Back when I was getting into poker in 2005, the only games that anyone ever talked about were Limit and No Limit Holdem.
Limit was still the cash game of choice but NL was getting very popular. I read everything I could on poker at the time from players I admired and wanted to emulate.
The stuff I loved reading the most were Daniel Negreanu’s old blogs about his time in the 4000/8000 mixed game in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio. It blew my mind that they played so many crazy games at such a high level!
It must have taken years to get good at each of them. I told myself I wanted to learn all the games too, as quickly as possible.
Now the game list is a mile long and the Vegas mixed games are more about inventing new games to throw off the regulars rather than a small list of mainstays that have existed for decades.
I’ve been learning and playing the non-Holdem games for many years now and I have an absolute blast playing them every time. Most places run a PLO tournament or maybe a limit Omaha-8 tournament every once in a while, but if you ever get a chance to jump into a HORSE tournament you’ll be in for something special.
Lots of players jump in only knowing one or two of the games and if you’re under 40 you’ll often be the youngest face at the table. My job here is to give you a primer to make you a HORSE tournament winning player right off the bat.
Let’s start off “easy.”
Limit Holdem (LHE) has been around for as long as NLHE and was the primary cash game of choice up until the poker boom changed things around.
It’s an extremely aggressive game where you mostly fold preflop and then rarely fold postflop. Thin valuebets, awesome hero calls or hero laydowns still exist but on a much different scale than people are used to.
I wrote another article detailing a lot of the differences between NLHE and LHE, check that out for some more clarity on the subject.
I’m going to assume that people reading this are familiar with traditional NLHE strategy and hand quality.
NLHE is all about implied odds and making small investments early on and putting in a lot of money later when you are confident you have the best hand.
You don’t have the luxury of being able to bet huge to make up for early loose play in LHE, leaving you with far fewer opportunities to get value with your strong hands. As a result, preflop play is extremely aggressive.
In NLHE, if Middle Position raises and you’re on the button you would almost certainly have a flat call range. In LHE, you should rarely, if ever just call.
It’s 3bet or fold with pretty much your whole range. This is the case in LHE because it’s important to deprive players behind you of the great pot odds that they’d have if you were to just call.
In scenario A the player in the cutoff chose to flat call MP1’s raise, keeping the bet at $4. The button must call $4 to win a pot of $11, which comes out to 2.75 to 1. This means the button needs only 27% equity to call, allowing them to play a fairly wide range.
In scenario B the player in the cutoff chose to 3bet MP1’s raise, making the total bet $6. The button must now call $6 into a pot of $13, which comes out to 2.17 to 1. This means the button now needs 32% equity to call, forcing him to play a tighter range.
Postflop Play in Limit HoldEm
Since bluffing is far harder to do in LHE, this leads to situations where your entire range is valuebetting. But because your opponent is getting such great odds, it doesn’t even matter.
They’re often forced to call because you could be valuebetting worse or because they might have enough equity against some of your range.
Because your range is often comprised of mostly valuebets, it’s rare that someone will try bluff raising. After all, you’ll be getting massive odds and some of your hands can easily reraise.
If you’re the aggressor in a hand it’s generally best to follow through with another bet on the next street. The turn can be the exception because the bet size doubles, cutting your pot odds nearly in half.
If you bet the turn and get called, it’s very likely you should bet the river unless an absolutely terrible card comes for your hand. Even then betting is sometimes reasonable because it’s unlikely you’re folding if you check and it’s unlikely they have a hand to raise with.
The biggest gap in skill tends to come on the river. Thin LHE valuebets are the hallmark of the game and most recreational players check all but their very strongest hands for reasons which still kind of escape me.
For this reason, you can play extremely exploitable on the river against certain opponents. Against a lot of tight players you can easily fold all hands worse than top pair despite your amazing pot odds.
All your NLHE skills come into play, you just have to completely warp the ranges that you are used to playing against.
Many people have transitioned from NLHE to LHE before, just jump straight in and get your feet wet.
You may like it, but don’t drown.
Got any PLO experience? It doesn’t matter. This game is nothing like that.
Limit Omaha 8 or better (LO8) is a game of hand selection and controlling the number of people you’re playing against.
The absolute 100% truth of this game is that any hand worth playing generally has an ace in it. There are ZERO premium hands in this game that don’t have an ace and a wheel card.
is pretty, but requires a very specific board.
Postflop hands change value too.
Flop top set on an board?
Guess what, you’re only playing for half the pot, and you might have to fold the flop sometimes!
Limit games are all about the odds you’re receiving. O8 is generally the first introduction for a lot people to split pot games.
Split pot games are different from other poker games, where winning a hand usually results in a large positive net.
A lot of the time in shorthanded O8 pots, you’re fighting for the money you’ve already put in the pot.
You often have to make a decision early in the hand whether or not to call down just to try and get that preflop 3bet back or sacrifice it to the Omaha demons (which sounds like a Nebraskan biker gang).
Preflop in Omaha-8
Let’s look at basic hand selection. There are 2 main types of hands in this game: Multiway and “I don’t care.”
Multiway hands include hands like KQJT, KKTT, 2345, A345, JJT9 and other similar very high or very low rundowns.
These hands can smack a flop and have a field of opponents drawing very slim for at least half the pot. These hands don’t often hit the board very hard but they scoop a large % of the time when they do.
In a large multiway pot, you should be prepared to fold these as soon as they can’t scoop. But feel free to invest even 4 bets preflop with the strongest of them because they have high implied odds against players unable to fold.
You should not reraise these hands before the flop and you should often just limp them in to encourage people to enter the pot behind you with weaker holdings.
If you have A245 you want the clown with 23K8 to limp behind you and get trapped when he flops a bad low.
Same goes for high hands. When you have KKJJ and flop top set, you want as many people in the pot as you can possibly get.
“I don’t care” hands include your real premium hands that can play against any number of people.
In general these hands contain the cream of the crop in terms of high and low. Hands like:
- AK with a wheel card like
- AA with a wheel card like
- Strong hands like
These hands have the best equity you can hope for and hit the most number of flops.
If you want to value raise or isolate a loose opener preflop, these are the hands to do it.
Big blind coldcalls your 3bet? DON’T CARE. There are rarely times when you flop absolutely nothing with these stronger hands and only in the biggest multiway pots should you have to tread lightly.
These are the only hands you should go out of your way to play unless you have a lot of experience playing postflop in this game. It’s extremely hard to play too tight in this game but it’s very easy to play too loose, so until you are ready to open up your game it’s best to stick to playing your strong multiway or premium anyway hands.
Postflop in Omaha-8
Multiway postflop play in O8 is all about evaluating how good or live your draw likely is.
People love to say Omaha is a drawing game and that’s true to a point. Adding a low draw to the roster adds a huge component to the game not found in PLO games.
It lets people who know they have half the pot locked up to be able to bet with impunity, so someone with a very strong high hand gets to jam the pot with the low hand and make it so anyone with a draw has to pay the maximum in order to make their hand.
Your low flush draws need to be played carefully unless you have other things to go with it (pairs, decent low draws, straight draws). Generally unless you have a nut draw you should be folding as soon as you are confident you are only drawing to half the pot.
Weak draws such as bad low draws, flush draws on paired boards, gutshot or non nut straight draws should all be folded in a multiway pot because they are unlikely to be good or even hold if you make them.
Heads up pots allow you to call much more liberally with your weaker hands. You’re often getting great odds and only have one hand to contend with, so it’s rare that you are able to fold any sort of reasonable high or low hand.
Generally on the river if you’re getting 6:1 to call and you have a pair and any low you have to pay off unless the board is absolutely terrible for you.
An example of an “absolutely terrible” board would be 345xx, because it’s fairly likely A2xx is in the pot.
There is far more to LO8 than here but this should give you a good start on the hands you should avoid playing and how not to get yourself into too much trouble. In part 2 of this primer, we will delve into Razz and Stud.
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Poker player, food expert, and dog dad.