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Omaha Poker: Complexity and Luck
by Chad Holloway of

Holding the nuts on 4th Street, but losing no matter what the river brings

In Bad Beats and Lucky Draws, Phil Hellmuth Jr. recounts a $5-$10 pot-limit Omaha hand that was played in Kinder, Louisiana back in 2000. Jeff Sparks from Houston, Texas became involved in a seemingly inconceivable hand where he was monstrously ahead in the hand, only to find he was drawing dead going to the river; in other words, he was going to lose no matter what card hit on the river even though he held the nuts on the turn. Such a situation seems impossible, but it certainly does occur on rare occasions. In this particular hand, six players were involved with the following details:

Small blind (SB): held 5c-7c-8s-9s ($800) (4.92% to win pre-flop)
Big blind (BB): held 3d-5s-7s-8d ($1,000) (4.52%)
Position 1 (under the gun): held Ac-Ad-4c-4d ($600) (33.71%)
Position 2 (being Jeff Sparks): held Kd-Ks-10d-10s ($1,500) (13.56%)
Position 3: held As-Qs-Jh-9h ($2,000) (12.78%)
Position 4: held Kh-10h-6d-6c ($400) (20.64%)


Position one (P1), who had the best hand pre-flop, raised it to $35 under the gun and all hands called. The flop was 10c-6s-4s. The SB flopped a multi-card straight draw, also known as a "wrap" along with a flush draw and bet $150 into the pot (he was now a 16% to win). As it were, all the remaining players had gotten a piece of the flop and called: the BB had a weaker wrap and a straight-flush draw (14%), P1 had bottom set (16%), Jeff had top set (but only had a 5.67% chance of winning), P3 had the nut flush draw (18.67%), and P4 had middle set (7.67%).

The turn brought the Kc, which Jeff thought was the second best card for him (aside from the fourth 10). The board now read 10c-6s-4s-Kc and Jeff bet the pot (about $1,100) after it was checked by the SB (who now had a 12.5% chance of winning), BB (12.5%), and P1 (29.17%). P3 (29.17%), who now had a wrap draw and the nut-flush draw, went all-in for about $200 more. P4 (4.17%) ended up calling since he only had about $250 left, and the rest of the players called as well. The pot, which occurred about two hours into the game, was around $5,800. At this point, Jeff was going to lose no matter what card came on the river even though he held the nuts.

Even though there wasn't a single card left in the deck that would give Jeff the win, he did get lucky, in a sense, on the river. The final card to hit the board was the 2d, which gave the BB the winning hand. Because the BB had fewer chips than Jeff, he was able to recoup some of his money in the side pots, and ended up losing $500 on the hand, which wasn't too bad all things considered. As Hellmuth wrote, "Jeff was lucky to lose only $500 on a hand where he had the 'stone-cold nuts' with one card to come!" Though a hand like this is few and far between, it just goes to show you the complexity and luck involved in pot-limit Omaha.

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