Widely popular in Europe, Pot-Limit Omaha is catching on big around the world and is now the second most popular form of poker played today.
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:
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.
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 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?
- How many players are sitting at the table?
- How many players are in the pot when it is your turn to act?
- Has the pot been raised? If so, from what player and position?
- What is your current position?
1. The table. The tighter the table, the looser your starting hand requirements can become and vice versa.
2. The number of players. Generally, you must play tighter at a full table and looser at a short-handed table.
3/4. Who has raised the pot? 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.
5. Your position. This will greatly affect the hands you play. In general, you have to play tighter from an early position and then add hands as your position improves.
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. They'll play any four cards that contain one or two good Hold'em hands.
For example, they often overrate hands like:
J♠ J♦ 2♥ 7♣ or A ♣ Q♦ 8♥ 8♠
Although both of these hands contain card combinations of top 10 Hold'em hands, they are not altogether powerful Omaha starting hands.
What you have to always keep in mind is that Omaha is a nut game. These hands have very few opportunities to make the nuts outside of flopping a full house.
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♥ J♥ T♠ (the second-strongest Omaha starting hand)
- K♠ Q♣ J♠ T♣
- Q♥ Q♠ J♥ T♠
- A♦ A♠ 7♠ 6♦
You want starting hands that hold straight, flush and set potential. For instance, imagine the power of holding A♠ A♣ T♠ 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♠ T♥ 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♥ 2♣ 8♠||Q♠ J♠ T♥|
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♥ 2♣ 8♠||Q♠ 7♥ 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.
Flopping Two Pair in PLO
Flopping two pair is a situation that gives many players a difficult time. 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, unlike in Hold'em where they're more often taken down by pairs and two pairs.
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.
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♥ 7♦ 6♥||K♠ J♠ 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♦ T♦ 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.
Playing Straight Draws on the Flop in PLO
In Omaha you will flop many kinds of straight draws. What you want to flop are so-called wraparound straight draws. This happens when the flop comes with two cards that connect and you have cards that surround these two cards. Let us look at 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.
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 these two articles:
Playing the River in PLO
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|
This massive PLO Beginner's Guide we hope will serve as a booster pack to get your feet on solid ground in the game. It's enough information for you to start playing strong Omaha and keyed in on the most important subtleties of the game.
As with any form of poker, though, there's no better way to learn than through experience. If you want to be solid in the game, it's up to you to get out there and start playing.
Related Omaha Strategy Articles
- How Not to Suck at PLO: Play Tight, Play in Position
- Omaha: Common Beginner Mistakes
- Omaha Odds and Outs: A Quick and Dirty Guide
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