Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) is a high-action game that generates a lot of excitement and big pots. Though it shares some similarities with Texas Hold’em, mastering PLO requires a distinctive strategic approach. However, if you are well-versed in No Limit Texas Holdem, you can transition your game to Pot Limit Omaha by learning the key differences and developing strong fundamental strategies.
The Basics of Pot Limit Omaha (PLO)
The fundamental difference between PLO and Hold’em is the number of hole cards each player receives. In PLO, you’re dealt four hole cards, and you must use exactly two of them, in combination with exactly three community cards, to make your five-card hand. This rule significantly impacts hand strength and strategy. So, just like Texas Holdem, there is a flop of 3 cards, a turn card, and a river card. You must play exactly and only 2 of your four hole cards.
Strong starting hands in PLO are often run-downs (successive cards, e.g., 8765) or suited and double-suited cards, which give you multiple ways to make a strong hand (straights, flushes, full houses). High pairs are also strong, especially if they have suited or connected potential.
Starting Hands for PLO
In Pot Limit Omaha (PLO), the complexity of hand selection increases significantly compared to Texas Hold’em, as you’re dealt four hole cards instead of two. While there are more possibilities for making hands, it’s important to recognize that not all four-card combinations are equal. Here’s a basic guide for starting hands in Pot Limit Omaha:
1. High Double-Suited Connectors
Hands like A-K-Q-J, K-Q-J-T, or A-K-J-T, especially double-suited (two cards of one suit and two cards of another suit), are the best possible starting hands in PLO. They have a great potential for making high straights, flushes, and full houses.
2. High Pairs
High pairs such as A-A, K-K, or Q-Q with strong side cards (preferably suited or connected) are also strong starting hands. For instance, A-A-K-Q double-suited or A-A-J-T double-suited can give you a high set, nut flush draws, or strong straight possibilities.
3. Suited and Connected Hands
Four hole cards that are close in rank and suited, like 8-9-T-J or 9-T-J-Q, are very strong in PLO. These hands have a high potential to make straights and flushes. If double-suited, they provide more opportunities to make a flush.
4. High Suited Aces
Hands with a high suited Ace, such as A-K-7-5 where Ace and another card are suited, can be strong. They can make the nut flush, and if they connect with the board for a straight, it would be the higher end.
5. Mid-range Connected Hands
Mid-range, closely connected, and suited hands like 7-8-9-T or 6-7-8-9 can provide strong straight and flush possibilities. These can sometimes be dangerous as they will often make the lower end of a straight, but they have a good playability.
In PLO, strong draws often have significant equity. A hand with both straight and flush draws can often be a favorite over a made hand. Use this to your advantage and play these strong draws aggressively.
6. Avoid Weak Hands
Avoid hands with gaps, especially in the lower and middle ranges, like 4-6-9-J or 5-7-T-Q. Also, avoid hands that are dominated, such as A-2-3-4 where Ace is suited with the 2. While this hand can make a straight, it’s often a lower end, and the flush possibilities are minimal. Playing tight, particularly from early position, can save you a lot of trouble. Position is just as important in PLO as in Hold’em. Acting last provides more information, allowing you to make more informed decisions about whether to bet, call, raise, or fold.
Pot Control & Equity
In PLO, the size of the pot can escalate quickly due to the pot-limit betting structure. Keeping control of the pot size based on your hand strength and your opponents’ potential hands is a vital strategy. Small pots are easier to manage with marginal hands, while large pots are typically contested by very strong hands.
Hand equity runs much closer in PLO than in Hold’em. Even if you hold the current nuts (the best possible hand), your opponents often have significant equity to outdraw you on later streets. Be mindful of the “redraw” potential that could change the hand ranking significantly on the turn or river.
Beware of Traps
With four hole cards, the strength of hands in PLO is higher than in Hold’em. A set or even a straight can be a trap hand in PLO where it might be a strong hand in Hold’em. Always be aware of what better hands your opponents could have and avoid investing too heavily in second-best hands.
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