PLO Strategy: Tight Is Right

Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) is known as an action game because of all the possibilities coming with having four cards compared to the two in No-Limit Hold’em. With that action and seemingly endless possibilities comes a problem many new players discover to be a big leak - playing too many hands.

When you’re used to looking down at 7-2, 8-3 and J-4 offsuit in NLH and pitching it into the muck, a PLO player seeing a suited Ace, or a hand containing A-K or A-Q feels like a monster, with a blind eye often turned to the ‘danglers’, those unconnected remaining cards.

In PLO, we need all four cards working together, not just two. A hand like A-K-Q-J is a genuine monster. But A-K-7-3 should be folded without a second thought.

While there’s always an exception that proves the rule (step forward Tom Dwan!), nearly every new player to PLO would benefit from being more selective preflop and playing less hands.

Hand ranges run so close together in PLO that you’re never too far behind, but in a game of small edges, making sure you’re on the good side of those small edges is crucial.

Because of the pot limit nature of the game, it can also be tempting to see flops, but that preflop mistake often leads to further costly errors on later streets. Tun and river decisions can be so difficult that three world class players might make a case to give three different pieces of advice on what your best move is, but making sure your preflop range is correct, that you’re not playing too many hands, can solve these problems before they arrive.

It’s key to remember that winning big pots in PLO relies on dominating your opponent's holdings - holding the Ace-high flush against the King-high flush, holding a Jack-high straight on a 7-8-9 board and not a 10-high straight … and while getting away from a set is always difficult, playing big pairs instead of any pair will see you on the right side of any set over set coolers more often. 

Best Starting Hands

The best PLO starting hands contain high cards, suited, or connected, and preferably both. Our preflop selection is influenced by how likely we are to improve to the nuts later in the hand.

Suited hands are preferred because a single-suited hand flops a flush 1% of the time and a flush draw 12% of the time, while double-suited hands flop a flush 2% of the time and a flush draw 24% of the time.

Double-suited hans flop either a flush draw or a backdoor flush draw 85% of the time. Of course double suited Aces is the perfect starting hand, either A-A-K-K or A-A-J-T, with any flush draw always to the nuts.

Connected cards are more important in PLO than in hold’em because extra cards equates to bigger draws. Ignoring suits, an open-ended straight draw has eight straight card outs, but a wrap in PLO gives as many as 20.

Rundown hands like J-T-9-8 flop a straight 5% of the time, a 12-card wrap 18% of the time and an open-ended straight draw or nine-card wrap 13% of the time.

Gapped rundowns can give even more outs, but it’s important to note some of those are not to the nuts, and we prefer a gap at the bottom (eg J-T-9-7) to a gap at the top (eg J-9-8-7) because these hands flop higher draws and more outs to the nuts. On a flop of J-8-6, a holding of T-9-7-5 has the full 20 outs, 14 to the nuts. 

PLO players will never tire of telling NLH players how much more fun the four-card game is, but if you’re serious about winning, it is important not to get carried away having too much fun playing every hand! 

The most fun you can have playing poker is winning, and being selective and plugging preflop leaks is the best way to achieve this.