How to Not Suck at PLO: Bad Hands Make PLO Impossible

Phil Galfond
Make things easy on yourself and avoid bad starting hands like the plague.

This is the fifth in an eight-part beginner strategy series on how to win at Pot-Limit Omaha.

Check below the article for more articles in the series.

Omaha doesn’t necessarily have a cookie-cutter formula for which hands to play and which not to play.

It’s not as simple as that.

You need to be able to evaluate each and every hand you’re dealt to decide whether or not it will be profitable.

The factors remain constant though the cards themselves may change.

You want a hand that has great flopabilty, one that can make the nuts, and has something to go along with it.

That’s the best-case scenario.

The rest of the hands you can be dealt in Omaha are on a sliding scale and it’s up to you to analyze them to determine how good they are actually are.

Getting Kings in vs. Aces is a Mistake

Kings are another trouble hand for players transferring over from Hold’em to Omaha.

Kings are weak for the same reason aces are weak - one pair rarely wins at showdown, and it’s tough to get to showdown.

Unlike aces though, you rarely want to get kings in pre-flop - even if you can get your stack committed.

If most of your money goes in and you have kings, you’re probably in big trouble.

Aces over kings are rare in Hold’em and it’s considered a cooler.

Ben Lamb
Ben Lamb knows how to not suck at PLO.
 

With four cards in Omaha, aces are dealt far more often and getting kings in vs. aces isn’t a cooler – it’s a mistake.

Kings should be played carefully before the flop unless they’re extremely strong kings - for example something like

  • A K K Q or
  • K K Q J.

Compare K K 4 9 to the good kings above. These weak kings have nothing going for them.

If they’re going to win at showdown in a deep stack game, they’re going to have to flop a set or they’re basically worthless.

Big Suited and Double-Suited Cards

If I haven’t beaten this horse to death yet I’m about to: The best hands in Omaha have more than one thing going for them.

You want to be able to make the nuts and have a back-up plan.

Big suited cards and double-suited cards don’t often flop the nuts but they do often flop big two-pair hands that become big full houses.

Big card hands like AKJT, AQT9 KTJ9 etc, are good on their own but they’re great when they’re suited and double suited.

A J T 9 is an excellent hand and probably better than a non-suited AKQJ because it has two suits to go along with it including a nut suit.

Having a nut suit is extremely powerful because flush-over-flush scenarios are common in Omaha.

Ben Grundy
Position is especially important in Pot-Limit Omaha.
 

With the nut suit in your hand, you’ll “cooler” the smaller flushes.

Playing Out of Position in Omaha is Practically Impossible

Position is important in Hold’em but in Omaha it’s paramount.

Omaha is a game where the lead changes on practically every single street.

It’s often difficult to know where you are in a hand and being out of position only makes it worse.

If playing out of position in Hold’em is difficult, in Omaha it’s practically impossible.

To adjust, you should be playing extremely tight from out of position - especially when you’re just starting out.

As you begin to learn the game and figure out the subtle intricacies you can begin to open your game up a bit more.

But even still the best Omaha players play out of position as little as possible because it’s very, very difficult.

Key Takeaway:

When you play tight before the flop and evaluate your starting hand strength ruthlessly, you make the rest of the hand easier to play out.

It can be very easy to get caught up in the action and play too many hands in Omaha, but the best players are able to stick to their game plans and play profitable poker.

Learning what makes a good Omaha hand and what separates a good hand from a great hand may seem like a steep learning curve, and it is.

But once you figure it out and you evaluate your hand’s strengths and weaknesses on the fly, it starts to become easier and you start becoming a good PLO player.

More in the How to Not Suck at Pot-Limit Omaha series:

assets/photos/authors/_resampled/croppedimage6060-daniel-skolovy.jpg
About Daniel Skolovy

Daniel Skolovy started out in the gaming industry as a lowly dealer, spending countless graveyard shifts dealing blackjack, pai gow, carribean stud, baccarat, etc. He quickly became bored dealing games that were so obviously weighted in the house's favor.

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NTG 2014-08-14 00:07:13

I always tell my friends that are learning Omaha (especially Hi/Lo8) that it's a way more value-driven game than holdem.