How To Play

Learn how to play poker in minutes with our guide to the basics

PLO (Pot-Limit Omaha)

Texas Hold’em is the gateway to many different variations of poker for most players. One of the most popular versions today is playing Omaha - specifically playing Pot-Limit Omaha, more commonly known as PLO.

The largest difference between Texas Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha is apparent to you when you’re dealt your very first hand. You receive four hole cards instead of two. Another big fundamental difference between the two games is that you need to play exactly two hole cards from your hand with three community cards on the board. 

The hand rankings are exactly the same as shown in our How to Play Texas Hold’em introduction - royal flush is the best hand and then ranked down from there - and the same betting rounds exist in Hold’em and PLO, as shown in our Hold’em introduction.

While starting hand values are similar, that value is strongly influenced by the wide variety of four-card combinations. PLO is a game with a lot of action thanks to receiving four cards in your hand, creating possibilities for stronger hands needed to win most pots.

Pot-Limit Betting Rules

The betting rounds are the same, with a preflop betting round, and additional rounds after the flop, turn, and river, but PLO allows players to bet the total size of the pot anytime it’s their turn to act in any round. You can get into a pot pretty cheap early in a hand of Pot-Limit Omaha, but by the end of the pot bets are going to become quite costly.

Play Stronger Hands than Hold’em in PLO 

Starting hands are actually closer in strength in PLO at the start of the hand preflop, leading most players to entering pots with a wider range of starting hands than hold’em. But don’t start to think that any four cards can win, you still need to be selective with your starting hands. 

PLO is considered more of a drawing game than Hold’em, but if you do not connect on the flop you need to fold your hand. You also need to understand that due to the amount of hand possibilities available to be made with each player holding four cards, you will only want to call down to the river for a showdown with very strong hands.

Strategy Differences Between Hold’em and PLO for Beginners

PLO is usually the first variation of poker that beginning players branch out to from Hold’em, so it is key to be aware of some other differences between the two games that might catch you off guard when first playing PLO. Hold’em players tend to overvalue pair and two-pair in PLO (especially if they’re dealt a pocket pair), as well as weaker straight and flush draws. 

If you decide to chase a draw, you’ll most often want to draw to the nuts since there are so many other hand possibilities with the amount of cards in play, and it’s going to cost you with the Pot-Limit betting structure. This is another reason you should be very selective about the strength of your starting hands when you start playing the game. 

Those initial “lessons” you’re going to have to pay for as you make early mistakes while learning PLO are going to cost a lot more, and then you can open your starting range as you get more comfortable with the variation.

Examples of Good and Bad Pot-Limit Omaha Starting Hands

So what kind of starting hands should you be looking for in Pot-Limit Omaha? 

Double-suited hands are the best hands to play preflop. Ideally you would want Spade_1 Heart_1 Club_13 Heart_13 but even hands like Club_1 Diamond_1 Club_8 Diamond_7 give you a lot of possibilities. 

Just like Hold’em you want the starting hands you decide to play to be suited and/or connected. Obviously, hands with two pair, such as Club_1 Diamond_1 Diamond_12 Heart_12 are strong as well. 

On the flip side of this for starting hands, you want to avoid playing hands that contain danglers. 

A dangler is a card that doesn’t connect to any of the other cards in your starting hand. If you choose to enter a pot with Spade_13 Diamond_13 Diamond_12 Heart_5, you are essentially playing with just three cards and putting yourself at a major disadvantage against the rest of your opponents that are playing with four cards.