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From No Limit Hold'em to Pot Limit Omaha – Part 1 (Pre-flop)

From No Limit Hold'em to Pot Limit Omaha – Part 1 (Pre-flop) 0001

More and more players are starting to want to look past No Limit Hold'em. In this article we will discuss the transition to Pot Limit Omaha, hereby focussing on 6-max PLO cash games.

Why Pot Limit Omaha?

Many players, especially on the lower limits, play Pot Limit Omaha additionally to No Limit Hold'em to add some variety to the game. The standard of play at these levels is definitely not very high. Players make numerous preflop and postflop mistakes that can easily be exploited by a player with some basic knowledge of the game. Furthermore, Omaha can be played at almost any online poker room today. Even on the smaller poker sites you will usually find a couple of tables open, especially lower limits, and on sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt you will usually find up to 30/40 active tables up to $200 PLO. So, many games on offer and weaker opponents on average are good reason to check this game out.

Of course there are a couple of differences between PLO and No Limit Hold'em. Yes, you get four cards instead of two and you play Pot Limit (you can, at most, bet the size of the pot) instead of No Limit.

These differences require you to make some vital adjustments to your game and also to your mindset when stepping over to PLO. We will start by looking at preflop play.

Handselection

Hands in PLO don't differ as much in strength when compared to Hold'em. At the end of the day, you are holding onto four cards that enable you to make many combinations.

You have four cards and these four cards need to be related as much as possible. Strong PLO hands have four cards that, in one way or another, work together to form a coordinated hand. When you are holding three or four of the same cards, for example three Aces or three clubs with a fourth one, the strength of your hand depreciates. The chance of hitting a set or a flush is now much smaller. We will now discuss some examples of starting hands:

AAXX

You will be dealt AAXX a lot more often than you get pocket Aces in Hold'em. When receiving pocket aces with two other random cards, you are a 65% favourite to win against any other hand with four random cards. In Hold'em, on the other hand, your hand would win 85% of the time against any other random hand. This is quite a large difference and it is important that you are aware of the vulnerability of your Aces. AAXX is still the strongest hand in PLO, but especially when you can go all-in with it preflop. Against some hands you will even have almost a coinflip situation. For example, AAXX will only win 55% of the time against hands like 5678 double suited or TT99 double suited. As you can see, a player going all-in with one of these hands isn't making a big mistake at all, especially when your all-in range is a little wider than just aces.

Of course there are good and bad hands with AA. You will be a lot happier seeing one or two suited aces than having an offsuit hand. If you have another pair to go with your Aces that's also positive. The best would be to have two broadway cards to go with it to give you some more straight outs. Hands like {a-Hearts}{k-Hearts}{a-Spades}{k-Spades} can be seen as the preflop nuts in Omaha. You will always want to open with strong Aces and almost always 3-bet or even 4-bet. With offsuit Aces you can choose to just flatcall when sitting out of position. This will keep you unpredictable and your calling range wide.

KKXX and QQXX

A hand with a pair of Kings and Queens might be strong, but it's by far not as strong as the hand is in Hold'em. In an all-in situation you will often be up against Aces and will therefore be an underdog. Your hand improves drastically if it is coordinated. You want to see a flop with this hand and you definitely don't want to re-raise with it all the time. Especially out of position you will want to take it slow with these kind of hands. You want to flop top set or a strong draw using your other two cards as well. So, the hand might be strong enough to raise with preflop, but almost never strong enough to put more money into the pot preflop. You would rather want to call a raise than 3-bet.

Medium pairs

When you flop a medium set, for example with Jacks, Tens or Nines, you need to realise that your three-of-a-kind will never be the nuts by the time you reach the showdown. There will often be an overcard or straight or flush options on the board. If you hit top set on the flop and there is no straight or flush on the board you will want to invest as much money into the pot as possible. If you have top set and the money goes in on the river, it might well be that you don't have the best hand. Therefore you need to be cautious with playing medium pairs preflop. Your hand needs to have more potential than only the one pair. A hand like {10-Hearts}{10-Spades}{2-Clubs}{6-Spades} is therefore a definite fold preflop. With a coordinated hand you will want to open yourself or call a raise. With only a medium pair and a somewhat coordinated hand there is nothing wrong with just limping or completing in the small blind.

Small pairs

In No Limit Hold'em, set mining is one of the most profitable plays. You hit your set and will almost always be happy to get your money in. In PLO you're not happy at all to get your money in with a set of 4's on a 4-T-K rainbow board. The chance is very high that one of your opponents flopped a higher set. If you only have one pair or even two low pairs, you should almost always fold a hand like that preflop. Set mining with these small pairs will often result in you winning some small pots when you hit your set, but you will end up losing most of the big pots.

Rundowns

A rundown is a hand that contains four consecutive cards. A hand like {5-Spades}{6-Hearts}{7-Clubs}{8-Clubs} is very strong in PLO. If you're hand is also double suited this will make your hand even stronger. Furthermore a hand like that is pretty simple to play postflop. You will almost always either hit a strong hand/draw or you hit a weak hand and can easily fold your hand after the flop. Bear in mind, however, that a hand like this is dominated by a similar rundown. A hand like 6789 is a lot stronger than 5678. Low rundowns like A234 and 3456 are more difficult to play because you don't flop a strong hand/draw as often. High rundowns like JQKA are very strong hands but will often have blockers from other players in the hand because players are more likely (and rightly so) to play broadway cards than to play low cards. A rundown is always good enough for a raise and almost always good enough to 3-bet with.

Gappers

Besides rundowns you can also play hands with a gap. A hand like 5789, where you are missing the 6 is also a very playable hand. When playing gapers you should make sure the missing card is as low as possible. 5679 is therefore weaker than 5789 because you are less likely to draw to a nut straight. Gapped hands are definitely playable, but often only worth a call or maybe a raise in late position to try and steal the blinds.

Limping, betting and (re)raising

While in Hold'em it is often seen as a deadly sin to limp or call a limper, this is not always the case in PLO. Players have more trouble defending their hands well and therefore you can limp-call your medium hands or call minraises and raises. When playing shorthanded you might want to refrain from limping too often, although it is still acceptable.

You want to 3-bet with a wide range. A mistake often made by beginners is that they only 3-bet/4-bet hands like AAXX, making them very predictable. You need to realise that many hands have potential in PLO, but not all hands are playable. 3-betting should only be done for value, so make sure you have a strong starting hand when you decide to 3-bet. In PLO, 3-bets get called a lot more often than in Hold'em, so make sure that your 3-bet range doesn't only consist of Aces.

Position

Position in PLO is probably even more important than in Hold'em. If you are the preflop raiser and you miss the flop, it is often a guessing game whether or not your opponent hit the flop with one of his four cards. This chance is a lot bigger in PLO than in Hold'em. Lets say you 3-bet with AAXX and you get called. The flop shows {4-Spades}{6-Spades}{8-Clubs}. Are you going to continuation bet on this flop? A hand like this is very difficult to play out of position. You can bluff at the pot a lot easier when in position after the initial raiser checked the flop. Position is therefore very important and we'll discuss this in more detail in the postflop article. You therefore wan to play with a wider hand range in position than out of position, just like in Hold'em. This also means to often get rid of all your marginal hands in early position and when in the blinds because you will often have trouble on the flop after only semi-hitting the board.

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