Due to the increasing popularity of Omaha poker, it makes sense to dedicate an article to some of the basics of the game to quickly get you up to speed with it. This beginner’s guide to Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) covers starting hands, sizing of bets, and how to play your drawing hands.
Starting hands in Omaha
All beginner Omaha poker players should stick to playing only strong Omaha starting hands. The best starting hands in PLO are hands like A-A-K-K double suited. This hand can flop top set/quads, two different nut flush possibilities, a straight or some combination of those.
In fact, the best hands in PLO include all of the A-A-x-x starting cards, however the 2 extra cards you’re dealt will be a determining factor in how aggressively you can play these hands. Dry aces like A-A-7-2 will only be a marginal favorite preflop and the strength of the hand can change drastically postflop.
In multi way pots, you would like to have additional equity like being suited or having connected cards when you are putting your money in preflop, because even though any A-A-x-x is pretty much a favourite over any other hand, in Omaha you can easily be an underdog when involved in a pot against multiple opponents.
If you have a background in Hold’em you should know there are starting hands that appear strong but can get you into a lot of trouble in PLO. For example, a low/middle wrap double suited starting hand like 2-3-4-5 and 4-5-6-7 will play terribly in Omaha, especially out of position because most of the time even when you make a low straight or flush with these hands, it’s possible that a player has a higher straight or flush, so it can prove to be very costly chasing weaker draws that will not make the best hand.
In addition to this, some of the starting hands in PLO that can get you into some trouble are small and medium pairs. Small pairs don’t hold the same value in Omaha as they do in Hold’em especially when you’re involved in multi-way pots. You would really like some extra help with your extra 2 cards, because even though it may seem as though having a pair is a great position to be in, with every player getting four hole cards, they are more likely to flop really strong draws where it would be correct to stack off. Even if you flop a set, you won’t know for sure that your opponent isn’t holding an even higher set which would mean you’re basically drawing dead.
Bet sizing in Omaha
It is not uncommon to see pot-sized bets in PLO when you have a strong hand you want to bet enough to price out draws or get them to continue in the hand by calling with incorrect odds. When you’re playing Pot Limit Omaha, betting the pot is often going to be your most attractive option since your hand is vulnerable and susceptible to being outdrawn, and with each player dealt four hole cards, there are many more potential draws possible.
But it is not always correct to mash the pot button every time you’re betting. You have to consider the board and how it connects with your opponent’s range of hands. If betting the pot is just going to get weaker hands to fold that are a big underdog because you look super strong then you’ve played the hand poorly. Also, by having smaller sized post flop bets in your arsenal, it makes your bluffs cheaper, as in certain situations a smaller sized bet will still accomplish the same thing.
How to Play Drawing Hands
Knowing how to play drawing hands in PLO is also very important and this scenario will come up often. Just like in NLHE, you will need to learn to how to count the number of outs you have when drawing.
Before you should consider calling a pot sized bet with a drawing hand, count the number of outs that you can realistically expect to give you the winning hand if you hit. If the number of outs is 13 or more, you can call a pot sized bet knowing it will be profitable to do so in the long run once you also factor in implied odds. Sometimes, you will flop as many as 17-out and even 20-out straight draws, which can actually be favorites to win.
With Omaha being a post-flop game and trying to make nutted hands, for you to call another player’s big bet on the river on a dangerous looking board, you really need to have a good read on them. Usually when a player is coming out and firing big on the river in PLO, it means they have made a strong hand, and against most opponents, if you all you have is a bluff catcher, you should fold.
When all is said and done, PLO is gaining in popularity, and there are more and more players transitioning to Pot Limit Omaha. As a result of this, there will be lots of inexperienced Omaha players that have big leaks in their games. If you can stick to playing the strong Omaha starting hands that have decent post flop potential, then it’s simply a case of betting aggressively for value when you have a strong made hand or draw, and using some maths to help you decide whether or not you should call to try and improve to the best hand.
Also, it would be a good idea to bluff from time to time so to not look predictable and get your value bets paid off. As alluded to above in the bet sizing section, bet smaller if your hand isn’t vulnerable and there is a greater likelihood of getting called, as any thinking player will be cautious of pot sized bets. And think twice about calling your opponents big bets especially with marginal holdings. Remember that PLO is a game where you want to make the best possible hand.
A must-read if you’re just getting into Pot Limit Omaha is Pot-Limit Omaha Poker by Jeff Hwang. The author provides a solid understanding of starting hands you should play, which will help you to beat the lowest stakes of Pot Limit Omaha, both online and offline.