Pot-limit Omaha (PLO) is growing fast online. This version of poker may not yet be as ubiquitous as Texas no-limit Hold'em, but it has enjoyed an impressive surge in recent years as more and more players are discovering its potential for delivering big wins.
PLO is generally considered to be a more challenging game than Hold'em and most players (even good ones) struggle to make the transition smoothly. With more hole cards dealt to each player (four instead of two) there are more possibilities to create winning hands. This makes reading the game, and backing yourself, much harder to do – especially pre-flop.
To address some of these difficulties, this guide puts together some tips and strategies for players looking to make the switch successfully and add decent PLO skills to their poker repertoire.
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Position is important in all forms of poker, and committed students of Texas Hold'em strategy will be well aware of its value. In PLO, however, the power of position is enhanced even further.
Playing a successful game of PLO is all about understanding when you have the nuts (the best possible hand) and extracting the most value possible from this situation. This is much easier to do when you're in late position (the dealer) and other players have committed before seeing your move. In pot-limit Omaha, your maximum raise can only be as big as the pot, which will increase in size as the betting goes on, so late position also gives you the opportunity to raise by more.
When in early position (left of the big blind) you have to keep things tight and be extremely selective about the hands you play to avoid running into trouble.
Omaha poker is all about making the nuts. It therefore requires a completely different mindset to a game like Hold'em, where it is possible to regularly win pots without the best hand. There are so many cards in play in a game of PLO, that if you're not absolutely convinced you have the best hand, someone else probably does.
Be prepared to fold, even with a hand that would look good in Hold'em (a set or a straight, for example). This can be a tricky adjustment at first, but getting the hang of it is crucial.
Newcomers to PLO often make the mistake of overvaluing hole aces. Again, this is usually the result of carrying over some strategy from Texas Hold'em. It is generally quite difficult to play with aces successfully in PLO, so it's worth paying particular attention to this part of your game.
In Texas Hold'em, almost nothing can go wrong on the flop if you're holding a pair of aces. In Omaha poker, however, more cards means more chances for flushes and straights, so aces need to be backed up with strong related cards. AA backed up with a suited KK is technically still the best starting hand possible, because you can use either suit to make a royal flush, but it's not invincible, and aces on their own are very likely to be beaten.
Because there are no outright favourite pre-flop hands, PLO is won with careful calculation of odds following the flop. The range of possibilities combined with the pot-limit betting structure means that pre-flop bets will be small in comparison to bets at the river, when players have a better chance of working out what their opponents might have.
Many players enjoy PLO because of the fast-paced action. With four hole cards instead of two to play with, more hands are played and the pot size increases fast. However, as the action speeds up, so do the chances of losing, which makes shrewd bankroll management absolutely essential. PLO is best suited to patient, disciplined players who have enough in the bank to deal with sudden swings and the mental strength to cope when things don't go their way.
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