two nights ago had a good time and some success playing $4/8 limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-better (“O8”) at The Venetian.  Omaha   Most casinos don’t have reliable, regular O8 games, but the Venetian does at several limits.

So last night I decided to take a shot at the next level, $8/16.

(If you aren’t familiar with O8, here is a quick primer.  It is played almost exactly like Texas Hold’em, with a couple of basic differences.  First, you get 4 hold cards instead of 2.  Second, you must use exactly 2 of these hole cards combined with exactly 3 of the community cards to make your 5-card poker hand.  The community cards and betting rounds are the same as limit holdem – pre-flop, flop, turn, river.  Third, the pot is split between the best high hand and the best qualified low hand.  To qualify for the low hand, all 5 of your cards used must be 8 or lower – including Aces as a low card – and unpaired.  If no one qualifies for the low hand, the high hand wins the entire pot.)

The Venetian games also play with a “half-kill.”  A “kill pot” occurs when the pot is at least 10x the big blind and one player wins all of it.  On the next following hand, the stakes are increased by 50% and the player winning the kill must post an extra blind that is 50% larger than the normal big blind.  Then the stakes return to normal unless / until another kill pot occurs.

So in the $8/16 game, the blinds are $4 and $8, all pre-flop and flop bets and raises are in increments of $8, all turn and river bets and raises are in increments of $16.  In kill pots, the kill player posts an extra blind of $12 in addition to the regular blinds (both only $12 if he is in one of the blind positions for that hand) and pre-flop and flop bets are in increments of $12, followed by turn and river bets in increments of $24.

So I’m playing this game.  It is an action game with some very large pots.

An older, somewhat hillbilly-ish looking guy, sits down to my immediate left.  He has bad body odor, and seems to be playing virtually every hand.

Along comes a hand where I’m the big blind, and have something like K-9-7-3.  I don’t recall all of the cards, but what is important here is that I did have a 3 and an otherwise weak O8.  I would not play this unless in the big blind.

The flop comes Jh 3h 3s.  Good for me as now I have three of a kind.  I bet, hillbilly and two other players call.  The turn is 6s and the betting pattern repeats.  The river is 4s, putting three spades on the board as well as straight possibilities.  I know all too well that a large percentage of O8 hands are won with the nuts or nearly the nuts, so I slow down and check.  Now hillbilly bets $8, gets one caller and it comes back around to me.

I don’t feel good about my hand anymore, but call anyway.  Hillbilly turns over Kd Qs 9c 6s for a runner runner flush to win the high half of the pot.  Another player wins the low half.

I stare at his cards laying on the table for a second.  This guy called a flop bet of $4 with a pair on the board, 2 hearts on the board, and he has absolutely nothing at that point in the hand.  A total whiff.  He didn’t pair the board, didn’t pick up a low draw, flush draw or straight draw.  His only chance of winner was some sort of runner runner high hand, and even then the board was already paired, bringing full houses into play and he has absolutely 0% chance of making a full house (remember that he must use exactly 2 of his hole cards to make his 5-card hand).

I ask “What the * is that?  (short pause)  How could you call that flop bet?  (another short pause, and now I’m staring right into his face)  Have you lost your *’ing mind?”  This was not said in any sort of jovial manner, but more incredulous than hostile… at least that is how is sounds when I replay the questions in my head.

Hillbilly, on the other hand, took offense and snarled back at me a command not to curse at him.  His face turned a little more red and then he started to rise out of his seat, when the dealer intervened, I blurted out a quick “I apologize for the language” and told the dealer that if she needed to call the supervisor over to tell me what I already know, please go ahead.

Normally, I take pride in my self-control at the poker table.  Berating bad players is bad policy.  I know the rules when I walk into the poker room – any idiot can play any cards any way they want to as long as the have the chips to do so.

Over the next couple of hours, hillbilly and I sat next to each other playing the same game, O8 at $8/16 betting limits with a half-kill.  And playing very different games too.  My game is mostly by the book – play premium hands, fold the rest.  His game was unlike any that I’ve ever seen.  He never folded pre-flop.  Never.  He chased every draw, weak draws, strong draws, gutshots, hell – in the hand described above he wasn’t really chasing anything (I don’t consider chasing a runner runner hand to be “chasing.”  Make-a-Wishing perhaps, but not chasing.)  And hitting winning hands over and over.

At the far end of the table, several players began a running commentary / ridicule of his play.  The worst hole cards in O8 are 7’s, 8’s and 9’s.  They cannot win with straights unless the pot is also going to be split with a low hand.  They cannot win low hands either.  Hillbilly won pot after pot with these cards.  Once in a kill pot, there were 4 pre-flop raises, thus each player had $6 x 5 = 30 invested pre-flop.  The players at the far end sounded like they might set up a side pool on what hand he would win with this time.  I thought to myself, “Self, I’d put my money on a flop of T-8-6 and he makes a nut straight with 9-7.  The only way that straight can remain the nuts after a turn and river card requires that one of the other cards be a low card, resulting in a split pot.

The flop comes out T-6-4, rainbow.  Close, but not quite.  More betting ensues and the pot is huge.  The turn is a 2.  Still now flushes are possible, but now a low hand is all but assured.  More betting, hillbilly calling all the way.  The dealer burns one last time and places an 8 down for the river card.  The other players check and hillbilly bets now, gets called and turns over A-7-7-9 for a nut straight to win the high hand.

The whole table is highly entertained.

Except for me.  I’m losing my *’ing mind.

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