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Sucking is rampant in Pot-Limit Omaha, which makes it a great value game for those among us who do not suck. Luckily for you, we're here to make sure once and for all that you truly do not suck at PLO. In the second episode of our beginner poker strategy series How Not to Suck at PLO we examine the fundamentals of this four-card game and, much the same as Texas Hold'em, we advocate a position-based approach, especially when you're just starting out. Watch the video to learn more about starting hand strength, what hands to play in what position and a general rundown of how to categorize and play different PLO starting hands. It's often said that Texas Hold'em is a preflop game and PLO is a post-flop game and it's definitely true. That's mainly because when you get four hole cards, no hand is that big of a favorite over any other hand before the flop. In PLO it's really common for players to play tons of hands preflop, and then try to get value when they make big hands and have a big edge after the flop. The problem with this approach as a beginner is that playing marginal hands before the flop leads to making marginal hands after the flop. In PLO you want to make the nuts as much as possible and that's way less likely to happen when you're playing speculative starting hands. It's also really important to spend as much time as possible playing in position and adjust your starting hand requirements depending on your position at the table. With four cards it's harder to put your opponent on a range of hands so having position gives you a big edge. Check out the video to stop sucking at PLO and stay tuned for more How Not to Suck at PLO videos coming soon.
In the last episode we explained some of the similarities and some of the key differences between Texas Hold'em and Pot-Limit Omaha. Today we're going to take one step further and talk about the most important things you need to learn that are unique to PLO.
Almost everything we're going to talk about is related to the fact that in Omaha you get four hole cards so let's start there and dive right in to the kinds of starting hands you should be playing as a beginner.
Pre-Flop Vs. Post-Flop in PLO
If you're used to playing Texas Hold'em you'll know that a lot of the play happens before the flop. PLO, on the other hand, is much more of a post-flop game. The biggest reason for that is that when you have four hole cards, no hand is that big of a favorite over any other hand before you see the community cards.
Preflop in Hold'em pocket aces are better than 80% to win against a random hand but in Omaha the preflop edges are way thinner.
A lot of players take this to mean that they can play almost any hand preflop. Don't make the same mistake. Strong starting hands turn into strong post-flop hands and focusing on hands that can make the nuts more often make it more likely you'll be the one coolering other players who have the second or third best hand.
So, to reiterate, don't get sucked into playing every hand, especially as a beginner. Just like Hold'em, when you start to get more experience you can open up your starting hand range but until then keep it simple and stick to strong starting hands.
Position, Position, Position
Just like in Texas Hold'em, choosing which hands to play and which to fold in Omaha depends on a few factors, the two biggest being your position and the strength of the hand itself.
In your experience playing Hold'em you learned that position is really important. Well, in Omaha it's even more important. With four hole cards it's way harder to put your opponent on a range of hands and since it's pot-limit, the amount you can bet depends on how much is in the pot.
Essentially what that last point means is that when you're out of position and decide to bet out, you open the door for your opponent to make a much bigger raise, whether he's doing it for value or trying to bluff you off your hand. Sure, there will be times when you pick up a monster hand in early position and decide to play it, but the truth is you'll never be that big a favorite and you'll be putting yourself in tricky spots after the flop because you're out of position.
As a beginner you can avoid a lot of these problems by trying to play in position as much as possible.
Starting Hand Strength
The best possible hand in Omaha is AA-KK double-suited. As a Hold'em player you might think the second best hand would be AA-QQ but it's not. It's actually AA-JT double-suited and if you understand why that's the case, you'll start to understand how to evaluate starting hand strength in PLO.
When you look down at your hand in Omaha you want to think about three main things.
Connectedness: In Hold'em suited connectors are great so imagine how powerful four cards in a row can be. One and two gappers can also be strong hands.
Suited or double-suited: Double-suited hands are really powerful in Omaha because they can make more flushes.
Big Cards are Better: Whether you have pocket pairs, four cards in a row or a double-suited hand, the bigger the cards are, the better. You want cards that are more likely to make nut hands. A lot of your profits in PLO will come from making the nuts and winning a big pot from someone with the second or third-best hand.
To be clear, when you have two big pairs it's always a strong hand but when it comes to making big hands like straights and flushes, hands that have big, connected cards that are suited are also really powerful.
Starting Hands by Position
Like we talked about before, when you get involved in a hand it's way better to be in position, so it shouldn't be too surprising that your opening hand range should get wider the better your position gets.
Because there are less people still to act, and you'll have position for the rest of the hand, you can profitably raise tons of hands that you should be folding from early position.
Here's a rough idea of the kinds of hands you should be raising with when it folds to you. This is definitely on the conservative side but as a beginner playing tight and choosing good starting hands will help keep you out of trouble.
Early Position: From early position you should only raise with really strong hands like big two-pair hands, big pocket pairs, especially when the other two cards add to your hand by being connected or suited (eg: AAJT) and big rundowns that are suited or double-suited (eg: K-Q-J-T)
Middle Position: When your position improves you can start adding lower suited rundowns and lower pocket pair hands that are also connected and/or suited in some way. (eg: 6789, 9987).
Late Position/Button: When you have good position you can raise way more hands when it folds to you so you can add lower pocket pair hands that have less connectedness and rundowns that have gaps or danglers.
In Omaha there are 16,432 unique starting hands so it's pretty tough to make a chart that covers everything. It's a lot better to understand those three factors we talked about earlier and evaluate your starting hands based on connectedness, suitedness and how big the cards are. Then consider other factors like your position at the table and the opponents that are still to act when you're deciding whether to raise.
So now that you know a bit more about which hands are playable in PLO, in the next episode we'll take a look at some of the trouble hands that you need to watch out for.
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