Red's Deal
The Main Event

3-2-1 Blast Off!


This is a hand from the Imperial Palace mixed game a few weeks ago. We'd been playing for about four hours with mildly active betting. Like what usually happens in this game, everyone had finally relaxed and was having a good time.

We were headed into our second round of 3-2-1 Omaha for the night -- a particularly sick game with three flops which can play with either of two turns and a final river card. As with any other form of Omaha, all players are dealt four pocket cards and must use exactly two from their hand along with exactly three from the board. With a full table of eight players, that puts 44 cards in play (47 if you count the burns). Winning hands in 3-2-1 tend to be extremely high-- it's usually something like a high full house, or a low set of quads that will bring the pot down.

It doesn't matter if you don't know 3-2-1 Omaha -- in fact it's better in many ways if you don't -- because the underlying lesson here has to do with some basic poker skills.

Last year’s death of Bobby Fischer brought about the predictable response from the mainstream media:

A) The guy was a serious anti-Semite.

B) Oh, and did we mention he was a flakeball and an anti-Semite?

C) He just happened to play chess pretty damn well, but that was a long time ago, so it’s not worth talking about. But you need to know he was an anti-Semite.

But what surprised me was no one — no holier-than-thou bloggers, no 2+2 forum junkies, no probability table memorizers — connected the obvious dot…Bobby Fischer’s biggest contribution to the 21st century may be well away from the black and white checkerboard and instead lie firmly on the green poker felt. Here’s why:

Let’s turn back the clock. 35 years after the fact it’s hard to imagine just how huge Mr. Fischer was as a personality and presence. This is definitely one of those cases of “if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t get it.” The cold war was white hot: Scythe Bearing Commies vs. Star Spangled Imperialists with Brezhnev and Nixon leading the way. We’ll point our missiles at you, and you damn well better quit pointing those missiles at us. People in the West with anything even close to a Slavic accent were shunned. At the Olympics beautiful routines would be pulled off by “amateur” Westerners, only to get laughably low scores from (undeniably ugly) Iron Curtain judges.

In the middle of all this rises Bobby Fischer.

For about a year and a half now the Imperial Palace poker room in Las Vegas has been running a $3/6 mixed game on Sunday nights at 19:00. HORSE (hold’em, omaha, razz, 7-card stud and stud 8-or-better) looks remarkably tame compared to the ten game mix they spread:

Omaha hi/lo

A-5 triple-draw hi/lo Sometimes known as “California split,” the best low hand (8 qualifier) splits with the high hand.

Stud 8-or-better

Badugi A 4-card Korean triple-draw lowball game (ace-low) where the best possible hand is a rainbow A234.

2-7 Triple Draw

Baduci A split game where the best badugi hand splits with the best 2-7 hand. Especially odd since there isn’t a default scooping hand: the best badugi is A-4 rainbow, but the ace plays high in 2-7. Nevertheless, a rainbow 2345 with any 7 will usually sweep.

3-2-1 Omaha Omaha high with three flops, two turns and one river. Any flop can be played with either turn. That’s right, 12 board cards.

4 Card Ocean Crazy Pineapple Essentially a super-bastardized hold’em, players start with four pocket cards and have to discard one after betting on the flop and one after betting on the turn. In addition, there’s a sixth board card dealt, “the ocean.”,


Playing at an 8-handed table, it takes about 3.5 hours to make a complete cycle through all the games.

This madness started about half a year ago at the Palace when LasVegasMichael, the site administrator over at, moved the game over from Treasure Island.

There will be those who sniff and sneer but I’m here to tell you, absolutely honestly, it’s my favorite game spread on the planet right now. It’s not unlike having your college dorm game spread under a surveillance cameras — assuming, of course, that you could watch Michael Jackson impersonators in the distance as you played. Free cookies, double comp points on your Harrah’s card, rake capped at $3/hand (with no flop/no drop) and a truly fun bunch of people to play with.

It’s an exceedingly bad place to go if you’re trying to hide behind the seriousness of your sunglasses; but absolutely spectacular if you tire of the tedium of hold’em, want to wrap your brain around a few new games (for low stakes) and just feel like unwinding for a few hours.

I play it any Sunday I’m in Vegas — you should too. Call ahead to 702-794-3225 on the day of play to get on the list.

There’s an interesting hand that came up in this game a few weeks ago, I’ll write about it next week.

Main Event archive...

View From The Rail

Math Exercise


TV gives a heavy emphasis to mathematics in poker. Hold'em games entrance viewers with a chance to ooh and ahh as the two decimal odds flicker by on every card dealt.

Unfortunately this over-emphasizes the importance of math in the game. It counts, sure, but it's not nearly as big a deal as knowing what your opponents hold and what they play.

Of course this doesn't keep punks at the table from brow-beating you over the odds. What's funny, though, is I find this particular playing subset actually don't know math that well. They're memorizers, not theoreticians.

So if you're a brow-beater, just wanna be, are interested in seeing the kinds of math the more hardcore can do in their head at the table, or just want an interesting math exercise, this one's for you...

This is the scenario: Imagine sitting at a round table with six seats. There are three men and three women who are randomly going to be set around the table. The table being talked about here in my problem is not a poker table. It's a round table with six chairs (think cylinders in a 6-shooter if it makes it easier) -- meaning that if you numbered the places 1-6, seat 1 and seat 6 are adjacent. (In other words, if women were sitting in positions 5, 6, and 1, they would be sitting next to each other.)

This is the question: What are the odds that the women will be seated next to each other?

I'll post the answer in a couple of days -- once I'm out of the computing hell I currently find myself residing in.

I'm a bigtime cheapskate. I hate paying full price on anything that can be had for less -- especially in something as fast-and-loose as an airline ticket, where the guy sitting next to me could be paying half the price I am.

The process I outline here is what I use myself. It may not give you the absolute cheapest ticket, but it'll get you to within probably 5%, which is good enough for me. The steps here take about 20 minutes from start-to-final-purchase.

View From the Rail archive...