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Wanting to learn how to play Pot-Limit Omaha? Read the PLO rules and learn a basic strategy of the game from the article below. If you have some time to spare it is worth a read to learn the basics if you are not familiar with how it is played, it will give you plenty to think about…..
Firstly….it must be said that PLO can be a frustrating game at times and compared to Holdem it creates what seems to be worse cases of ‘bad luck’, even if you are a good player. Although this is basically due to ‘variance’ experienced from using four hole cards instead of two in Holdem which is the fundemental difference between the two games. However like in any card game, there is a good long term winning stategy that you can learn and develop from playing on the right side of the line and a bad one that will get you in a lot of trouble, especially in Omaha.
PLO is one of the most popular forms of poker in the world behind Texas Holdem and is seen as the alternate game. The rules for Omaha make it a drawing game with lots more action than Texas Hold’em and because you start with four hole cards you will hear it described as a ‘Sick’ game for action junkies ….and i guess it is exactly that!
The cash games in NL Holdem have become saturated with strong experienced players making it harder to find a long term edge to make steady profit, but PLO still has a lot of less experienced players that you can find that edge against.
Because of the rules of the game, Omaha is usually played in a Pot Limit format since the game require more structure than Hold’em. Some would say the game requires a lot more skill, where as others say it requires more luck! This is the difference between knowing how to play PLO in depth, and simply scratching the surface then quoting bad luck when losing.
The information below will help you think about the game and how to play, but the best way to gain experience is to play online at small stakes before getting too involved. All the sites listed above in the menu bar offer PLO for free so after a small go at that to get a feel for the game I’d advise playing a low stakes real money cash game. Playing for free is ok but since you and your opponents will care less about winning or losing it doesnt represent how a real money game will be played.
You may have heard the term ‘Thinking players’ from your poker experiences and that is exactly what you need to do to be a succesful Omha player. Think carefully about everything, thinking alone will begin to give you an edge on those that don’t. To start with you must consider:
Good seat and table selection
Good hand selection
Discipline of knowing when to fold and wait for a better spot.
Reading styles of play in opponents.
Betting and raising with drawing hands to disguise made hands and forcing stronger hands to fold.
and one of the most important of all…
Controlling tilt when things arent going to plan and keeping your cool…dont blow up!
Basic rules and differences.
In Omaha you are dealt four hole cards and MUST use two of them with the community cards in the middle to make your best 5 card hand. Holding the bare ace will not give you a flush if there are 4 matching suit cards in the middle, nor will it give you a straight if the baord is 10-J-Q-K. You must hold a second suited card for the flush or an ace and one of the other picture cards to make the nut straight.
More players see the flop in Omaha because the difference between premium and marginal hole cards is far less than in Holdem. Suited and connected cards are more powerful than in Hold’em and although pocket aces are still the best hand preflop they are beaten more often in Omaha, especially in multi way pots by the river. So this is a hand you must learn to fold in the later stages of the hand on dangerous boards.
Since more players see flops in Omaha, the average pre-flop pot size is typically much larger which makes the final pot size much larger. This is key when it comes to bank role management and game stake selection. Omaha is not a game to play out of your comfort zone or bank role!
A stronger hand will be required to win at Omaha. Hold’em pots are reguarly won by a two pair hand or less, but these types of hands do not hold up as often in Omaha and you will usually require a set or better to win hands.
Omaha has fewer opportunities for succesfully bluffing in pots. If there are three to a suit on board someone is likely to have the flush, or a paired board gives a high probability of someone holding a full house.
Multple combo draws are being played in every hand, so value betting (betting when you have the best hand) properly becomes far more crucial in Omaha. If you are not exploiting the situations where you have the most equity, ie made hands v drawing hands, it will make it much harder to beat the game consistently.
Position is important in both Holdem and Omaha, but for different reasons. In Hold’em the player with the best position will win the pot the most often, while in Omaha success is more down to the showdown hands. However, the player with position in Omaha is best situated to exploit and control pot sizes.
A fundemental difference to think about straight away is: In Hold’em pre-flop and flop betting are more important for long term winning strategys since stealing blinds and continuation betting on the flop make good profits. In Omaha pre-flop and flop is less important than the turn and river since you wont win pots at this stage and heavy bets will be experienced in the later stages of the hand.
If you are unfamiliar with PL (Pot-Limit), there are a few key differences in how it plays compared to a NL (No-Limit) game. The main one being the maximum bet or raise you can make in Pot-Limit is the size of the total pot, plus your call.
Preflop the blinds are $1 & $2 so the pot so far = $3
The next to act can call $2 or make a ‘Pot’ size raise. This is calculated by calling the $2 big blind bet, plus adding the total now in the pot after your call.
So its $2 to call+ the $2 call + the blinds $1+$2 which = $7.
So in this spot $7 is the max raise or ‘Pot’ raise as its known.
Now the total pot = $10 ($7 raise plus the blinds) and the current call bet standing at $7.
So if the next person wants to bet or reraise it can be anything up to call $7 + $17 total pot at that point = $24 ‘Pot’ bet.
If everyone else now folds and the original raiser calls the pot contains, $3 of blinds + two x $24 bets = $51.
On the flop the first to act can check or bet anything up $51 and for this example bets $40.
The player behind decides to reraise, lets look at what he can bet.
He can call the $40 bet and reraise ‘Pot’ which adds the $51 preflop + the $40 bet by the first player + the $40 call, so the second player to act can ‘Pot’ bet anything up to $171 total.
From just this example you can now see how PLO pots soon become more inflated than in NL holdem so the result being you will find yourself all in on the flop or turn more often than in Holdem.
It’s sometimes hard to do the ‘Pot’ math in your head. So don’t attempt to calculate the answer beforehand – If you intend to bet the max, just announce “Pot” and let the dealer figure it out or put in the ‘call’ bet first, and then add up the total pot with all bets, adding that to your call for the pot raise amount.
Remember to announce “Pot” first or your bet will be classed as a string bet if you put the $40 in first, then try to add a raise amount. Always announce your action to avoid any confusion or rulings against your actions.
Size of the Bets
First off, you will find that players will bet larger in Pot-Limit than they would if the game was No-Limit. In a pot of $100 on the flop, a pretty standard Hold’em bet would be $70. In Pot-Limit, a player with the same hand will commonly bet the pot of $100. This is because they are either trying to protect their made hand more or pushing a big drawing hand to make stronger holdings fold and gain fold equity.
In Pot-Limit, check-raising is used more often because in a pot of $50, if you’re first to act and want to get your whole stack all in for $100 stack, you are unable to do so with the $50 betting limit. So check-raising a player who bets $25 or more allows you to move all-in for your $100.
The last difference between the betting structures is the inability to mathematically protect hands in the early stages. Since the odds for heavy drawing hands to call preflop and on the flop are still mathmatically correct, especially when you take into account the implied odds. Implied odds being the money you are likely to gain in the later streets of the pot.
Make sure you are selective with your starting hands. It’s easy to get overexcited looking down at four cards and seeing all of the possible combinations of draws without thinking about opponenets holdings likely to be slightly stronger putting you at a big disadvantage. Be sure to quickly assess opponents who, play inferior hands, make obvious mistakes, fold to aggression, bet with draws, call big bets with weak hands and draws, or those who can be bluffed or bluffs themselves and so on. Think think think!
Respect displays of strength. Average to good players making large bets in Omaha are far less likely to be bluffing. Do not get married to hands, especially those giving an eight-out straight draw. In Omaha, it is possible to flop 13-out, 17-out and 20-out straight draws. It is best to wait until you hold one of these draws before you heavily involve yourself in the pot. ie with holdings like 5-6-9-10 when the board is 7-8-x.
Do not overplay unsuited aces: when all you hold are a pair of aces and two non suited, disconnected rags, there is very little you can flop to improve your hand. So really if you do not flop your set, you’re not going to win hands with just a pair, especially in multi-way pots.
Omaha is a nut game; it’s not a good idea to be playing any draw that’s not to the nuts in this game unless you are against a player that you know will be calling down with weaker draws to get paid off from.
Common Mistakes in Pot-Limit Omaha
Overplaying “Hold’em strength” hands. (like aces and kings and two pair hands)
Calling with weak hands and draws with few outs when facing a pot bet.
Playing too many starting hands and not raising pre-flop with premium hands.
Giving free cards or under-betting the pot without the nuts.
General Pre-Flop Advice
The most important skill to master when playing Pot-Limit Omaha is knowing which starting hands are profitable to play. Poker is a situational game, meaning that what you play, and how you play it, will change depending on the situation at your table:
Is the table tight or loose?
How many players are sitting at the table?
How many players are in the pot when it is your turn to act?
Has the pot been raised? If so, from what player and position?
Your current position?
The tighter the table, the looser your starting hand requirements can become, and vice versa.
In general, you must play tighter at a full table and looser at a short-handed table.
If several players are in the pot ahead of you, you’re only going to want to enter the hand with multiple card combinations that have nut draw potential, dont be calling with small pairs, queen high flush draws etc.
Your position affects the hands you play more so in Omaha, play tighter from an early position and then add hands as your position improves.
What you are looking for is four cards that work together, although many beginners (who are used to playing Texas Hold’em) do not realize this. They will play any four cards that contain one or two good Hold’em hands. For example, they often overrate hands like:
Qh Qd 3s 8d or As jc 7d 7c
Although both of these hands contain card combinations of top 10 Hold’em hands, they are not altogether powerful Omaha starting hands. What you have to always keep in mind is that Omaha is a nut game. These hands have very few opportunities to make the nuts outside of flopping a full house and have a large potential to lose you a stack if you hit a flush and cant pass when thinking the other player is bluffing or betting a small flush only to show you the nuts!
The strongest Omaha starting hand is ace-king double-suited: As Ks Ad Kd.
In this hand, you hold AA and KK as starting made hands, two nut flush opportunities and A-K for the potential broadway straight.
Double-suited hands with high-valued connectors and pairs are always the best Omaha starting hands. Some examples of quality Omaha starting hands:
Ah As Js Th (the second-strongest Omaha starting hand)
Ks Qd Js Td
Qh Qs Jh Ts
Ac Ah 7h 6c
You want starting hands that hold straight, flush and set potential. For instance, imagine the power of holding Ah As Th Js on a flop of Ac Kh Qh, giving you top set, the nut straight and the nut flush draw.
Notice that the Jh will also give you a royal flush. This gives you the current nuts, with two redraws to higher nuts. This is one of the situations where the chances of you losing this pot are almost zero. You should be pumping this pot with everything you have.
Another example is if you hold Qc Qd Ks Ts on a flop of Qs Jh 7s, giving you top set, 2nd nut flush draw and a nut open ended straight draw.
Below are the top 25 starting hands in Pot-Limit Omaha. All double-suited.
A trap hand is a hand that can hit the board just hard enough to make you second-best making it hard not to lose your whole stack. Omaha has three types of these hands:
Small Pair Hands
Low Wrap Hands
Small Flush Hands
Small Pairs: One of first concepts to learn in poker is to make every action for a reason. It’s amazing how often you’ll see amateurs pay for a draw, only to fold when it hits. Once you learn this lesson you can start to see why it’s such a mistake to play a hand such as:
7x 7x 5s 4s
If you’re playing this hand, one of your hopeful draws is to hit a set (or full house).
Imaginary flop: Kh 8s 7s
On a flop like this, you’re setting yourself up to lose your stack. The odds of running into a set-over-set scenario in Hold’em are poor enough to make playing the 7x 7x profitable here.
In Omaha, you’re going to run into a higher set far too often, a bigger flush draw therefore drawing to just a gut shot to improve. There is almost no flop you can hit where flopping your third seven would be that good for you.
Low Wrap Hands: From playing Hold’em you’ll be aware of the danger in playing the low end of a straight or straight draw.
By playing low wrap hands such as 5d 4s 3h 2c you’re setting yourself up to be in this position far easier and more often. Other than hitting the wheel, the only straight you will hit with this type of hand is the ‘Sucker end’.
If the flop comes with a 6-7-8, it’s very likely someone else is on a 9-10 making it possible to flop a straight and be drawing dead.
Small Flushes: Because Omaha is a nut game if you have a baby flush you’re going to lose your stack more often than not to a bigger or nut flush. Unless you have the reading ability and be able to fold a strong hand when it’s beat, you should only be playing ace and king high flushes in Omaha since its very unlikely that other players will be playing or drawing to lower flushes.
Limping or Raising Before the Flop
The best Omaha starting hand is AA-KK double-suited. The odds of being dealt this hand are over 50, 000-1 against. Although such a prestigious holding, the hand is just a 60/40 favorite to win against a hand such as 6789 double-suited.
With all the draw and redraw possibilities, the gaps between starting hands in terms if their strength are far less than those in Hold’em, so the question of whether or not you should raise pre-flop with a top starting hand comes up. The reasons to raise or not to raise in Omaha are identical to those in Hold’em. You raise for isolation, information and increased pot size with the most equity. As a serious gambler knows, you want to get your money in when you have an edge, regardless of how strong the edge is. Being a 3-2 favorite makes this a favorable situation to increase the pot size for a long term winning strategy, regardless of an individual pot outcome. Think long term and only long term!
Choosing Hands to Raise or Re-raise.
As in Hold’em, if you only raise the very best hands, eventually your play will become predictable so mixing it up in Omaha is just as crucial. However while learning the game, a good pre-flop raising strategy is to raise only with any of the top hands mentioned above, all of which have at least two to a suit. Once you gain experience and feel confident you can start opening up your game a bit to confue opponents, you can mix in any four cards in a row that are double-suited with cards, six or higher, and all single- and double-suited A-K-x-x with at least one x-card, ten or higher. Hands like Q-J-9-8 or J-T-9-7 double-suited are also good to raise with. This is similar to raising suited connectors or medium pocket pairs in Hold’em. You’re doing so to mix it up more so than for value.
1. All top 30 hands with at least one suit and most of the time when offsuit.
2. All suited A-K-x-x with at least one x-card, 10 or higher.
3. All double-suited four in a row of hands, five or higher.
4. All double-suited connected hands, five or higher, with a maximum of one gap between the top two and the two low cards or between the low card and the three high cards. An example is K-Q-T-9 double-suited and J-9-8-6 double-suited.
5. All K-K-x-x double-suited.
1. All A-Q-x-x with at least one x-card, ten or higher, and the ace suited.
2. All four-in-a-row combinations, four or higher.
3. All A-x-x-x anything with at least two x-cards that are connected and the ace suited.
4. All four-in-a-row combinations, five or higher, with a maximum of one gap that is not between the top and bottom three cards in the hand.
These are no more than guidelines to give you an idea of what to play to begin with. The hands you raise and limp with will change depending on your table, your image, and the skill level of you and your opponents.
Whether or not youre the pre-flop raiser makes a big difference in the way you play hands. If you’re the raiser and you miss the flop, should you bet a continuation bet or c-bet? Being the pre-flop raiser helps to gain respect for having a strong hand. If they don’t hit the flop, it will make it hard for them to call any bet you put out on the flop. In Hold’em, this happens much more often than it will in Omaha. Because your opponents have the potential to hold two different flush possibilities, along with a wrap straight draw, it’s much more likely that they will have hit enough of a hand on the flop to be willing to call you down. This doesn’t render continuation bet bluffing pointless but forces you to be more selective with them and be able to fold when raised.
It’s three-handed heading to the flop. You raised a pair of naked aces.
Your Hand The Flop
As Ad 2s 8d Qh Jh Tc
Having a pair of aces here in Hold’em isn’t the nuts, but it’s not an altogether weak holding either. In Omaha, though, you have to be very afraid of your hand. This is a good time to check the flop and let the other two players fight for it.
As stated before, Omaha is a nut game – aside from a 1% running house draw, you have no chance of making the nuts. This is not a hand to get invested in.
But if the flop falls differently:
Your Hand The Flop
As Ad 2s 8d Qc 7d 3s
Although this flop isn’t that good for your hand, at the same time it’s not as bad. So this is a flop worth betting at. You don’t have the nuts, but you do have a strong enough hand to bet with and see what opponents actions are knowing you have 2 back door flush draws and 2 outs to the nuts (the other 2 aces), but don’t get too married to the hand; there’s no shame in laying down after you bet or raise.
Flopping two pair is a situation that gives many players a difficult time. Two pair in Hold’em is a very strong holding, while vulnerable in Omaha. Pots in Omaha are most commonly won by straights and flushes, but in Hold’em they’re often taken down by pairs and two pairs. Flopping top two pair against a double-wrapped straight draw is only 35% to win the pot. The potential to have upward of 20 outs in Omaha allows for drawing hands to be statistically ahead of made hands. If anyone is willing to call you after betting out with two pair, they either have you beat, or have a strong draw to end up ahead. In a nut game, you have to be willing to muck medium strength holdings, no matter how good they look on the flop. One of the worst scenarios is playing bottom two pair. With sets being far more common in Omaha, turning a full house with bottom two is guaranteed to cost you your stack up against a flopped middle or top set.
Following this advice you should not find yourself in many situations where you are up against a bigger set. If you were the pre-flop raiser, almost always bet out on the flop if you hit a set. It is seldom wrong to bet out with top set in a short-handed pot, even though the board looks scary. Remember that anytime you flop a set, you have about a 34% chance of improving to a full house on the turn and river combined.
One thing to keep in mind in Omaha is that many players will only ever raise pre-flop if they’re holding a pair of aces. These players can be easy to spot, and as such can be easy opponents to fold to once an ace falls on the flop.
If you truly believe a player only raises AA, you have to use this read to lay down bottom or middle set on an ace-high flop against them. There’s no use getting a read if you’re not going to act on it.
In Omaha you will flop many kinds of straight draws. What you want to flop are so-called ‘wrap’ straight draws. This happens when the flop comes with two cards that connect and you have cards that surround these two cards.
A. Hand: Q-J-8-x Flop: T-9-x Outs: 17 (wrap)
B. Hand: J-8-7-x Flop: T-9-x Outs: 17 (wrap)
C. Hand: K-Q-J-x Flop: T-9-x Outs: 13
D. Hand: 8-7-6-x Flop: T-9-x Outs: 13
E. Hand Q-J-8-7 Flop: T-9-x Outs: 20 (double wrap)
It is better to have more overcards than undercards, as it’s always best to be drawing to the nut straight rather than the sucker end. For this reason, Hand ‘A’ is stronger than Hand ‘B’ and Hand ‘C’ is stronger than Hand ‘D’ for the reason that when Hand ‘A’ and Hand ‘B’ get it all-in on the flop, Hand ‘B’ will be in very bad shape for outs to beat Hand ‘A’.
You should always bet the majority of your big draws on the flop (known as “betting on the come”). You do this for three reasons:
1. You can take down the pot immediately for a small bet.
2. It disguises that you’re not only betting made hands.
3. With 20 outs in a hand, you are statistically a favorite to win the pot while currently holding the worst hand, but where holding the most equity, it’s a good time to put money in the pot and arguably you dont want them to fold since you are more likely to hit the nuts than not.
If you flop a 13-out straight draw (you have three on top, or three below the connected board cards) where all your outs are live (meaning no flush, full-house, or higher straight is possible), you have just over a 50% chance of making your straight with two cards to come.
Once you have an idea of how powerful large-out drawing hands can be in Omaha, it will greatly affect how you play with, and against, such situations.
Outs for Specific Draws
Double wrap straight draw = 20 outs
Wrap straight draw = 17 outs
Straight flush draw = 15 outs
Flush draw and over-pair = 11 outs
Flush draw = 9 outs
Open-ended straight draw = 8 outs
Three pair hitting a house = 6 outs
Two pair hitting a house =4 outs
The turn is one of the most important streets in Omaha, more than pre-flop, and in some ways more important than the flop. The flop brings made hands, draws and possibilities for redraws. The turn does the following:
Solidifies made hands. Example: Pairs the board making top set into the big full.
Breaks made hands. Example: Brings the third card of a suit against a flopped straight.
Kills any option for flopped backdoor draws.
Creates new draws.
It is at this point, with only one card to come, that you can be more decisive about whether or not you will be continuing on in the hand. Especially in Pot-Limit, the pot is significantly larger on the turn than on the flop, giving the aggressor the opportunity to make much larger bets.
With only one card to come if you are drawing to an obvious flush, its more difficult and more importantly mathematically incorrect to make a second pot call three times as big than on the flop. One of the main resons being that if the flush card does hit the river some players wont pay off so therefor have less ‘implied’ odds.
The fact that you can hold draws with massive amounts of outs in Omaha allows you to make large calls on the turn. For example, if you hold a minimum of 13 outs to beat whatever your opponent might be holding, it is appropriate to call a pot-sized bet on the turn since it is less obvious exactly what you are drawing to, but remember both you and your opponent must have money left on the river that you are likely to get paid from.
With 13 outs, you are around 30% to improve slightly less than 2-1 against, and those are the exact odds the pot is offering you in this case. If the pot ended at that point, a call would not make you any money since it would break even, but because of the implied odds when there is more money left to win, a call is correct since you can extract a final bet on the river.
As in Hold’em, the river is all about value betting properly with the winning hand and conserving losses with the losing hand. If you hold the nuts, contemplate what your opponent might possibly hold and try to squeeze out the maximum. If you missed your draw, you must either give up or try a bluff in case a scare card hits. A lot of judgment is needed when the pot is big and you hold a good hand but not the nuts. You must consider what your opponent is capable of. Will he try to run a bluff if checked to? Or will he also check? Do you value bet with a hand that is not the nuts?
Bluffing plays an important part in all poker but in Omaha bluffing is less frequent than in Hold’em and is a more important skill to master. It is best to bluff when you hold one or more of the key or blocker cards in the hand, for example, when you hold the bare ace and there is a possible flush on the board. When deciding whether or not to bluff, always consider the following factors:
Type of opponent. Do not bluff the “calling stations” or bad opponents who call with weak hands. This is the most common mistake. Be sure that your opponent is a good enough player to fold a medium strength hand which isnt the nuts.
Number of opponents. It’s not advisable to run bluffs against more than 2 players. A bluff is much more likely to succeed against one opponent, because it is just one player with one holding and more likely to prevail because the pot is smaller and less desirable.
Your table image. A bluff is less likely to prevail if you have a bad table image as opposed to a good/tight one. If you were recently seen bluffing, opponents will be more likely to call, although the reverse can be said and prove beneficial in the same situations. For example, if a good player caught you bluffing and he regards you as a good player, he might think you would not dare to bluff him again.
Your “reading” skills. If you “read” the game well and are able to put your opponents on likely holdings, you will be able to identify good bluffing opportunities. This is probably the hardest and most important skill to master.
The board. If the board looks like it could have hit your opponents or presents many drawing possibilities, a bluff is less likely to succeed. Look for boards without many draws or cards that are likely to improve your opponents’ hands. If you can represent a hand, the bluff is more likely to succeed. An uncoordinated board with one scare card that you can represent is usually a good bluffing opportunity.
The size of the pot. Your opponents will be more prone to call if the pot is big because they get better pot odds. On the other hand, if you make a successful bluff in a big pot the reward will also be bigger. This is when good judgment comes into play.
Position. If you are sitting in late position, you will usually have more access to information regarding your opponents’ hands and will thus be in a better situation to bluff. For example, if it is checked to you, the board looks favorable and there are few players in the pot.
As stated at the beggining, all this information is to give you a guideline for becoming a good Omaha player, the best way to actually learn and improve is to practise at low stakes to begin with. You will encounter a lot of ‘bad’ players at these levels to gain confidence and increase bankroll to move up the levels. Always maintain good bankroll management, ie never play with more than 3% of your total roll on any one table. There is a lot of information above to take in if you are a new player to Omaha, so take your time and practice patience and tilt control. If you would like any more information or advice on omaha or the best sites to play it on, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. I currently play low-medium stakes omaha for a living and can help you improve your game to a reasonable level if you are new to it. Another important factor to consider is getting a good rakeback deal, since you will pay more rake in Omaha compared to Holdem. Again i can help you with this….Good luck!