Pot-Limit Omaha Fundamentals
posted in Omaha, Poker Strategy on 14 June 2017 by

Pot-Limit Omaha is one of the most popular poker games being played today. From micro-stakes online, to some of the biggest stakes in the world live, PLO is a game that anyone and everyone can play. Pot-Limit Omaha tends to be an action game which draws a lot of gamblers or fish to the tables. In order to improve at PLO a player must understand the differences between PLO and Texas Hold’em, work on their starting hand requirements, understand their position at the table, and calculating their equity with draws.

Difference between Omaha and Texas Hold’em

The major difference between Omaha and Texas Hold’em is quite obvious once the cards are dealt. In Omaha each player receives four hole-cards, compared to the two in Texas Hold’em. While each player does receive four cards, he/she can only use two of them to make their final hand. On top of this, a player can only use three of the community or board cards to make their hand. These two factors cause the most confusion for players who have moved from Hold’em to Omaha. In Omaha four-flushes or four-straights are not possible. A player holding Ac-Kd-Qd-Js on a board of Kc-Qc-8c-7h-4c does not have a flush, he/she just has two-pair, Kings and Queens. This is because the player must use two cards from their hand and at most three from the board, thus not allowing them to make a flush here.

Another area where this seems to confuse players is when three-of-a-kind is one the board. In this case, the only way to make a full house is to have a pair in your hand. For example, a player holds Ad-Kd-7h-6h on a board of Ac-4s-4d-Js-4h. This player does not have a full house; he/she would have three-of-a-kind with an Ad-Kd kicker. The player would take the three-of-a-kind over two-pair because it’s a stronger hand. At showdown, a player holding 2c-2d-5s-6s would win the hand, with a full house, 4s over 2s.

Because players are dealt four cards the average winning hand tends to be much stronger in Omaha than in Texas Hold’em. While two-pair or three-of-a-kind might be considered very strong hands in Hold’em, in Omaha they can be extremely weak and tend to get newer players into a lot of trouble. PLO is a game of making the nut-hand and busting players who do not have the discipline or knowledge to fold 2nd-best hands.

Starting Hand Requirements

There are many factors to choosing which hands to play in PLO. Making the nuts (the best hand possible) is the main factor when deciding on whether or not to play a hand. Hands that consistently make the 2nd or 3rd best hand will slowly but surely cost any player a lot of money. The types of hands that make the 2nd or 3rd nuts would be hands with small-medium pocket pairs such as Kc-Qd-7s-7h, hands with king or queen-high flush possibilities, or hands which tend to make the bottom end of straights such as lower rundown hands and seemingly-connected hands that have gaps in them. Hands that do not make the nuts are typically difficult to play post-flop, as a player is never quite sure how aggressively he/she can play these hands.

In Omaha a player can only use two cards, which means that there are 6 two-card combinations that can be made from a four-card hand. At the very least three of these combinations should make a strong Hold’em hand. A hand like Kd-Kc-7h-2s may look appealing to some; however, it only makes one strong Hold’em hand. A much easier hand to play would be Ad-Qd-Jc-Tc, one that makes many nut-straights and can flop a wide array of big draws.

A player’s position at the table is also critical to choosing what hands to play PF and also, how to play them. Position is paramount in PLO, as there is much more post-flop play and situations than in other poker games. Because of this players should want to play the majority of their hands in position, either from the button or the cut-off. Also, players should be careful about building large pots when OOP, as they are already at a large disadvantage.

Because of this positional disadvantage players need to be careful what type of hands they play in UTG, being sure to only play hands that make the nuts, and even then, to exercise some sort of pot control. Limping-in or just calling the BB in early position in PLO is certainly acceptable. Players should, however, limp-in and then re-raise every now and then to stop their opponents from constantly raising or isolating them. This is also a great way to get a lot of money in the pot PF with a weaker pair of Aces, such as Ad-Ac-9h-4h. This type of hand is very tough to play post-flop, however, if you are able to limp-in from early position, get raised, and then you are able to re-raise, you can commit enough of your stack to put your money in on most flops. Also, if players just limp behind you there is nothing wrong with just giving up post-flop in a small pot.

Players should vary their opening-raise size depending on many factors. Players should want to play their bigger pots in position, meaning they should tend to make near pot-sized raises in these spots while either limping-in or raising smaller in early position. This allows a player to keep the pot in control when out of position for the remainder of the hand and allows them to play a big pot (when they want to) while in position.

Position

There are three forms of PLO, 9/10-handed, 6max, or heads-up. In each and every form players should make an effort to play the majority of their hands in late position. Position is important for many reasons. For one, playing a hand in position gives a player the most possible information before making an action. In a game where each player has four hidden cards this becomes even more important. Players tend to play more straight-forward in PLO compared to Hold’em; therefore, they tend to give off more “correct” information. While a player can be tricky in Hold’em, it is very difficult to do so in PLO because of the nature of the game, where there are many possible draws on the majority of flops.

Hands that are difficult to play when out of position are much easier to play when in position. There is no correct % of what hands to play in each position, just make sure to be playing in position the majority of the time. A hand like Qd-Qc-8s-6h is one that should be folded in early position; however, it becomes much stronger in position. Hands that tend to make the 2nd and 3rd nuts also become much stronger in position, because gaining value from worse hands becomes easier.

Being in position also helps us play our draws much more correctly, because it can give us the chance to semi-bluff with them, build a bigger pot with our nut-draws, and to take free-cards from time to time.

Calculating Equity with Draws

You will flop a lot more draws in PLO than in Hold’em, mainly because of the amount of cards in your hand. Being able to quickly discern the amount of pot-equity you have can help you learn where you are possibly leaking money, and where you are possibly passing up some edges.

The first thing you must do is count all of your outs, including back-door outs. Back-door outs are much more prevalent in PLO because of the extra cards in your hand. An example of a back-door out would be holding Ac-Kc-Jd-4s on a Kd-5c-2s flop. Not only would this player have top-pair and a gut-shot straight draw, he would also have the possibility of making a club-flush if the turn and river were both clubs. Typically this improves your equity from 3-5%, or about one out. In PLO it’s possible to have two back-door flush draws, which can improve your equity up to 10%, quite a nice bump in equity.

Calculating your equity in PLO is definitely more difficult than in Hold’em. This is because our opponents tend to either have blockers against our hand or strong re-draws. A blocker is a card in our opponent’s hand that we need to complete our hand. This could be a card that would complete a straight or flush. This could also be a situation where the same card that completes our flush gives our opponent a better hand, such as a full-house.

The last scenario is typically what is called a re-draw. This means that even when we hit our hand there is still a possibility our opponent can improve and scoop the pot. This can ruin a lot of our equity, as re-draws can eliminate up to 25% equity for a player on a given street. These usually happen when we make a straight and our opponent has a flush draw or we make a straight or flush and our opponent has a set and can improve to a full-house. A re-draw to a full house will typically cut our equity by about 20% with one card to come and up-wards of 33% with two cards to come.

In order to determine your equity, you can typically take the number of outs you have and multiply it by 4 on the flop and 2 on the turn. However, once you have more than 12-13 outs (happens frequently in PLO) this rule becomes much less exact. From here you must factor in some re-draws because your opponent will tend to have a strong hand when going all-in. We call this “discounting” your outs, as it would be foolish to think every one of your outs will always be clean when getting all the money in. There will be times where your opponent has flopped a set against your flush draw, in this case your equity can fall from 40-45% to somewhere around 25-30%, quite the difference. However, this will not always be the case, so instead of being completely pessimistic it is best to find some middle ground, perhaps giving yourself somewhere near 35% equity in this spot.

Being able to calculate your equity when holding a draw can also prove why hands such as two-par or an over-pair are weak hands in PLO. Understanding that a draw can be a 60%+ favorite against a random over-pair should demonstrate the strength in drawing hands in PLO and the weakness in mediocre one-pair hands.

Pot-Limit Omaha is a great game, one full of gambling, aggression, and interesting post-flop spots. As your game progresses you will begin to notice more concepts that will improve your game but for now remember to work on the basic fundamentals and you will soon become a winning PLO player.

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