Potmonkeys

pot•mon•key [‘pät-məŋ-kē]. A poker player—particularly in Omaha tournaments—who consistently raises by the maximum amount as their first action.

I played three Pot Limit games yesterday, starting with a straight PLO High, then a PLO High-Low, and culminating in a mixed Hold’em/Omaha High-Low game (all at Portland Players Club) and expanded my observations on what I’m now referring to as “potmonkeys.”

No, not the Urban Dictionary definition of the term. But there are certain players in nearly every four- (and five-) card game I’ve sat in on who seem to think the proper strategy is to jam chips into the pot and hope that people will fold to them.

I know a couple of players for whom a variant of that strategy works. They pick hands and positions in Pot Limit games, bet them to the max, and consistently amass large stacks early on, re-buying so long as they have the option.

There are other players who seem to have only picked up the jamming strategy, however, and they bets against the wall (hence potmonkeys) on every hand they play. It makes them somewhat exploitable to the player who’s willing to play against the textbook.

Players overestimate the strength of their hands all the time. The odds in Hold’em are fairly well known by regular players, but people don’t seem to understand them sometimes. Having the best hand doesn’t mean you’ve got a lock on the chips. And in Omaha, odds are less known, much less understood.

Take, for example, the matchup between a player holding what’s considered the best starting hand in Omaha High-Low against a horrible hand: AA23 v. Q922. The player with aces has the nut flush draws in two of four suits, potential nut lows, draws to straights and straight flush hands, top pair, etc. The second player has only a pair of deuces, with one of his outs for a set locked up the first player’s hand. They have no flush possibilities, and a two-gapper for their only straight draw. There’s no chance of picking up a low pot. Looks like they’re a goner, doesn’t it? But in this near-worst case scenario, the second player still has a 14% chance to scoop the pot, and 20% to win the high side of a split pot. The first player scoops 80% of the time, but that’s against a hand deliberately chosen as a loser.

Would you play T954? Seems like a lot of hearts already in the hand. Its chances against AA23 are 20% for the scoop and 37% for the high hand. It’s marginally worse against  AA22, where the hand’s double-paired as well as double-suited.

Pre-flop, yes, most hands are 4:1 dogs against double-paired, double-suited aces or  AA23, but particularly in early stages of the tournament where their ability to build the pot is constrained by the size of the blinds, potmonkeys can be constrained by players willing to suffer some blows to see the flop and turn the tables.