A Beginner’s Guide to Pot Limit Omaha (PLO)

Read out guide to playing PLO before you jump in and try this crazy game

Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker variant in the world today, but pot-limit Omaha is surging in popularity. Pot-limit Omaha, often abbreviated to PLO, is similar to Texas Hold’em, but there are some notable differences. Online poker sites, cardrooms around the United States and further afield offer PLO cash games. Some offer PLO tournaments, although these are much rarer.

Biggest Differences Between PLO and Hold’em

The biggest difference you will notice between PLO and Hold’em is you are dealt four hole cards instead of two. This is not an issue online where your cards are displayed in front of you. Live, however, can take some getting used to when it comes to peeking at your starting hand. You do not use all four cards to make a poker hand, but you must use exactly two of them. New PLO players often fall foul of this rule.

For example. If you hold Ac-Kh-Qs-Jh, which is a strong starting hand in PLO, and the board falls Kc-Ts-7c-6c-2c, you do not hold a flush even though you have the Ac in your hand. Neither do you have a straight. Your hand is a pair of kings with an ace-kicker. Hand rankings are the same as Hold’em, however,

Betting structure is another major difference between PLO and Texas Hold’em. No Limit is the preferred betting structure for Texas Hold’em, with PLO players preferring pot-limit. Pot-limit means you can only bet the size of the pot including the amount it takes to call. Players new to PLO find this confusing. Online PLO players can simply click the “pot” button. Those of you who are trying PLO in an actual card room can announce “pot” and the dealer will assist you.

Preflop Hand Strength is Much Closer

Hand equities run much closer in PLO than they do in a Texas Hold’em game. Pocket aces have more than 82 percent equity against pocket kings in Hold’em, more if the suits are the same. A similar set up in PLO is much different. Ac-Ad-7h-6h against Kc-Kd-Qs-Jh is less than a 60 percent favorite.

Players tend to play more hands as a result of this closeness in preflop hand strength. This, in turn, leads to PLO being more of a drawing game and one that creates more action. You often find PLO players are among the most loose-aggressive poker players on the planet.

It should be obvious by now that you need a stronger hand to win at showdown in PLO than Hold’em. Regulars in Hold’em games are used to winning pots with a single pair, something that is uncommon in PLO. Even hands as strong as two pair are often not the best hand by the river.

PLO Starting Hands and Strategy

The biggest mistake players new to Omaha make is believing any four cards are playable. There is far less bluffing in PLO than Hold’em and it is more difficult to force an opponent to fold. Being dealt a pair of aces is a good base, but they are very unlikely to win the pot at showdown unless they improve.

A pair of aces with a pair of kings doubled suited, that is the aces and kings share the same suit, is the best starting hand in PLO. Hands such as this do not come around often so you need to think about playing a range of hands.

Keeping with aces, hands such as Ax-Ax-Qx-Jx are strong as they give you the possibility of drawing to a straight in addition to being able to flop top set. Double suited run-down hands such as Jd-Th-9h-8d are also strong.

Try to avoid playing small pairs because they rarely improve to the best hand; you will usually have bottom set and your hand is vulnerable. Do not fall into the trap of playing a hand such as Kd-Kc-6s-5c because you will not be drawing to the best hand.

That is a cardinal rule of Pot-Limit Omaha: try to always draw to the best hand, or the nuts. Making a second-best hand is expensive in this format, many players have decimated their bankroll due to poor starting hand selection.

Huge Swings Are Possible

Be aware that the swings, or variance, in PLO is much higher than any other game. This is due to the closeness of the preflop hand strengths and the fact you can have 20 outs! It is possible to go on huge winning streaks playing PLO, read about Sami Kelopuro to see what we mean. The other side of the coin is also true with large, frequent losses being commonplace.

Just make sure you have an ample bankroll before sitting down in an Omaha cash game. We recommend at least 50 buy-ins for the stakes you are playing, increasing as you climb stakes. Above all, enjoy the game. It is crazy and often infuriating, but it sure is great fun.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.

News

Cary Katz Wins Super High Roller Bowl London

Three Poker Legends No Longer With Us

Cates and Trincher File Objection to Ivey’s Ceased Winnings