In the previous two posts, we looked at super strong starting hands, such as AA23, A23 and double suited Aces. We also looked at marginal low hands, including an Ace and a wheel card, and four little cards.
This time we turn our attention to high cards. High cards start with the obvious disadvantage that we are playing a split pot game. But in the right circumstances they can be very playable.
In Hold’em, Kings are a sight for sore eyes. Unless you are unlucky enough to be up against a pair of Aces (which gets dealt only once in every 221 hands), you will start the hand as a solid favourite. In Pot Limit Omaha, a pair of Kings accompanied by two other Broadway cards, preferably at least single suited, again gives you a strong hand. There is of course the drawback that Aces are dealt far more frequently than in Hold’em, and that your flushes are unlikely to make the nuts. But that aside, you should still feel good about your prospects for the hand.
In O8, Kings face a significant drawback. They do not contribute to a low, and the one time in four that an Ace falls on the flop, your prospects for both high and low are likely to have taken a battering.
Let’s look at some stats:
KK** (e.g. Kings plus two random cards) has 54% equity against four random cards. This compares with Aces and two randoms, which holds 64% equity against four random cards. KK** will make the nut high approximately 5% of the time by the river.
The worst pair of Kings to hold is KK29. This has 49% equity against four random cards. KK22 has 51% equity against the same.
The worst-case-scenario of all for Kings is to be up against Aces with low potential. KK** holds 24% equity against AA23 double suited (actually higher than I expected).
What about if we give ourselves four decent cards rather than two?
KKQJ double suited is one of the strongest PLO hands and can expect to make the nut high almost 9% of the time by the river. In high low, its value is naturally reduced. It is a small 53% favourite against a random hand. However, it is in trouble against AA23, holding only 32% equity. It is also behind A234 (with 46% equity) and 2345 (with 49%). But an advantage of the hand is that in a six max or full ring game it should be relatively easy to play post flop. You should aim to hit the flop hard or get out. To illustrate this, when the board comes low (at least two low cards) any opponent holding three low cards will be a favourite against you.
Suited rundowns are another favourite of PLO players. In PLO, KQTJ double suited is a 59% favourite against 4 random cards. It also holds up against Aces (at 42%) and has the advantage of being relatively easy to play.
In high low, the lack of low cards costs us as usual. Our equity against AAxx is 35%. Against four wheel cards, we have 49%, and the flop is critical. On a flop of 67K, giving us top pair, we are a narrow underdog to four wheel cards. More surprisingly, on the same flop (67K) with two spades, we are still only 55%, despite the flush draw.
One occasion where the suited run down comes into its own is in late position, with lots of other players (preferably tight ones) in the pot. For example, suppose a tight early position player raises, and two other solid players call. If these are the type of players who you can read for Ace, A2 or A3 hands, then there is a strong chance that many of the low cards are out, and you are in great shape. Propokertools gives us the following equities in a four-way hand:
- A234: 26%
- A345: 15%
- AA56 18%
- KQJT ds: 41%
Just be aware that if the board comes out with three low cards, you may be drawing slim or none.
For further discussion on these ideas, see Mike Matusow’s chapter in the Full Tilt Guide to Poker, or of course Omaha 8 or Better – Winning at Hi-Low Poker
Good luck at the tables,