How to Play Omaha and Pot Limit Omaha (PLO)
The basics of No-Limit Hold’em and Omaha are very similar, and rankings are the same, and betting rounds follow exactly the same procedure, but Omaha players get to start with more cards. WPT Global to your device and let’s look further at Omaha and Pot Limit Omaha.
Omaha players are dealt four cards (there are variants that use five or six). There are the same four betting rounds as in No-Limit Hold’em, and every player must make their best five-card poker hand using a combination of the cards in their hand (their hold cards) and the community cards.
The major difference between the two games is players must use exactly two of their hold cards and exactly threeof the five community cards. This sounds like a small change, but, combined with the larger number of hold cards, makes for a very different game.
What is PLO and How to Bet
Although Omaha is played limit - fixed betting increments that set the minimum and maximum bet allowed at any time - (and occasionally no limit) it is most popularly played as a pot limit game more commonly known as PLO. This means the minimum bet is the size of the big blind, while the maximum bet is “the pot,” taking into account not only the money all players have already invested, but any call amount facing you.
For example, in a $1/$2 game, there are two $2 limpers in front of you, and you pick up a strong hand and “raise pot,” the size of the current pot, plusthe call amount. So, $1 small blind + $2 big blind + $4 in limpers’ calls = $7. The current amount to call is $2. Therefore the bet made when raising the pot is the call amount ($2) plus the pot ($9) = $11.
Although it can take some quick calculation when live pots get big, playing PLO online takes the effort out of working out the maximum bet – the betting slider only goes to the max of raising the pot.
What Are the Best PLO Starting Hands?
When moving to Omaha from No-Limit Hold’em, the options for hitting flops and improving hands when they have four (or more) cards in them may seem limitless, but this “must see three” approach can be costly, as not all starting hands are equal.
Remember that doubling the number of hold cards makes for a much larger number of distinct two-card combos – 16,432 as compared with 169 in No-Limit Hold’em. The way hands work as a whole,however, is the key to their strength.
Pairs, especially small ones, can be overvalued by beginners moving over from Hold’em. Facing betting on a river with a coordinated board, single pairs, even overpairs, are not going to be ahead a lot of the time. Being wary of throwing in preflop chips with “high pair and any other two” hands is wise: Jh Js 6d 5d is a very different proposition from Qd Js Jd Ts. Why? Because of the coordination of the hands: the latter is both double-suited and a partial run-down containing multiple cards in a potential straight.
The best starting hands in Omaha contain coordinated double-suited aces with the top starting hand being Aces and Kings double-suited, for example As Ah Ks Kh. Put any other connected, suited broadway cards next to Aces and those hands are only slightly behind that in strength (e.g. As Ah Qs Jh). These hands benefit from making the guaranteed top set when they do make a set, as well as the possibility to make two nut flushes and top straights. These are the sorts of hands that get paid against weaker versions of those hands.
Starting out playing PLO, the temptation is to see a lot of flops with all sorts of hands, but in general by playing strong (coordinated, high) hands, you will avoid being the value that hits a bit of a flop - a weak two pair, for example - or pays off stronger straights, flushes or sets.
How to Build Effective Pot Limit Omaha Strategy
Being selective with starting hands is the first key element to beginner Omaha strategy. Remember, too, that hand strengths on average will be higher: winning hands will be stronger than those in the two-card game, and the nuts (the best possible hand currently available) and draws to it become of paramount importance.
Starting hands in Omaha run much closer in terms of equity than in hold’em, but it’s not often you’re going to get all-in preflop and see all five board cards. Playing pot limit puts the brakes on this, too, as there is not usually the option to simply move all-in preflop and take your chances with the deck as there is in Hold-em. Be aware of flop texture and learn to fold – especially bare overpairs – when there is no draw and no real chance to improve.
Being constantly aware of what the current nut hand would be, and what draws are afforded by a flop or turn, is vital. Drawing to non-nut straights and flushes can be an expensive experience.
Let’s use an example with three players to showdown - and a board of Ks Qs Th 9s 9d - to see how different hands play out in Omaha and their differences from No-Limit Hold’em
Player 1’s hole cards: Jh Js 6d 5d. Player 1 does not have a straight – unlike in Hold’em, this player cannot use a single card from their hand and four from the board to make a straight, Nine-to-King. The best hand they can make is two pair, using the Jh Js from their hand and the 9s 9d Ks from the board.
Player 2’s hole cards: As Kd Qd 5s. Player 2 uses the As 5s from their hand with the Ks Qs 9s from the board to make an Ace-high flush.
Player 3’s hole cards:Qh Qc Tc 9c. Player 3 uses the pair of queens from their hand with Qs 9s 9d from the board to make a full house, Queens over Nines – the winning hand.
What Are the Main Differences Between Omaha (PLO) and Hold’em
The only difference between the two games is any combination of hold cards and the board in Hold’em makes the best five-card poker hand, while all versions of Omaha require exactly two from your hand and three from the board.
The two games play out very differently, and simply copy-pasting Hold’em strategy into a PLO game leads to mistakes.
Aces in PLO may be part of the strongest starting hands, but on their own, postflop, they are a single pair. Without a second suited card (giving nut flush possibility) or high connectors, Aces as an overpair alone can only go so far. In a multiway pot, especially, a pair of Aces with no “back-up” is rarely the best hand. Aces are over an 80% favorite vs. Kings, all-in preflop in Hold’em, but disconnected aces vs. suited, connected Kings (Kd Qd Ks Ts for example) in this situation in Omaha are only a 60% favorite. Moving to Omaha from Hold’em involves cooling the love affair with pairs of aces alone.
Be prepared for an increase in swings when playing all Omaha versions. Hands are closer in equity pre and post-flop, and situations occur regularly where one player holds the current nuts on the flop, for example, but another has so many outs they are a coinflip or better to win. This is a recipe for frequent big pots, where money changes hands without either player being a big underdog when the chips fly in.
The action-boosting qualities of PLO are part of what makes it so popular both live and online, a fun and challenging variant to learn and play. as long as you are correctly bankrolled to play in a game where you’ll have to absorb bigger swings.
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