Pot-Limit Omaha: Flopping Two Pair Part 1

Nasr El Nasr

Players new to playing Pot-Limit Omaha are often unsure about how to play two pair in the game - especially if they have experience in Texas Hold'em.

One of the first things you need to understand when trying to learn how to act in specific PLO situations is that you cannot directly relate what you know of Hold'em to PLO and expect to succeed.

Every player who plays both games knows that the odds of hitting larger hands are higher in Omaha than in Hold'em. Many players greatly underestimate this disparity, which is a big mistake.

The odds of flopping two pair in Hold'em are 2.02%. Without doing the math or looking it up, what do you figure the odds of flopping two pair in Omaha are?

To find out, you need to use the following equation (this is with no pair on the flop):

( (12/48)*(9/47)*(40/46) ) + ( (12/48)*(38/47)*(9/46) ) + ( (36/48)*(12/47)*(9/46) ) = %

(0.25*0.191*0.87) + (0.25*0.809*0.156) + (0.75*0.255*0.156) = %

0.041 + 0.0312 + 0.0298 = 0.102

0.102 = 10.2%

The majority of people, poker players included, are less than proficient at math and probability. Because of this, people tend to assume that having twice as many cards translates into exactly twice as great of a chance of hitting a specific hand in Omaha.

Gus Hansen
Some players' playing style is well-suited for Omaha.

In reality, the odds of flopping two pair in an Omaha game are over five times greater than in Hold'em.

Although the math isn't exactly this simple, it's a strong argument for thinking about two pair like this:

If you have nine players at a table in Hold'em, there is an 18% chance of someone having flopped two pair (2% per person * nine people). If you flopped two pair, the chances of someone having flopped better than you are fairly small.

Apply this simple formula (which, again, is not meant to be perfectly accurate, just to give you a general idea) to a nine-handed Omaha game, and the chance of someone having flopped two pair is almost 91%.

If you flopped two pair, the chances of someone else having outflopped you is significantly greater in Omaha than in Hold'em.

A simple test: Take a deck of cards and deal nine Omaha hands faceup. Burn one card and deal a flop. Take a look at how many players connect with the flop. You'll see two pairs, trips, straights, flushes and plenty of draws.

Shuffle the deck and try it again: you may be amazed how often multiple players connect with the flop in Omaha.

Not only are the odds greater because more cards are in play, but in a typical Omaha game, you have more players seeing flops in an average hand than you do in Hold'em. The more hands you have to the flop, the greater the chances of another player having connected with what has fallen.

Straight Draws

Omaha is a game of redraws. Even if your flopped two pair is the best hand on the flop, chances are you're only slightly ahead - or even behind - in the hand.

Unlike in Hold'em, where the vast majority of all draws against a two pair will consist of eight or nine outs, Omaha draws can have 25 outs on the flop to a better hand.

Aside from the standard gut-shot and open-ended straight draws, Omaha has three more straight-draw possibilities:

13-out draw: You have three cards above or three cards below the connectors on board.

Hand: K-Q-J-x

Flop: T-9-x

Outs: 13

Wraparound: You have two cards above the connectors on board, and one below (or vice versa).

Hand: Q-J-8-x

Flop: T-9-x

Outs: 17

Double Wrap: You have two cards above and two cards below the connectors on board.

Hand: Q-J-8-7

Flop: T-9-x

Outs: 20

Bill Chen
If you want to know more about poker math, ask Bill Chen.

A player sitting with a double wrap with a single flush draw holds a total of 25 outs to either a straight or a flush. In a scenario with a player having 20+ outs, they are statistically ahead of a made hand on the flop.

Many beginners will think that they are ahead in such a context, since the player with the draws has to hit a specific card to take the lead. Unfortunately there are only 45 cards left in the deck. If the player has 20 outs, that mean they are 44% (20/45) to hit their hand on the turn.

If they miss on the turn, they are now 45% (20/44) to hit. The chances that they will hit their card on either the turn or the river are in the neighborhood of 68%.

To see the numbers for yourself, plug cards into our online poker odds calculator here.

The actual true math for finding the 68% involves binomial distribution, the Probability Mass Function and the Cumulative Distribution Function ... basically, unless you're John Nash or have actually studied calculus, the odds calculator is the way to go.

(PS: If you're interested in the math, it's almost identical to the math used for this Yahoo! answer.)

The upshot is, even if you flop two pair there's a chance you can be statistically behind a hand that hasn't even hit yet.

The most important idea to take away from this article is the inherent vulnerability of an Omaha hand. In Omaha, you almost never have it made until after the river has fallen.

Part 2 of this article will put the math we saw here into practice, as we explore blockers and focus on the importance of redraws.

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