Preflop play in Pot Limit Omaha can be daunting.
There are 270,725 hands to wade through, and the all-in equities of said hands run very closely together.
A♠A♦K♠K♦ is arguably the best starting hand in PLO. Let’s take a look at its equity against T♠8♣4♣2♥:
This garbage hand musters over 34% equity against an absolute monster.
Edges get smaller as equities run closer together, which is why PLO feels more gamble-y than NLH. But there are still tactics you can use to maximise your edge preflop and set yourself up for success postflop.
We’ll talk about two preflop tactics in this article: ‘pushing’ and ‘pulling’. These tactics can help give structure to the often-confusing world of preflop PLO.
Let’s get straight to it.
Pushing vs pulling in Pot Limit Omaha
‘Pushing’ and ‘pulling’ describe the two approaches we can take with a hand preflop. More specifically:
- Pushing: The act of fast-playing to reduce the number of players that will see a flop
- Pulling: The act of calling to induce other players to call as well
If you’re a No Limit Hold’em player, you’ve probably used similar tactics. Consider:
- All the times you’ve attempted to ‘push’ multiple opponents out of the pot preflop by squeezing with a strong-but-vulnerable hand like AQo
- The many times you’ve limped behind with a small pair to ‘pull’ more opponents into the pot for when you spike a set
That said, figuring out which hands to pull and push with is more complicated in PLO than NLH. Let’s dive into specifics.
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Which hands should you push with?
When pushing, our main goal is to minimise the number of players in the hand. Therefore, we should choose to push with hands that play well in large, heads-up pots.
Hands that benefit from low stack-to-pot ratios–which allows us to get all-in on earlier streets–function well as pushes. Semi-connected, double-suited broadway pair holdings–think K♠K♥7♠8♥–and double-paired, double-suited middling hands–think T♦T♣9♦9♣–are candidates that do well when the SPR is low.
Multi-component hands function well as pushes as well. (If you’re unfamiliar with preflop components in PLO, read this article.). Hands with multiple components will connect with the flop across a variety of textures, thus allowing us to exert more pressure on our opponent(s).
Here are five examples of hands you should usually look to push with:
- AA45 single-suited
- JJT9 double-suited
- 9988 double-suited
- ATTx double-suited
- T987 double-suited
Which hands should you pull with?
Our goal when pulling is to incentivise calls from the players behind. The resulting multiway pot means we should look to pull with hands that can make the nuts relatively easy.
A single-suited, connected hand like A♦T♣9♦8♠ is a prime example of a pulling hand as it can hit the nut flush and multiple nut straights. If we make our hand, we may win a big pot against a player with the second or third nuts, who came in behind us with a weak range.
Pulling hands realise their equity in a rough way–they hit a narrow range of board textures–and thus perform best when the SPR is high. It’s typically best to avoid committing to the pot with hands that realise their equity in a rough way.
Here are five examples of hands that function well as pulls:
- JT98 unsuited
- QQ98 single-suited
- AJ89 single-suited
- 789T unsuited
- AK98 double-suited
But it isn’t always that simple
Some hands are exceptions to the pushing/pulling categorisation method used above.
Very strong hands that are connected, double-suited and A-high–think AKQJ or AKT7–may seem like pulling hands, but they are simply too strong to play as a call. Pushing with such hands is more effective, as it will allow you to extract value and thin the field, which means your great equity is more likely to hold.
Similarly, there are instances where we should pull with hands that we would usually push with. For instance, using a push hand as a pull is a good adjustment if there have been multiple callers and we don’t have enough fold-equity to justify pushing given the strength of our hand.
Don’t get carried away with pushing people around
Be careful not to go overboard when it comes to pushing and pulling. Just because a hand seems like a push doesn’t mean you should raise it–or even play it–every time. For example:
$1/$2 PLO Cash Game. 100BB Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt J♠8♦7♠6♦ in the CO
Tight player raises to $6 from UTG. 5 folds. Hero…
Despite boasting multiple features of a typical pushing hand, this hand should be folded. Since we are up against a strong UTG opening range, pushing with a relatively marginal hand like this one would be far too loose.
J♠8♦7♠6♦ will find itself in a lot of tough spots postflop, and will often lose big pots at showdown when it hits good-but-second-best hands.
Keep this idea in mind when categorising your hands. Don’t just push or pull for the sake of it – think about the ranges of your opponents and how your exact hand will shape up against them before you make your decision.
Final thoughts on pushing & pulling
Following the core principles outlined above is a good starting point, but always remember that your ranges should be fluid and exploitative adjustments should be made depending on the tendencies of your opponents.
Good luck at the tables!
P.S.: My next PLO article is going to involve analysing some interesting high-stakes hands – if you’ve got any requests for fun hands that you want analysed, tweet me at @GeorgeCMathias or post them in the comments section.
Read more from George and Upswing Poker:
- Learn more PLO preflop strategy with PLO Starting Hands: 3 Things You Must Consider
- PLO theory expert Tom Chambers explains What You Must Know Before Switching to PLO
- Make sure you don’t believe any of these 5 Tournament Myths Way Too Many Players Believe
- Go back to the top of this article on pushing and pulling in PLO