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Poker News | Poker Book Review

A Review of Farha on Omaha

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Sam Farha is considered to be one of the best Omaha players in the world. He won both of his World Series of Poker bracelets in the game, one in pot limit Omaha high-only, and the other in Omaha High-Low Eight-or-Better. He has been a regular and very entertaining and aggressive participant in High Stakes Poker, and is probably best known among more casual poker players as the runner-up to Chris Moneymaker in the WSOP Main Event that brought on the current poker boom. In Farha on Omaha, along with co-author Storms Reback, he promises to provide the reader with “expert strategy for beating cash games and tournaments.”

One of the first things a reader will notice in picking up this book is just how slender it is compared to many other poker books. The book contains fewer than 200 pages, and in that short amount of space, Farha attempts to teach three separate games, Limit Omaha High, Limit Omaha 8, and Pot Limit Omaha. In addition, he endeavors to separate the games into both cash game and tournament strategies. Does that sound as if he has bitten off more than he can chew? For the most part, he really has.

Farha explains that he is going to explain two different ways to play the games, the “right” way and the “Sammy” way. The former of these techniques involves an approach that has been covered in much greater detail in other books on the subject. While Farha spends a bit of time talking about such basics as proper hand selection for each game, he doesn’t really go much beyond rudimentary ideas in a very general way. This weakness is especially apparent in the sections on High Only, where he does not go much beyond speaking vaguely about having four coordinated cards or high pairs. Many times it seems as if all of the hand examples he has chosen for the book involve playing against an opponent who has pocket aces as part of his hand. While this is not completely true, it does describe the vast majority of the sample hands in the Omaha High chapters.

The more interesting portions of the book deal with the way Farha himself thinks at an Omaha table. He contrasts the way most “right” players play with how he chooses to proceed, and to no surprise for anyone who has watched him on television, his style is much more aggressive, playing many more of what he calls “run down” hands, ones that rely on great flops to overcome a pre-flop disadvantage, where he basically knows what his opponent has but where his opponent has no idea of his cards. He describes how this style has two effects, where he can lose the minimum by getting away from hands that don’t hit, but win the maximum when players take his aggressive plays to be a bluffing style, which he strongly cautions against in Omaha, with rare exceptions.

Farha constantly emphasizes that he doesn’t play his cards, but rather plays the other players. He illustrates this point numerous times in the book, nowhere more graphically than in one heads-up match with a wealthy player, where Farha continually raised despite never looking at his cards, until his opponent got so frustrated that he said he would quit unless Sammy started seeing what he actually had in his hand. Unfortunately, other than a very few specific tips, Farha doesn’t really go into detail about how he senses weakness at the table, or how, other than sizing people up in the typical “rock”, “maniac”, “calling station” way, he determines how to play against particular players.

I have always enjoyed the way Sammy gets under the skin of all but the most stoic of players, and have admired his courage at the poker table. Unfortunately, in attempting to bring his style to such a comprehensive topic in such a short volume, he winds up being more entertaining than instructive. If you like Sammy the player, you will enjoy reading about some of his more famous hands and how and why he played them. However, if you are really looking for a serious Omaha education, this is not the book for you.

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