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Top-10 things you should know about SOHE poker

14 October 2013

This weekend, I'll be playing at a home poker game that I found thanks to the ChipTalk.net poker forum. It's a great group of guys who love the game, love high-end poker chip sets (they put my ceramic sets to shame with custom clay sets) and love to gamble.

The game is a $.25/$.50 NLH/PLO mix, but don't make the mistake of thinking this is a micro-stakes game. It's not unusual to have pots escalate to more than $500, and four-figure pots aren't unheard of. If he has enough players to get two tables going, or when it starts to get late into the night, the host starts a "2/3/4/5/6" mix (No-Limit Hold'em, Crazy Pineapple, Pot-Limit Omaha, Tahoe and SOHE; the mix is labeled as such because of the number of cards dealt to each player in each game). You might not have heard of Tahoe or SOHE, but those are the games where some of the biggest swings occur.

Tahoe is an Omaha variant where players are dealt five cards and can either play two cards from their hand and three from the board or use all five cards in their hand. The five-cards-from-your-hand play doesn't actually occur very often, but it is important to remember. Just because you've got the nut flush on an unpaired board doesn't mean you have the nuts; someone else may have been dealt a full house.

But Tahoe isn't so different from Omaha that it merits an entire column. SOHE, on the other hand … well, I could write a book about that game.

Here are 10 things you should know about SOHE before you sit down to play the game.

10. What is SOHE?
SOHE stands for Simultaneous Omaha and Hold'em. The game is a split-pot game, with half the pot going to the player with the best Hold'em hand and the other half going to the player with the best Omaha hand.

Each player is dealt six cards, and each player must then separate their cards into two hands, a two-card Hold'em hand and a four-card Omaha hand. The game is then played just like Hold'em or Omaha, with a pre-flop betting round, a three-card flop followed by a betting round, a turn card and betting round and the river card followed by a betting round.

9. The most important decision you will make is the first one
The key to SOHE is setting your hand correctly. Some hands are easy; get dealt Ah-Ac-6d-7d-8s-9s, and put the aces in the Hold'em hand and the rest in the Omaha hand. Other hands are a bit tricky. Ah-Jc-10d-10c-3h-3d, for instance, presents a difficult choice. Do you put the 10s in the Omaha hand and give up the suited ace? Or do you put the 10s in the Hold'em hand and give up more straight possibilities?

Personally, I'd put the 10s in the Hold'em hand here. If the game you're playing in is a tight one and not many people are seeing flops, the 10s may be good enough to win, depending on how the board runs out. If you're playing in a loose game where a lot of people are seeing flops, you're probably going to need to hit a set to win, so 10s vs. 3s may not make that big a difference, but having a suited ace is more powerful than having a Broadway draw (see number five on this list for the reason why).

I don't claim to be an expert on the best way to set a hand in SOHE, but realizing that it’s the most important decision you're going to make is the first step to learning the game.

8. Keep those cards capped
Once you set your hand, you'll need to keep a card protector on both hands and keep them separate. Moving cards from one hand to another is prohibited, and anyone that mixes their cards after they have been set will have their hand declared dead.

7. Go for the scoop
Like every split-pot game, the goal of the game is to scoop the whole pot. As a result, you should try to set your hand in such a way that you either hit a monster on the flop, or you get out of the way. That might mean splitting up a pair of aces so you have a suited ace in both hands with the possibility of big wrap draw in Omaha.

6. But be ready to adjust
While the goal of the game is to scoop, most of the time you're going to be facing more than one opponent on the flop. The board may coordinate well with one hand and completely miss the other. If you've got the nuts on one hand and you're facing multiple opponents, you need to make everyone pay to outdraw you. If you get heads up, you can slow down if your hand is one-dimensional and vulnerable to being outdrawn.

5. Be prepared to dump your straight
The problem with hitting a straight – even a nut straight – is that it often won't be the nuts at the end of the hand. If there's three of a suit on the board or the board is paired, your straight is incredibly weak, even on the Hold'em side. You'll see a lot of players throw two suited cards that don't otherwise fit in well with their hand in their Hold'em hand, so don't be surprised when an opponent turns over 9-3 suited in Hold'em and takes down that half of the pot with a flush.

If you hit a straight and it's the nuts, you should play it accordingly. But be aware that you might need to abandon ship if the board gets a little scary. And it might be worth setting your hand in such a way that you're playing for flushes and full houses instead of straights, just to make your decision-making process easier later in the hand.

4. Know when to fold'em
Don't fool yourself into thinking that you're probably going to win at least half the pot. If there are more than two people remaining in the hand and both of them are being very aggressive, there's a good chance that you're facing the nuts on both sides. Unless you have powerful draws in both of your hands that can beat the best possible holdings at the moment, let it go.

If you're heads up and your opponent is jamming the pot and you have two medium-strength hands, you might think you're probably good on one of them. He's probably got the nuts for one hand, but you could be okay on the other. Trust me, it's not worth it. Let the hand go. It's like calling down with a pair of kings in Stud High-Low against a player with an ace and two low cards showing. It's a long-term losing strategy.

3. Think about running it twice
Think PLO is a high variance game? Wait until you play SOHE. You're going to have some massive swings. If you want to even out those swings, think about running it twice or even three times once players are all in. All players have to agree to this arrangement, of course, and it can make for some complicated chip breakdowns at the end of the hand, but it will even out the swings a bit and keep people in the game longer.

2. Be okay with playing 8-10 hands an hour
SOHE is slow. Unbearably slow. But it's a tradeoff. When you have an action game where everyone wants to see the flop, it's going to take awhile to play. Add in complicated chops with tons of chips and you're going to do a lot of waiting. But those long hands are a good opportunity to study your opponents, take a restroom break on the off chance you fold preflop, or talk to your fellow players that have also managed to find a way to fold.

1. You'll either love it or hate it
I've never seen a poker game that simultaneously engendered so much love and hate as SOHE does. If you're an ABC Hold'em player that generally follows a set pattern of play, you're probably going to hate SOHE. If you like to gamble and be faced with a multitude of difficult decisions when you play poker, you're going to love it.

The next time you're at a home game, give SOHE a shot and see what camp you fall in. And if you do, send an e-mail to aarontodd@casinocity.com and tell me what you thought.
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.