Omaha, and especially PLO, is gaining popularity on for two main reasons:
- It's similar to Hold'em so players feel like they've already got a good feel for the game
- It's action-packed, which is something any self-respecting poker player is happy about
Even more than Hold'em, Omaha requires players to have a very solid understanding of how to read the board, what makes for winning hand combinations, how to count outs and how to calculate odds. Without these skills Omaha is merely a fast-paced action-fest with players gambling at will. We're here to help with that.
Below you'll find a comprehensive beginner's guide to Pot Limit Omaha poker with the key elements of the game explained in detail and the secrets to acquiring the skills required to become successful. For the basic rules and game play of Omaha start with our Omaha Rules page here:
Pot-Limit Omaha vs Texas Hold'em
- The two biggest differences between Omaha and Hold'em are the number of starting cards (players receive four cards in Omaha), and how a winning hand is made. In Omaha a player must use exactly two cards from their hand, and three cards from the board.
- More players will see the flop in Omaha. Unlike in Hold'em where one starting hand can have another completely dominated it's rare for any hand in Omaha to have too much of a preflop advantage.
- Because more players are seeing flops, and all players are holding four cards, the strength of the average winning hand is far greater in Omaha. This means to win a hand you are commonly required to have the nuts, or something close to it. Hands such as two-pair or top-pair are not as valuable in Omaha as they are in Hold'em.
- Omaha is a more hand-driven game, meaning there are fewer opportunities to bluff. More often than not players are betting on made hands, or huge draws rather than stone-cold bluffs.
- Although position is always one of the most important factors in poker, it loses some of its value in Omaha due to the reduced ability to bluff. Position in Omaha is primarily used to gauge odds and value-betting amounts.
How Pot-Limit Betting Works in Poker
If you're unfamiliar with Pot-Limit there are a few key differences in how it plays compared to a No-Limit game. Before we explain the differences you need to know how Pot-Limit bets actually work. The maximum bet you can make in Pot-Limit is the size of the total pot including your call. Let's break it down:
First to act:
Second to act:
- Pot: $2,000 ($1,000 pre-flop + $1,000 pot bet from first to act)
- Max. bet: $4,000 ( $1,000 pre-flop + $1,000 bet from first to act + $1,000 your call of the first bet. This makes the total pot $3,000, that being the amount of the pot-sized raise. The $3,000 raise plus your $1,000 call makes a total bet of $4,000.)
It's sometimes hard to do the math in your head. If the pot is $424 and someone bets $68, how much can you bet? Don't waste time by calculating the answer beforehand - just announce "Pot," then figure it out. Put in your call first. Then add up the total pot with all bets and add that to your bet. (If you're wondering the answer here is $628.)
Remember, if you don't announce "Pot" first you'll be called on a string bet if you put the $68 in first then try to add a raise amount. Always vocalize your intended action. If you don't want to figure it out yourself, ask the dealer what pot (or your maximum bet) is.
What Size Should Your Bets Be?
Now that you understand how betting works let's look at the differences. First off, you will find that people will bet larger in Pot-Limit than they would if the game was No-Limit. In a pot of $1,000 on the flop, a pretty standard Hold'em bet would be $800. In Pot-Limit, a player with the same hand will commonly bet the pot of $1,000. The reason for this is the strength of the bet.
Contrary to what may seem obvious, moving all-in is a less threatening bet than betting three-quarters of your stack. When you're playing Pot-Limit betting the pot doesn't have the same counterintuitive stigma, making a pot bet a very strong-looking one.
In Pot-Limit check-raising is a more commonly used play. The reason is simple: In a pot of $1,000, if you're first to act and would like to get it all-in for your $2,000 stack, you are unable to do so with the $1,000 betting limit. Check-raising a player who bets $500 allows you to move all-in.
The final main difference between the betting structures is the inability to protect strong holdings in the early stages of a hand. In an unopened pot with $1/$2 blinds, your pot raise is $7 ($1 + $2 + $2 = $5, making your total bet $2 + $5). Whereas that would be around half the "standard raise" in a live No-Limit game of the same stakes.
How to Be a Good Pot-Limit Omaha Player
- Starting hand selection
- Discipline and patience
- Ability to read the board and common situations
- Ability to consistently play a strong, aggressive game
- At least a basic understanding of odds and outs
Key Pot-Limit Omaha Tips
- Be very selective with your starting hands. It's imperative to avoid hands with a dangler (a single card which has no connection to another in your hand, such as A K Q 6 . Playing these hands basically forces you to play 3 cards against the 4 of your opponents, a great disadvantage.
- Understand that Omaha is a drawing game. The best hands are often made on the turn or the river.
- Avoid raising out of position pre-flop, unless you have a top 10 starting hand.
- Pump it or dump it. If you have the best hand, or a massive draw, it's better to be betting and raising rather than checking and calling. If you don't have a hand strong enough to bet, chances are you should be folding.
- More so than in Hold'em, a large bet often means the player is protecting a large hand. It's foolish to make hero calls in PLO.
- Do not get married to a basic draw. It's possible to have as many as 20 draw outs in Omaha, making a standard 8 or 9-out draw a poor investment.
- Only draw to the nuts. More often than not having a flush smaller than the nut is going to cost you a lot of money. Omaha is a nut game, treat it as such.
- Do not overplay unsuited aces: when all you hold are a pair of aces and two unsuited, unconnected rags, there is little you can flop to improve your hand. A simple over-pair is just not very strong in Omaha.
Common Omaha Mistakes
- Overvaluing weak hands such as two-pair or bottom set.
- Drawing too thin (you need combo draws; 8 outs simply isn't good enough).
- Playing too many hands.
- Misreading the board (gutshots and backdoor draws must be noted).
- Betting pot, simply because you can (always have a reason for betting a specific amount; don't get into the habit of simply betting pot for no reason).
General Pre-Flop Strategy for Pot-Limit Omaha
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?
The tighter the table, the looser your starting hand requirements can become and vice versa.
- How many players are sitting at the table?
Generally, you must play tighter at a full table and looser at a short-handed table.
- How many players are in the pot when it's your turn?
If many players are in the pot ahead of you you'll only want to enter the hand with multiple card combinations that have nut draw potential.
- Has the pot been raised? If so, from what player and position?
For the same reason as point three above.
- What is your current position?
Your position greatly affects the hands you play. In general, you need to play tighter from early position and add hands as your position improves.
Fundamentals of Pot Limit Omaha Strategy
The fundamentals of a good Pot Limit Omaha game start before the flop. It’s very easy to get caught up in the gamble-y nature of the game and to play too many hands, but that needs to be avoided. Focus on playing tight – especially when you’re out of position. You want hands that can flop big with something to go with it. If you can do that and stay out of the potential trap of gambling too much, you’ll be on the right path.
Position in Omaha
Omaha position is extremely important. Being able to decide to take a free card or bluff when your opponent checks is even more important in Omaha than in Hold’em because of that ever-changing “lead” factor. If you’re playing Omaha too much out of position you’re going to be left guessing too often and you’re going to bleed money.
When you’re learning Omaha it’s very important to play extremely tight when you’re out of position. As you learn the game you can begin to play more hands out of position, but when you’re learning you will literally just be giving money away.
Watch our quick Omaha strategy video below for more on Playing Tight and in Position:
Related Omaha Strategy Articles
- 10 Basic Pot-Limit Omaha Strategy Tips
- Omaha Odds and Outs: A Quick Guide
- Avoid Weak PLO Rundowns
- Don't Overvalue Aces in PLO
- Start and End with a Plan in PLO
Pot-Limit Omaha Starting Hands
What you're looking for is four cards that work together although many beginners (who are used to playing Texas Hold'em) don't realize this. For example, previous Hold'em players often overrate hands like:
You want hands that can hit the flop hard like 8 8 9 9 10 10 J J .
A big, double-suited rundown like this one is even preferred to aces in deep-stack Pot-Limit Omaha. That’s because when it connects with the flop it connects HARD. Picture this hand on a flop of 7 7 8 8 9 9 .
Here you flopped the nut straight with a gutshot straight-flush draw and top two pair. Yes, this flop is rare. But it shows you how much different Omaha plays than Hold’em. You want hands that can flop big in more ways than one. You want to hit something with something else.
How to Decide on Starting Hands
- Suited and Double Suited
You want cards that have many different ways to flop the nuts. In Hold’em, suited connectors are good because they make big-pot hands like straights. In Omaha, four cards in a row are extremely powerful because there are more ways to flop straights and straight draws.
- Suited and Double Suited
With double-suitedness (two cards each of the same suit) your flush draw can be either Plan A or Plan B. In short, you have options. For example if you have A A 3 8 on a 9 2 5 flop, your main hand is your pair of aces. But you also have two backdoor nut-flush draws that you can always fall back on.
You hit one part of your hand but you also have something else to go along with it, example 8 8 7 6 . The lead often changes on every street so it’s always good to have more than one thing going for you. Play hands that keep your options open and your opponent guessing.
The Strongest Omaha Starting Hand
The strongest Omaha starting hand is ace-king double-suited: A K A K . 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:
- A A A A J J 10 10 (the second-strongest Omaha starting hand)
- K K Q Q J J 10 10
- Q Q Q Q J J 10 10
- A A A A 7 7 6 6
You want starting hands that hold straight, flush and set potential. For instance, imagine the power of holding A A 10 J on a flop of A K Q , giving you top set, the nut straight and the nut flush draw. Notice that the J 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 Q Q K 10 on a flop of Q J 7 , giving you top set, a flush draw and an open-ended straight draw.
The Trap Hands in PLO
A trap hand is a hand that can hit the board just hard enough to make you second-best. When you're second-best with a pseudo-monster, it can be hard not to lose your whole stack.
Omaha has three types of trap 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: 6 6 4 3 . If you're playing this hand, one of your hopeful draws is to hit a set (or full house).
Imaginary flop: Q J 6 . 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 online poker Hold'em are poor enough to make playing the 6 6 profitable here. In Omaha, you'll run into a higher set far too often. There is almost no flop you can hit where flopping your third six would be good for you.
Low Wrap Hands: If you have any experience playing Hold'em, you'll be aware of the danger in playing the sucker-end of a straight. By playing low wrap hands such as 5 4 3 2 you're setting yourself up to be in this exact position. 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. There is nothing worse than hitting your hand to be drawing dead.
Small Flushes: As previously stated, Omaha is a nut game. If you have a baby flush, you're going to lose your stack more often than not. Unless you have the ability to get reads, and fold a strong hand when it's beat, you should only be playing ace-high flushes in Omaha.
Limping or Raising Before the Flop
As previously stated, the best Omaha starting hand is AA-KK double-suited. The odds of being dealt this hand are a staggering 50,000-1 against. Even with it being such a prestigious holding, the hand is just a 3-2 favorite to win against 8765 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. That being the case, the question arises of whether or not you should raise pre-flop with a top starting hand.
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 all serious gamblers know, 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. As in Hold'em, if you only raise the very best hands your play will become predictable. Mixing it up in Omaha is just as crucial.
Which Hands Should You Raise With in PLO?
For beginners a good pre-flop raising strategy is to raise only with any of the top 30 PLO starting hands -- all of which have at least two to a suit. Once you want to start opening up your game a bit 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. So:
- All top 30 hands with at least one suit and most of the time when offsuit.
- All suited A-K-x-x with at least one x-card, 10 or higher.
- All double-suited four in a row of hands, five or higher.
- 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.
- All K-K-x-x double-suited.
Which Hands to Limp With in PLO?
- All A-Q-x-x with at least one x-card, ten or higher, and the ace suited.
- All four-in-a-row combinations, four or higher.
- All A-x-x-x anything with at least two x-cards that are connected and the ace suited.
- 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.
As with any poker advice, these are just guidelines to give you a place to start. The hands you raise and limp with will change depending on your table, your image, your skill and the skill of your opponents.
How to Play the Flop in Pot-Limit Omaha
Whether or not you were the pre-flop raiser makes a big difference in the way you play your hand. If you're the raiser and you miss the flop, should you bet out (referred to as a continuation bet or c-bet)? Being the pre-flop raiser allows your opponents to give you 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 c-betting obsolete; it just forces you to be more selective and diligent. For example: It's three-handed heading to the flop. You raised a pair of naked aces.
|Your Hand||The Flop|
|A A A A 2 2 8 8||Q Q J J 10 10|
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 full 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|
|A A A A 2 2 8 8||Q Q 7 7 3 3|
This flop isn't the best for your hand but at the same time it's not altogether bad. This is a flop worth betting at. While you don't have the nuts you do have a strong enough hand not to have to sign off just yet. Just don't get too married to the hand; there's no shame in laying down after you raise.
How to Play a Flopped Two Pair in Pot-Limit Omaha
Flopping two pair is a situation that gives many players a difficult time, because you would play it differently than you would in Texas Hold'em. Every player who plays both games knows that the odds of hitting larger hands are higher in Omaha than in Hold'em. Two pair in Hold'em is a very strong holding while in Omaha it is very vulnerable. Again, pots in Omaha are most commonly won by straights and flushes. So looking at your two pair, there's a decent chance you're behind in equity, unless you're holding redraws and blockers. Omaha is a turn and river game: your goal is to play your hand for the future streets, not for the flop.
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 ditch the marginal 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.
Odds of Flopping Two Pair in Omaha
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. In reality the odds of flopping two pair in an Omaha game are over 5x 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 9 players at a table in Hold'em there's an 18% chance of someone having flopped two pair (2% per person * 9 people). So 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%. The chances of someone else having out-flopped you is significantly greater in Omaha than in Hold'em.
How to Play Sets in PLO
If you follow the playing style recommended in this article and avoid playing small pairs, you should not find yourself in many situations where you're 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's 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. For example: You're the pre-flop raiser.
|Your Hand||The Flop|
|K K K K 7 7 6 6||K K J J 9 9|
On this board you have top set but are behind a made straight. With the flush draw out there you're almost guaranteed action. The worst-case scenario has you up against a player holding the queen and ten of spades. Not only do they have the made straight and the flush draw but they have a blocker on the 9 . Hitting the 9 to make your full house will give them a straight flush. Even in this worst-case scenario you're just over 33% to win the pot. Against a made straight you're slightly better and against a naked flush you're close to 75% to win.
Let's put you into a multiway pot against two monster hands:
The Flop: K J 9
|Player||Hand||% to Win|
|You||K K 7 6||39.79%|
|Villain #1||Q 10 5 6||30.18%|
|Villain #2||A 2 2 A||30.03%|
Even though you're up against a made straight, a nut flush draw, and an overpair, you're still almost 40% to win the pot and have the most equity multiway. When you have the most equity you want to pump up the pots.
In this scenario it would be rare for either player to fold on this flop. That allows you to get big money from both players into the pot. Because the other players will be accounting for 66% of the money going into the pot, your 40% to win gives you pot odds to be betting out against a made hand. The size of the pot also gives you implied odds for a strong value bet. If the turn brings the flush while pairing the board, chances are Villain #1 will fold out of the hand, while Villain #2 will be willing to call value-sized bets with only two outs to take the pot.
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.
The Strength of Draws & Wraps
A wrap is a straight draw with more outs than an open-ender. Open-enders have eight outs (four cards on either side) but full wraps can have as many as 20! This is why big rundowns are so powerful. When you make the nut straight and someone makes a smaller straight, you’re going to make a whole lot of money.
You have to learn to recognize the strength of your draws. And not just recognize how many outs you have to a straight, but how many of those are outs to nuts straights as opposed to non-nut straights.
Here’s an example:
With J J 10 10 9 9 7 7 on a 8 8 9 9 3 3 flop, you have three jacks, three sevens, four sixes, and four queens as your outs. That’s a total of 14 outs and every single one of them is to the nut straight.
Now think about 7 7 6 6 5 5 A A on the same 8 8 9 9 3 3 flop.
You have four tens, three fives, three sevens and three sixes for 13 outs. But look further and how many of those are actually to the nuts? Only the three fives give you the nut straight. The rest of the time you’re making a non-nut straight and leaving yourself open to being “coolered.”
Also be careful when you flop a wrap on a two-flush board. The presence of a flush draw massively de-values your straight draw. It’s no fun hitting a straight when it makes someone else a flush. In Omaha drawing to the non-nuts can be expensive. You need to be aware not only of how many straight outs you have but also how many of those are nut outs.
Playing Straight Draws on the Flop in PLO
You need to be playing for draws, redraws and redraws on your draws. In fact, single points of equity are so valuable in Omaha that serious players will even consider blockers to rare hands such as straight flushes. In Omaha you will flop many kinds of straight draws and redraws. 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
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. Unfortunately there are only 45 cards left in the deck. If the player has 20 outs, that means 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%. See the numbers for yourself by plugging cards into our online poker odds calculator here.
What you want to flop are the wraparound straight draws. This happens when the flop comes with two cards that connect and you have cards that surround these two cards. Here are a few examples:
|1. Hand: Q-J-8-x||Flop: T-9-x||Outs: 17 (wraparound)|
|2. Hand: J-8-7-x||Flop: T-9-x||Outs: 17 (wraparound)|
|3. Hand: K-Q-J-x||Flop: T-9-x||Outs: 13|
|4. Hand: 8-7-6-x||Flop: T-9-x||Outs: 13|
|5. Hand Q-J-8-7||Flop: T-9-x||Outs: 20 (double wraparound)|
It's 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 1 is stronger than Hand 2 and Hand 3 is stronger than Hand 4. In a situation where Hand 1 and Hand 2 get it all-in on the flop, Hand 2's strength will diminish considerably. You should bet the majority of your big draws on the flop (known as "betting on the come"). You do this for three reasons:
- You can take down the pot immediately (semi-bluff).
- It adds deception to your game, because you're not only betting made hands.
- With 20 outs in a hand, you are statistically a favorite to win the pot
When you have the most equity, it's always a good time to put money into the pot. 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 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.
How to Play Flush Draws in PLO
A good rule of thumb for flush draws is: If it isn’t a draw to the nuts, you’d better have something to go along with it. If you’re drawing to the second nuts or even worse, and your only plan to win the pot is to hit your flush, you’re in a whole lot of trouble. In Omaha it’s very likely your opponent is drawing to the nuts, but even if he isn’t you have very small implied odds.
For example: A J 10 9 vs 7 7 K 5 on a 7 8 2 board. The flush draw plus a wrap is actually a 50.33% favorite over a made set. In Hold’em you’re never the favorite against a set with a draw but in Omaha it can happen!
What Are Your Blockers?
One of the strongest ways to acquire hidden equity is through blocker cards. The more blockers you have, the more equity you'll have in the pot. More importantly, the more blockers you have, the less equity your opponent will have. Still more crucially, the more equity you hold from blocker cards, the more equity your opponent will falsely believe they hold. A blocker is simply one of your opponent's outs. Here are two versions of an Omaha hand, one with blockers, one without. Take a look at how the equity changes between the two hands:
Flop: 9 9 8 8 K K
Hand 1: K K 9 9 3 3 4 4
Hand 2: J J 10 10 Q Q 2 2
In this scenario, hand 1 holds top two pair with no draws. Hand 2 holds a 13-out straight draw and a flush draw. This setup illustrates a situation in which hand 1 has almost no blockers. Unfortunately, Omaha hands are typically very intertwined, and hand 1 holds one blocker (K ).
If hand 2 was to make his flush with the K , he would lose to a full house. This effectively lowers his outs to 18. Even though he's still drawing, his massive amount of outs brings his equity to a total of 63.07%. Even though hand 1 has flopped two pair, it holds no more than 36.93% equity in the pot.
Take the same example above, but substitute hand 1 for this hand: 9 9 K K 7 7 Q Q . With hand 1 now holding blockers to the straight and flush, it has gained almost five points of equity, bringing it up to 41.71%. That makes the hand worth a 10% equity shift to the player holding it.
Even though it may seem small - 36% or 41% is still behind - just imagine if your bank decided to raise the interest on your mortgage by 5%. This shift in equity will translate into thousands of BBs over a long-term sample of cards.
How to Play Semi-Bluffs, Blockers and Combo Draws
In Omaha, just like Hold'em, you have to be able to win pots even when you don't have a big hand, that's where smart bluffing comes in. The truth is a lot of what people call bluffing is just playing strong position and taking aggressive lines with drawing hands. Semi-bluffing, for example, is really just betting and raising with a strong hand, even if it is a draw. And with four hole cards in PLO it's way more often to flop strong draws.
Playing the Turn in PLO
As stated earlier the turn is one of the most important streets in Omaha -- more important 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's 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 draw with one card to go, it becomes much more difficult to make a second pot call three times larger than that on the flop.
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, though only if both you and your opponent have money left on the river. With 13 outs you are slightly less than 2-1 (13/44=29.5%) against improving, and those are the exact odds the pot is laying you in this case. Because of the implied odds when there is more money left to win, a call is correct.
For a more in-depth look into pot and implied odds check out:
Playing the River in PLO
The most important idea to take away is the inherent vulnerability of an Omaha hand. In Omaha, you almost never have it made until after the river has fallen. 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 big 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 dare to value bet with a good hand that is not the nuts?
Bluffing in PLO
Bluffing plays an important role in all forms of poker. In Omaha, bluffing is used less frequently than in Hold'em but it remains an important skill to master. It's best to bluff when you hold one or more of the key 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 weak opponents who call with anything (referred to as "calling stations"). This is the most common mistake. Be sure that your opponent is a good enough player to fold a hand.
- Number of opponents. In general, do not bluff a field of three or more players. A bluff is much more likely to succeed against one opponent, not only because it is just one player but also because the pot is usually smaller, which makes it less desirable.
- Your table image. A bluff is less likely to succeed if you have a loose table image as opposed to a tight one. If you were recently caught bluffing, your opponents will be more likely to call you in the future, although reverse psychology can occasionally prove beneficial in such 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.
Outs for Specific Draws
|Double wraparound straight draw||20 outs|
|Wraparound 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|
How (and When) to Resteal in PLO Tournaments
If all of the money goes in pre-flop in PLO, one hand is rarely 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% (versus the 70-80% that you may see in Hold'em). This 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. Specifically, making liberal use of the re-steal can be extremely effective in Pot-Limit Omaha. You'll often force your opponent to (incorrectly) fold his hand.
The Resteal Rules in PLO
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 they call, you still have a coin flip. The reason the re-steal is such an effective play in PLO tournaments is twofold:
- You can steal the pot (the ideal result);
- If you do get called, you still have ~50% chance to win the hand
When to Resteal
In an online Omaha tournament, there are two ideal times to attempt a re-steal:
- During the last level of the first hour of play
- If you're short, you need to build your stack back up. Ideally you've built a solid table image and can now open things up.
- On the money bubble or final table
- The blinds are more meaningful so there's a perfect opportunity to apply pressure with a re-steal.
- From the blind, after a limp and late position raise
You can put more pressure on the raiser in this scenario as he's now forced to call a higher amount.
Considerations for a Re-steal
- 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.
- Opponent: For your re-steal to be profitable, you need to have fold equity and your opponent needs to be the type to be able to fold and not a calling station. Ideally they would also have a higher chip stack than yours as short stacks may be more pot-committed. Your hand should also be in good shape against hands your opponent is calling with.
- Cards: Ideally you have any four-suited (good) or double-suited (better) connected cards ten or lower. Even if you get a call from a A-A-T-9 or A-K-J-T type hand, your hand is only a slight underdog (47-53%). Suited, connected medium pocket pairs are also strong, like 8-8-7-7 which is ~50% against A-K-Q-T. Avoid re-stealing with just medium-to-large pocket pairs.
Edges in Omaha Are Thin
Equity is finite, meaning there are only 100 possible percentage points you can own. When multiple forces are competing for shares out of the same finite pool, the acquisition of a single unit is worth two units relative to your opposition. In simpler terms, if you and your opponent are even, you each have 50% equity.
If you gain one point of equity (bringing you up to 51%), you had to gain that point by forcing your opponent to lose it; your opponent now holds 49%. And 51%-49% = 2%. Your one percentage point gain has given you a two percentage point lead. This concept is important in poker, especially in Omaha, where the edges in equity are razor-thin at best. Omaha is a very equity-liberal game, as opposed to Hold'em, in which one player will commonly hold a vast majority share.
Fundamentals Summary of Pot-Limit Omaha
1. Always Play Within Your Bankroll
Don’t chase bigger games because they look good unless you’re more than willing to go broke. You should have a bare minimum of 50 buy-ins for the level you’re playing. Omaha is a swingy game and you don’t want to dump half your roll chasing some fish.
2. Always Play the Odds
It’s the odds that make poker a profitable game and what separates it from table games. Poker is a beatable game because you can choose when to put money into the pot. If you always make +EV decisions and always avoid –EV decisions you’ll always make money in the long run. It’s easy to get caught up in the game and chase “feelings,” but that’s not a winning play. The only winning play is math. Know your odds and play accordingly.
3. Play Tight and Make the Nuts
When learning to play Pot-Limit Omaha it’s no use to open your game up because you see the pros do it. There will be a time for that when you’re an established winner. Until then you’re just going to end up getting yourself into difficult spots where you leave yourself open to make mistakes and lose money. Play tight and look to make the nuts with a back-up plan.
4. Don't Get Married to Aces
Aces are pretty. But if you can’t get committed preflop then it’s better to play them slow. Omaha is a game where pairs rarely win at showdown. Even if your aces are the best hand, it’s often very difficult to get them to showdown to find out. If you’re marking yourself with aces they better be very good aces like A A J 10 - in other words aces with something to go along with them. Otherwise you’re going to allow your opponents to play perfect against you while you’re stuck in the dark.
5. Stay in Emotional Control
Omaha, even more than Hold’em, is a swingy game. You have to be able to keep your cool in the face of extreme variance. If you go on tilt easily it might not be the game for you. When you lose control of your emotions you lose control of your ability to make winning decisions. If you take a few beats you have to be able to take a step back and realize that you may be tilting. If you’re not in control of your emotions you should close all your games and take a break. If you don’t recognize the symptoms you can blow week’s worth of hard grinding in just a few orbits. Stay in control and play winning poker, that’s always your number one goal.
If you stick to these rules and study the game, Pot-Limit Omaha is no different than any other game when you’re learning. You just have to make more +EV bets than –EV ones. It’s just about recognizing what’s profitable and what’s not. That’s the hard part. You have to analyze the players, the board, your hand, the odds, everything. It takes time and practice. But if you’re able to do that, the game is very rewarding - both mentally and financially.
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