Many players give Pot Limit Omaha (or ‘PLO’) a try as a refreshing change from Texas Holdem. With 4 hole cards and betting limits fixed by the size of the pot, there are new strategy considerations to keep your mind fresh. This article covers some of the key strategy tips you’ll need to keep in mind when your first move over. Remember that experienced PLO players are on the lookout for people making ‘Holdem Player Mistakes’ and are ready to take advantage.
There are 3 main areas covered in this article. First the setup of starting hands and the importance of betting with combinations of cards that work together. Next you’ll find tips covering the relative strengths of hands at showdown. After that some advice on how to avoid giving away the content of your Omaha hand too early.
In PLO poker, a showdown has very specific rules. You can use 2 and only 2 cards from you own 4 hole-cards, and 3 and only 3 cards from the 5 community cards. Reading the board comes easily with practice, though the effect on starting hand selection is more subtle.
The best Omaha hands are those which have the largest possible number of 2-card combinations which work together – in addition to some high card strength. The best hands are A-A-J-10 with 2 ace high suited pairs, and A-A-K-K also double-suited. Both of these can make top set, straights and nut flushes. Other super-strong hands in PLO are called ‘Rundowns’ and include hands like 9-10-J-Q double suited. Here you have 6 combinations of hands working for you and you can flop draws with up to 21 outs – making you a favorite over a set.
Even one unconnected card halves the number of combinations you have working for you. The really dangerous Omaha starting hands contain small to medium pairs. Sure, you can flop a set now and again, but when the betting gets extra heavy in this game – middle or bottom set is a trap hand. If you are not already beaten by a higher set then you could be facing one or more massive draws which are favorite to beat you.
Hands shown down in PLO are much stronger than you will be used to in Texas Holdem. If you think that each player starts with up to 6 potential 2-card combinations, then it makes sense that hands shown down will be close to the nuts. Just imagine betting into 3 players in Texas Holdem holding 18 hands – one of them must have hit the flop.
If you can get your aces all-in pre-flop then you should do that, however unimproved over-pairs are very unlikely to win the pot when there has been significant action.
Coordinated flops mean you need to make a decision on whether to continue immediately. The betting gets exponentially bigger on each round with pot-limit rules and ‘just calling to see what happens’ can lead you to hit a low straight, non-nut flush or two pair – which will cost you money more often than they make you any.
A good rule of thumb for new players is to only draw to nut hands. The highest straights, nut flushes and the best full-house should all be included. Once you get used to how different opponents are betting in different situations you can add in some non-nut draws like the underfull or King-high flushes.
A common mistake new Omaha players make is to limp or call pre-flop with a wide range of speculative hands – and then suddenly raise with a pair of aces or kings. This is so well known among regular players that many specifically watch for these raises. What you will find is that you instantly end up with 5 callers, and are quickly checked to on the flop.
If you did not improve on the flop you need to be wary, your opponents will know what you have (well, half of your hand at least) and will be ready to build a big pot if they have you beaten. Once you gain some PLO experience of your own you can join in the profitable pastime of watching for aces-only raisers.
Even players who raise a wider range of coordinated hands can fall into this trap sometimes. This happens when only aces are used to re-raise. If you are going to give away your hand in this way you need to make sure that you have no more than one pot-sized bet left after the flop – otherwise it is easily exploitable by observant opponents.
Omaha is a fantastic game and has developed a loyal following online. These tips should keep you from losing too many easy chips while you learn to beat the game.