Randy Ohel is a regular in the high-stakes mixed game scene, both in tournaments and in cash games. He has a World Series of Poker bracelet from his victory in the $2,500 2-7 triple draw in 2012, and has cashed in several other poker variants, including runner-up finishes in the 2018 $10,000 2-7 triple draw, the 2016 $10,000 seven card stud eight-or-better championship, and the 2014 $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship.
The Florida native and Las Vegas resident has more than $2 million in live tournament earnings, almost entirely in mixed events. Ohel has delved into the coaching realm of poker and is currently taking students to learn non-hold’em games. He can be found on Twitter @RandyOhel.
In an effort to provide readers with a solid fundamental strategy of mixed games, Card Player sat down with Ohel to break down a key hand from the 2018 WSOP $10,000 seven card stud eight-or-better championship.
Eight-handed at the final table, Bryce Yockey completed, and Chris Vitch raised behind him. Action folded back to Yockey, who called. On fourth street, Vitch checked and Yockey checked behind. Vitch checked on fifth street and Yockey bet. Vitch called. On sixth street, Vitch bet and Yockey called. Both players checked the river, and Vitch won the showdown with a pair of kings.
Steve Schult: Let’s start with third street where Bryce Yockey completes with an eight as his door card. Are there many playable hands that contain an eight?
Randy Ohel: Oh yeah. First off, it depends on what you’re opening into (the remaining up cards) and we don’t have that information. But I guess, if we just assume the most average case scenario, obviously hands like buried aces or kings.
A pair of eights with a small kicker is typically going to be playable. Not always, depending on the boards out and how early you are. Three-card straights like 8-7-6 or 8-6-5 are going to be playable. Some hands with an ace like A-2, A-3, A-4, A-5 are going to be playable.
SS: Those types of A-X hands with wheel cards are going to be mostly from late position, correct?
RO: Actually, you can open with an ace and a wheel card in the hole with an eight up most of the time.
SS: Chris Vitch raises with a king as his door card. When you raise in this spot, does that kind of telegraph the strength of your hand?
RO: You won’t always have split kings, but you will usually have a big pair, which is often kings. Sometimes you’ll have three suited cards with an A-3 in the hole or something like that. You can have those hands, but more often than not, you are going to have big pairs. It will typically be bigger than anything showing. But if you have 10-10 in the hole and there is a queen behind you, that is okay because the king is your up card.
SS: Looking ahead to future streets, is Vitch’s hand tough to play because it is somewhat face up?
RO: In stud eight-or-better, the low hand is universally going to have a playability advantage over the high hand, but the high hand has a lot of equity and often gets to win the pot on fifth street and things like that. The deeper the hand gets, the more playability that the low hand has, but at the same time, if the pot is big, it makes it easier for the high hand to just go to showdown.
SS: Why would Chris not bet fourth street when he should still have the best hand from a showdown standpoint?
RO: He is never going to bet when Bryce catches a card like that. You’re not really pushing equity at that point by betting. Like I said, he is going to have a playability problem, there are going to be some fifth streets he is going to have to fold, and he is going to get raised sometimes.
Any straight draw is going to raise him. A low draw with an ace will raise as well. Maybe even a pair with a three-card low draw would raise for deception. He is going to get raised a lot. Usually, it is supposed to go check, bet, call. In a cash game, that street would normally go check, bet, call. In a tournament, it’s a little more likely to go check, check, especially because Bryce isn’t going to put in a lot of money if he doesn’t have to.
SS: You kind of hit on my next question. Should Bryce be betting fourth street?
RO: In a cash game, you’re going to pretty much bet 8-6 against a king almost always. Unless you were in a steal position and maybe you had A-J in the hole. But typically, you’re going to bet. Tournaments are a little different. In a tournament, there are going to be more free cards.
SS: Because in tournaments the value of chips lost are greater than the value of chips won?
SS: Chris checks fifth and Bryce bets. What does this tell us about Bryce’s hand strength? Is it hard for him to have something like two pair or better since he checked back fourth street? How does his fourth street action affect his hand strength as we get into later streets?
RO: Once again, this is an auto-check from Chris. If he has a flush, he would check. If he has nothing, he would check. And everything in between. It’s an automatic check against the board he is looking at. The hand you are most likely to face here is a pair of sixes with a gutshot and a low draw because of the check on fourth street.
That’s the most likely hand I would say. He had 8-6-5 or something [on third], so now he has a pair and a low draw. So once again, you’re going to check to him. Bryce is going to bet almost his entire range here, except for maybe if he started with a flush draw and doesn’t have much. But he is going to bet the vast majority of hands. Chris will usually call. He is rarely folding on this street. Bryce is rarely checking back, and Chris is sometimes raising.
SS: Would Chris raise with worse than a flush?
RO: Kings up for sure. It would mostly be flushes and kings up. But those raises aren’t even going to be that common. He might just call, slow play it, and make it look like a pair of kings. Or he might get in a raise now. It will be a mix, probably.
To answer your question about Bryce having two pair or better. The check makes it more likely that he has two pair now than if he had bet on fourth street. The check makes it more likely that he made a pair on fourth street. But in this instance, Chris has an eight and a four on his board, so the chances that Bryce made a high hand better than Chris’ are much smaller than they would normally be.
SS: Is Chris’ bet on sixth simply a function of Bryce catching a queen?
RO: Yeah, it’s basically an equity edge. Bryce very often had a pair with a low card and now he would take a free card if Chris checked. Chris is the favorite. Plus, a lot of the time if he is up against a made low or something like that, if he has any low card in the hole, he has a way to scoop. He could easily be drawing a low that is better than what Bryce already has.
SS: That went right over my head when I was looking at this hand. If Chris started with split kings and an ace, he has the better high hand and a low draw that could get there.
RO: Plus, if he has a heart in the hole, he could have a flush draw too. He has a lot of scary things. K-8-4-3 doesn’t look especially scary. It’s not connected, but it’s three low cards and three hearts. There’s a lot he could have. A lot of times, he’ll have split kings with a deuce or whatever. But even if he doesn’t have a low draw, the queen misses Bryce so much, and he often doesn’t have a made low and or better than kings.
SS: Now that I’m thinking about it a little differently, if we go back to third street and look at starting hand selection, is there a preference for having something like K-K-2 instead of something like K-K-J?
RO: You’d always rather have K-K-2. The jack doesn’t do anything for you, and the low card often serves as offense and defense. It’s offense in the sense that it gives you a chance to make a low, and it’s defense in the sense that it blocks things that your opponents are typically going to need. The best kicker is an ace and followed closely by a five.
But the action on fifth and sixth in this hand is incredibly typical of a stud eight-or-better pot. On fifth, the low bets. And on sixth, if the low bricks out, the high leads. It’s extremely common.
SS: If Bryce were to raise sixth, what would that tell us about Bryce’s hand. Would that mean he would’ve had to check fourth with something like 5-7?
RO: It’s not likely. It’s a new piece of information, so a raise might mean that, but it’s more likely that he has an 8-6 low with a straight draw or a double gutshot and an ace. He could have two pair or trips. Maybe he has 2-5 in the hole for a double gutshot or an ace and a five for an overcard to the king and a gutshot.
SS: On the river, they both check.
RO: Once you tell me it goes check-check on the end, I know that it means Chris’ pair of kings beats Bryce’s less than pair of kings.
SS: That is exactly what happened. But should Bryce ever be bluffing this river? Is it possible to get Chris to fold his hand at this point?
RO: Never. Never ever. Chris is never supposed to fold the river ever, because Bryce has to bet his lows. And Bryce has to be a little bit cautious even with some made lows. Bryce is betting all of his two pairs and some of his lows. And nothing else.
SS: Which lows would he be checking back?
RO: All of his 8-7-6 lows just in case Chris is doing something fancy. There is no reason to bet because Chris isn’t folding, and it’s nowhere near a board lock against his board, because Chris has 8-4-3 and could easily have made a better low.
SS: And Chris did have a five in his hand, so he could’ve gotten there, assuming he started with K-K-5 on third, which seems likely given your analysis.
RO: Chris could’ve easily made a low that would scoop. There are some hands that Chris is going to check-raise when he makes a two-way hand. You can’t bet a dry, shitty low against someone that could scoop you, and a bluff is never going to work.
SS: How cautious would you need to be with something like a small two pair?
RO: Bryce would bet that 100 percent if Chris checked.
SS: And if Chris check-raised him? Is Bryce just supposed to let it go?
RO: No, because Chris could be check-raising a two-way hand like kings with a good eight-low. Chris is mostly checking the river, but he might just lead out with those two-way hands also.
Yockey, who won the 2017 $10,000 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event, ultimately finished in seventh place, earning $43,833. Vitch was able to ladder up a bit to fourth place, taking home $108,739 and narrowly missing out on defending his title from the year prior. The eventual winner of the tournament was Dan Matsuzuki, who earned his first career bracelet and the top prize of $364,387. ♠