Considering a switch to the great game of Pot Limit Omaha? Well, you’re in luck!
Check out the infographic below for the basic differences between No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha, and read on for an advanced explanation from PLO theory expert Tom Chambers.
Taking the PLOnge (Part 1)
The purpose of this 2-part article series is to outline the core items a No Limit Hold’em player should understand before switching to Pot Limit Omaha.
It is likely that some of the material will be familiar or quickly understood by some readers, but even those items are worth repeating because they help form the foundation of a good PLO strategy.
There are obvious similarities between the two games.
- Both are flop games with four streets of betting and ‘standard’ starting stacks of 100BB.
- Both are big-bet games (though the pot-limit restriction in PLO takes on greater significance when comparing the two).
- At showdown, both games use (at most) two hole cards, so interpreting the possibilities on a given board is reasonably familiar.
At the same time, the massive difference between the games is of course the additional two hole cards in PLO, which multiplies by 6 the number of two-card combinations and significantly increases the absolute strength of the average hand.
The goal of this article is to expand on the impact of the two additional hole cards and more subtly understand what it means that everyone has a stronger absolute range.
How Equities Differ in Pot Limit Omaha
In addition to the obvious increase in absolute hand strength, another key effect of having four-card hands is that hand values run closer together. (Only in the very rare case where all relevant players know exactly which two cards they will use at showdown would this not be true.)
In reality, equity match-ups are typically a composite of multiple possibilities, with each player gaining equity from multiple components of their respective hand. Even if one player has a pure fixed-value hand like top set with no redraws, his opponent(s) are most likely to have combo draws that use multiple combinations.
This idea is well known even among inexperienced PLO players, but what to do about it is not.
The best AAxx hands have -70% pre-flop equity versus a random hand (AA has 85% in NLHE), and nearly every pre-flop matchup between good hands is 55/45 or similar.
The same is true post-flop. Although there are individual dominating scenarios, most key flop and turn hand versus range matchups are in the 60/40 range or closer (monotone and paired boards are notable exceptions).
This makes it very important to correctly account for the distribution of equity over future streets and for the ranges being set up for future streets. Finding equity edges matters, but playability matters more. An easy way to lose money playing PLO is to consistently put yourself in spots where a good opponent can force you to fold significant equity.
Board Texture Shifts in Pot Limit Omaha
In order to account for the distribution of equities over future streets, it is necessary to understand two things about board texture shifts:
- How shifts in the board texture influence equity relationships
- How likely different board texture shifts are given particular flops.
Of course, board texture shifts occur in NLHE too, but they are more relevant in PLO. This is because PLO ranges always contain the relevant high-card strength, suitedness, and connectedness combinations.
The proportion of ranges that flop sets, straight, flushes, wraps, flush draws and combo draws depends on the flop, but there is almost always greater and smoother coverage of all runout possibilities in PLO than NLHE. For example:
No Limit Hold’em Cash Game, 100BB Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt X X in the Cutoff
folds to co, Hero raises to 2.5BB, Only Big Blind calls
Flop (Pot: 5.5BB)
Big Blind checks, Hero bets 4BB, Big Blind calls
Turn (Pot: 13.5BB)
The turn completes a straight draw and brings backdoor flush and straight draws. 76, K9 and 98 improve, with 76 taking over the vulnerable top spot as the current nuts.
But because this is NLHE, the majority of the action is happening among weaker hands than two pair, and backdoor spades and turned straight draws are present, but rare.
Let’s imagine this hand was PLO. Now, there are a lot more combinations of 76 and a ton of Kxxx combinations that pick up spades and/or at least a gutshot, and all of the several river card contingencies are in play.
The board texture shift from the flop to the turn in this hand was a significant one. It shifted from a suited and moderately connected flop with a fairly strong top set to a double-suited and very connected turn with a very vulnerable nut straight.
The smoother coverage of board texture runouts coupled with higher absolute hand strength makes having the nuts and drawing to the nuts much more crucial in PLO.
The Importance of the Nuts in PLO
It is important to understand that the nuts is not always present, but it is always relevant.
On the flop and the turn, there are many cases where the current nuts and the best draws to beat it have similar equity – in those cases it is most accurate to say the ‘very top’ of ranges is always relevant.
Even when the nuts and/or hands with equivalent equity are not in anyone’s hand, they are a large enough part of everyone’s range to impact hand versus range equities and the options available to the upper-middle and middle of ranges.
It is (usually) criminal to not raise the river with the second or third nuts in NLHE; in PLO it is often suicidal if you do. Once you factor in the reduced chance of extracting value from weaker hands and the greater probability of paying off the nuts, it should become clear why drawing to non-nut hands is dangerous.
That’s not to say non-nut hands and draws are worthless. They certainly have value, both in terms of raw equity and realizable equity, but they are always much stronger in a multi-component hand that has nuttiness in some direction. For example:
The flush draw equity of…
…will be much easier to realize on…
…because the hand has more nuttiness and multiple components on the former board.
That wraps up part 1 of this series. In the next installment, I’ll explain when it is correct and incorrect to draw analogies between NLHE hands and PLO hands. Watch out for that in the coming weeks here on Upswing.
(Note: Want to take your PLO game to the next level without spending a dime? Grab our guide 10 Pot Limit Omaha Secrets Exposed for free by clicking HERE or on the image below!)
Tom Chambers is a professional PLO and mixed games player, writer, and coach. He is the author of Advanced PLO Theory, widely recognized as the most comprehensive, and deeply researched strategy guide to PLO available. Tom is an Elite Pro at Runitonce.com and coaches the Elite Fundamentals course at PokerJuice.com. His website is PLO Theory and he can be reached at [email protected] In addition to Advanced PLO Theory, he has written Live Full Ring PLO and PLO Multi-Table Tournaments, and he will be releasing several more books in 2017.