I was in south Florida recently and played some poker at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, which was very busy because a tournament series was in progress. That meant lots more cash games, too, so I had plenty of choices of what to play. I stuck mostly to $5-5 pot-limit Omaha.
At that casino, they have high hand jackpots every half-hour. This is a promotion run by poker rooms that have lots of tables in action (usually a couple dozen or more), and it’s very effective at drawing players.
In order to qualify for the jackpot in hold’em, you must make at least aces full between your hole cards and the five community cards on the board. It’s a little bit different in pot-limit Omaha. Since you have so many more hand possibilities with four hole cards instead of two, you only qualify if you hit a big enough hand on the flop. The turn and river don’t affect your chance at the jackpot.
They have screens on the walls that tell you what the current high hand is. It’s very disappointing when you hit a monster like quads (four of a kind), only to look up at the screens and discover yours isn’t high enough, so you get no shot at the bonus. Or you might make a better high hand, only to have someone else exceed that before the thirty minutes are up.
During the day, the high hand jackpot was $1,000, but late at night and early in the morning — because there were fewer tables full of players — the jackpot was only $100. I woke up one day at 3:45am and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I went down and played PLO until around 8am. My friend Mark, who operates on very little sleep, loves playing during those hours, because many of the players are tired or drunk or seriously stuck and desperate, all of which make them play badly.
It was during that early morning session that I flopped a straight flush (king-queen-ten of clubs on the board, jack-nine of clubs in my hand). Not only did I make some money off an opponent who thought he had the nuts with an ace-high flush, but I also won a $100 jackpot. Not a grand, but not bad.
The next day, during an afternoon session, I was at the table when a guy flopped quad threes. Since he had the best hand, he slow-played it, giving his opponent a chance to catch something. Boy, did he. The turn and river were both nines, and the opponent had the other two nines in his hand. Naturally, the guy with quad threes wasn’t happy about losing the pot, but then he pointed out to the dealer that he should win the high-hand jackpot.
The dealer called over a floor supervisor, who squashed his hopes by telling him his hand didn’t qualify. He argued, saying he’d flopped quads, but she told him that because he hadn’t even had the best cards in this hand, he was out of luck. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and started to get a little bit louder while the supervisor, to her credit, remained calm as she shook her head. He accused her of only caring about the casino’s money. She corrected him with a reminder that the money for jackpots comes not from the casino’s rake, but from the extra $2 taken out of each pot and earmarked only to be paid as a bonus — in other words, it was player money, not house winnings.
After about 90 seconds of this, the perfect solution occurred. A dealer at the table next to ours announced, “High hand — quad tens!” The supervisor grinned, told him she’d be right there to verify it, then looked back at Mr. Quad Threes, shrugged her shoulders, and uttered a phrase I had never heard before in a poker room: “Your quads are moot.”