Irish Poker has been the subject of no small attention since its recent introduction on Full Tilt Poker. If you're unfamiliar with the game, we've got a very compact guide to the rules and strategy of Irish Poker that will get you up to speed.
Irish Poker is a community card based poker game. It starts with all players getting dealt 4 cards face down, similar to Omaha.
Once the flop has been dealt, and after all betting on that flop has been completed, you must discard 2 of the cards facedown into the muck.
The remaining 2 hole cards now proceed as in Holdem. In other words there is then a betting round on the turn and river, and the winner is the player who makes the best 5-card poker hand from the 7 cards available (your 2 hole cards, and the 5 community cards).
If you have been playing Texas holdem and/or Omaha for a while then the game play is pretty easy to understand. In short you get 4 cards, and discard 2 of them before you get to see the turn and river.
The strongest hand in Irish Poker is a double-suited AAJT. Other strong starting hands are:
1. Double high pairs (eg AAKK, KKQQ, KKJJ, QQJJ, QQTT)
2. Suited aces (eg Ad4dKcTh, Ah6h9sTc)
3. Wraps (eg KQJT, QJT9, JT98, T987)
4. Single high pairs with other high cards (eg KKJT, KK98, QQT9)
The game is designed to encourage more action, and that certainly works as a lot of players like to see flops with almost any hand. This is a mistake. You need to be selective over your starting hands, and with the strongest of those starting hands it is advisable to raise pre-flop in order to start to try to build a big pot. Don't be put off by a few missed flops because eventually you'll get chances to crush the players playing weak hands, so be patient.
Once we get to post-flop we are really most interested in hitting the top set, making a straight, or having an ace-high flush draw. Be very careful not to over-value overpairs and weak 2-pairs if the post-flop betting is strong, because it is very likely you are behind. Players most often get stacked when holding hands such as the middle-set or bottom-set or top 2-pair. Hence why playing high pairs is better.
There is little point set-mining with low pairs, because the reverse implied odds are terrible. In other words if you do hit the set, the most likely time you are going to get significant action is when you are actually behind.
As long as the texture of the flop is good (e.g. rainbow suits and no possible straights) then if you flop the top set you are in a very strong position. If the flop comes 2 suited, you can get good action verses the flush draws. One of the best scenarios is if multiple players seem very interested because there is a good chance they hold blockers for one another's flush draws, so both of them have a reduced chance of making the flush. In addition, players with lower sets are a mile behind.
If we are playing a flush draw ourselves we really need to stick to ace-high flush draws, as if we get it in with less we are quite likely to be up against a better flush draw ourselves. We really need to prey on the players who are happy to get it in with the non-nut flush draw, or who will pay a couple of streets of value with that draw.
Wraps are considerably weaker in Irish Poker than they are in Omaha. This is because you cannot retain the full wrap draw for the post-flop draw. You're getting reduced to 2 cards before the draw (turn and river), making it just a conventional straight draw. So with running cards you are looking to ideally hit your straight on the flop, rather than be drawing to a straight from the flop. In particular avoid drawing to straights on paired boards and boards contained 2 cards of one suit. If you do decide to draw to a straight (maybe because of getting a good price) make sure you are the high end of the straight and not the low end. ie that you're drawing to the nut straight, not just a straight
Single high pairs are playable because of the increased value of sets in Irish Poker. Again you're looking for top set before getting too many chips involved. Make sure you're not solely aiming for the set as it will start to get expensive that way. Try to include some cards which could make a straight as well.
The betting on the flop in Irish Poker is one of the most significant novelties of the game. You must complete the betting round on the flop BEFORE discarding 2 of your cards. So this does throw up a few interesting scenarios. Eg. In-position you may have an idea of what hand you want to keep post flop. But then after strong or weak betting (before the action is on you) you may actually change your approach.
For example, it's checked to you and you therefore decide to bet thinking that your top-pair or overpair is good, with the expectation of folds from your opponents or weak floated calls. But if it then gets check raised back to you, you might start to think your top pair or overpair is no good and instead start think about your draw. So you could now be getting good enough odds for the draw, when you started off thinking about retaining different hole cards.
The same thing applies for strong betting. Say there is a post-flop raise and a re-raise before the action even gets to you. Now you can probably be fairly sure your weaker made hand is not good, and instead decide whether to take a riskier draw to get ahead of your opponents. This in itself also highlights the importance of playing hands in position in Irish Poker, particularly hands which play well 2 ways.
Bluffing the flop is obviously a little harder in theory in Irish Poker (with more players involved, and more ways to hit), but if few opponents have entered the pot and no possible straights or flush draws come on the flop you can often get a bluff through unopposed.