How (and When) to Resteal in PLO Tournaments

A lesser-known Pot-Limit Omaha tip: if all of the money goes in pre-flop rarely is one hand a large favorite (or underdog) against another (single) hand.

Typically, the vast majority of Omaha hands have pre-flop equity in the range of 40%-60%.

This differs markedly from Hold'em where it's quite common to find situations where one hand dominates the other - either an overpair versus an underpair, or A-K versus A-Q, etc.

In these situations the player with the dominant hand is generally anywhere from a 70%-82% favorite to win the hand.

This fact has a direct strategic implication for Pot-Limit Omaha tournaments.

Since you're rarely in really bad shape if you get most of your chips in pre-flop, it's often a very effective strategy to play far more aggressively pre-flop than you might in Hold'em.

Specifically, making liberal use of the re-steal - a play all top No-Limit Hold'em tournament players are familiar with - can be extremely effective in Pot-Limit Omaha.

You'll often force your opponent to (incorrectly) fold his hand.

The Resteal Rules in PLO

The reason the re-steal is such an effective play in PLO tournaments is twofold:

  • It'll often result in stealing the pot (the ideal result);
  • If you do get called you'll still have close to a 50% chance to win the hand
at the final table of the €5k PLO, 2011 WSOPE

This situation is somewhat analogous to re-raising pre-flop in Hold'em with A-K. You want your opponent to (incorrectly) fold his medium pocket pair, but if he calls you still have a virtual coin flip situation.

Let's look at how the re-steal can be used in practice. Suppose you're playing in a typical 100-player online Pot-Limit Omaha tournament with 15-minute levels and a starting stack of 1,500.

During the normal progression of the tournament there are two ideal times to attempt a re-steal:

1. During the last level of the first hour of play. At this point, the blinds are 50/100. If your chip stack is slightly below average and in the range of 2-3,000, your M is between 14-20.

You will need to begin increasing your chip stack.

2. On the bubble for the money or the final table (often for online Omaha tournaments, this is the same thing). At this point, there are 10-12 players left and the average chip stack is between 12,500-15,000. The blinds are typically 400/800 and therefore the average M is in the 10-13 range.

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When to Resteal

Let's take a closer look at the first of these two situations. Typically, by the end of the first hour the field will have been reduced to around 50 players each with an average chip stack of 3,000.

Ideally you've played fairly tight for the initial levels when the blinds were quite small relative to the average chip stacks and therefore have a reasonably solid table image.

Now is the perfect time to open things up a little. The blinds are now more meaningful and with an M in the range of 14-20 you have the perfect-sized stack to apply some pressure with the re-steal.

So, when do you make the move? There are 3 principal factors that need to be considered: position, the opponent and your cards.

plo strategy tournaments

1. Position

The best time to try a re-steal is from late position, either from one of the blinds or from the button against a (possible) steal attempt from a player in late position.

You generally don't want to attempt a re-steal if there are still many players to act behind you, although re-raising with strong hands is perfectly acceptable.

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2. Opponent

To make your re-steal profitable two conditions need to be fulfilled.

The first is you must have fold equity. For this to be the case your opponent needs to be the type of player who is capable of folding his hand.

So the re-steal is best attempted against a player who is relatively solid -- not someone who will automatically call you down every time.

Ideally your opponent will also be right around or slightly higher than the average chip stack. If he's a large stack he'll tend to call you down too often and if he's somewhat short-stacked he may feel he's already pot-committed or he'll generally be in a gambling frame of mind.

The second condition to make the re-steal profitable is you need to have the type of hand that's still in reasonably good shape against the hands your opponent will likely call you with.

Phil Ivey PLO strategy

3. Cards

Generally speaking when you try to re-steal you play the situation more than your cards. If you've picked your spot well your opponent will have a relatively modest hand and lay it down.

But if he happens to have a big hand, or makes a weak call, you want one of two things:

  • the best hand
  • a hand that, while not the best, is unlikely to be a large underdog

To minimize the chances of getting your chips in as a big underdog it's usually best to have a hand that's one of the following types:

1. Any four-suited (good) or double-suited (better) connected cards ten or lower

For example: 4-5-6-7ds (double-suited) is an ideal hand to try a re-steal with. Even if your opponent calls with an extremely strong hand such as A-A-T-9 or A-K-J-T, your hand will only be a slight underdog (47%-53%) against A-A-T-9. It will actually be a small favorite (51%-49%) against A-K-J-T.

With the relatively rare exception of being up against a similar but slightly higher hand such as 6-7-8-9ds, there are very few hands you'd be in bad shape against with a hand such as 4-5-6-7ds. Even single-suited one-gappers, such as 5-7-8-9s, play reasonably well against a typical holding such as A-K-J-9 (45%-55%).

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2. Suited, connected medium pocket pairs

These are surprisingly strong hands in Omaha. For example, 8-8-7-7s is a 51%-49% favorite against A-K-Q-Ts and only a 45%-55% underdog against a monster hand such as A-A-K-J.

3. Any four, suited (ideally) paint cards to the A-K or A-Q

These are good cards to re-steal with and are actually strong enough for a regular re-raise. If you're called by hands such as K-Q-J-9 or A-J-T-8 you'll generally be somewhere in the range of a 62-68% favorite.

Hands to Avoid: Medium-to-large pocket pairs with two rough cards, such as J-J-T-8, Q-Q-7-6, and Q-Q-J-8.

Those are all poor hands. You're unlikely to be very far ahead and could easily be way behind (you're a 25%-75% underdog against K-K-J-T, for example). Also, hands like K-Q-J-9 can be problematic as you may find you're up against something like A-K-Q-J.

The Math Behind the PLO Resteal

So: you're ready to attempt a re-steal. Let's suppose you've started the hand with 2,000 chips: what does the math look like?

plo resteal

In Pot-Limit Omaha at the 50/100 blind level, a late position raiser would typically raise to 350. This allows you to re-raise to 1,200, leaving you with 800 in chips.

If your opponent folds, which he'll do at least 50% of the time, you gain 500 chips or roughly 25% of your stack.

When you're called, or more likely, re-raised all-in (note: if you do not get re-raised all-in and are first to act on the flop, you must push in the rest of your chips), you'll tend to win around 45% of the time.

There will be 4,150 chips in the pot so your equity in the pot is approximately 1,870, or an expected loss of 130 chips. Therefore, on average, the re-steal shows a positive expectation of 185 chips (0.5 x 500 - 0.5 x 130 = 185), or nearly 10% of your stack.

An Even Better Time to Resteal

Now imagine there's a limper and a late position raiser. This is an even better time to use the re-steal from the blind.

Again, with blinds of 50/100 and a limper, the late position raiser would likely raise to 450 rather than 350 (a pot-sized raise). This would then let you re-raise to 1,600.

In this case if you get a fold (which you still will roughly 50% of the time), you pick up an uncontested 700 (150 in the blinds, 100 from the limper and 450 from the raiser). Note: the math if you get called is basically the same as above.

plo strategy tips

Notice you can put more pressure on the raiser in this scenario as he's now forced to call 1,150 rather than the 850 in the previous example. This works out to a positive expectation of 306 chips, or roughly 15% of your stack.

Furthermore, if you think there's a higher than 50% chance your opponent will fold (as may well be the case on the bubble), this play is even more profitable.

Try the Squeeze Play

Finally, if there's a late position raise and a call, you can try a squeeze play. Imagine the blinds are still at 50/100 and a late position raiser raises to 350.

If the button calls the 350 and the action is to you in one of the blinds, you can re-raise to 1,550. The initial raiser is now caught in a squeeze play.

Generally speaking the likelihood of the re-steal being successful is quite similar to the probability in the above example and consequently so is the positive expectation.

Perhaps the next time you play an Omaha tournament, you'll give it a try.

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