Pot Limit Omaha Guide
A Beginners Guide to PLO Poker
Pot Limit Omaha is a clear 2nd after Texas Hold’em in popularity. This game, popularly known as PLO, has a flop, turn and river – just like in Texas Hold’em – and used the standard poker hand rankings at showdown. In Pot-Limit Omaha, each player gets 4 hole-cards. A hand needs to use 2 of those 4 cards, along with 3 of the 5 community cards. This, along with pot-limit betting – adds a fresh take on strategy during play.
This guide to Pot-Limit Omaha gives you everything you need to get started. There are also strategy tips below, to help you get off to a flying start. Here is what you will find below:
- How Pot-Limit Betting Works
- Starting Hand Selection in Pot Limit Omaha
- How a Hand Plays Out, From Start to Finish
- Strategy Considerations
- Pot Limit Omaha in Different Poker Formats
- Low Stakes Games and How to Adjust to Fish
Pot Limit Omaha Guide: How Pot Limit Betting Works
Before getting into the starting hands and game-play, it is important to understand how pot-limit betting differs from no-limit game. Instead of being able to bet the any amount of chips, pot-limit rules mean you can only bet the size of the current pot.
This has strategy implications, especially on earlier streets. You can’t go all-in – or bet an amount that would give your opponent a bad price to call when the pot is small. You will find pots start small, then grow exponentially as the hand progresses.
For example, if a pot is $5, and one player bets $5 more, the maximum raise becomes $20 more. This is the $5 pot, plus the $5 bet, plus a call of the $5 raise – along with your raise. If the next player wanted to ‘re-pot’, they could raise to $80 – and so on.
If you are enjoying PLO online, then the sites will work out the max bet for you (there will be a ‘bet pot’ button). In live games you can always ask the dealer to assist you if you are unsure.
Pot Limit Omaha Guide: Starting Hand Selection
A fundamental difference between Omaha poker and Texas Hold’em is the number of drawing hands available. In Pot Limit Omaha, you can have so many outs on the flop with some hands, that you are a favourite to win the hand, even against hands like Aces or a set. This takes some getting used to for new players. Those moving over from Texas Hold’em often over-value hands like over pairs to the flop or two-pair. A better way to approach PLO is to ask yourself whether your hand or draws have ‘nut potential’.
With hands needing two cards from your own four, and three from the board (with no other combinations possible), strong starting hands have cards which work well together. Think of your starting hands as a group of combinations.
If you have K-K-3-8 with 4 suits, only 2 cards work together to make a nut hand on the flop (the kings). Unless you hit a miracle board, any coordinated (suited or connected cards) will be a big danger to you. Compare this with A-A-J-10 with 2 suits to the aces. Here you have many different combinations which work for you. Flushes and straights you hit are likely to be strong, and pairing the ace will give you top set. There are 6x 2-card combinations working in your favour here.
Here are some examples of strong Po-Limit Omaha starting hands.
- A-A-K-K or A-A-J-10 Double Suited to the aces. These are considered the best starting hands possible, and should always be played aggressively. It is the multiple ways to make the nuts which makes these hands stand out – as well as their high card strength.
- A-K-J-Q (or similar suited Broadways). Once again, you have a shot at the nut straight, and preferably two flushes. Against opponents prone to overplaying smaller straights, these hands can be excellent – they also remove key cards from the deck, making it harder for opponents to have aces of kings.
- K-K—8-8 or Q-Q-9-10: These are examples of high pair hands with either an additional pair or some coordinated side cards. These can make nut hands, though keep in mind that it is hard to win a big pot with an unimproved over-pair in Omaha.
- 6-7-8-9 or 7-8-9-10: Known as rundown hands, you can make a lot of different straights. For example, on a board of 4-5-8, any 3, 6, or 7 gives you the nuts with 5-6-7-8. Suited combinations are valuable as a backup with this type of hand.
What you should avoid is mid pairs and uncoordinated hands with one or two high cards and no backup. These fair badly against exactly the types of hand covered above.
Running Through a Hand of Pot Limit Omaha
This section walks through a hand from start to finish, street by street. This includes the showdown, where the special 2 / 3 rule applies.
Pre-Flop: First two blinds are placed by the players to the left of the dealer button (which moves after each hand). The big blind is typically 1% of the buy-in, and the small blind half of this amount. Each player is the dealt 4 hole-cards face-down (visible only to the individual player).
Next the player ‘Under the Gun’ (to the left of the big blind) starts the action. The options are to raise the size of the pot or any amount up to this, call the big blind or to fold. Play continues clockwise. Players not willing to match the last bet (or raise) must fold their hand.
The Flop: Three community cards are now dealt face-up in the middle of the table. Play starts with whichever player is to the left of the dealer button. The options are to check (passing the action to the left), or to bet an amount between the big blind and the pot. If a player has raised ahead, anyone not wishing to at least call that raise must fold their hand. If a player runs out of chips at any point during betting, a side-pot is created for additional action, with the all-in player only having a stake in the main pot.
Turn and River: Two more community cards are dealt, with action again starting with whichever player is to the left of the dealer button. The pot can be large by now, making pot-sized bets more formidable than on early rounds.
Showdown: In live PLO games, the player who made the last aggressive action must show their hand first. Online, this is done automatically by the software. The winner of the pot has the strongest hand using the standard hand rankings which uses 2 (and only 2) of their 4 hole-cards, and 3 cards from the board. Tied hands are unusual in PLO, though with coordinated straight cards on the board, this is possible.
Strategy Considerations in Pot Limit Omaha
If you are making the move from Texas Hold’em to Pot Limit Omaha, there are several strategy considerations to take on board.
- Draws and Redraws: If you get to showdown holding a pair of aces which have not improved, you are unlikely to win the pot (especially when it is big). Players betting will likely have big draws, and even redraws to the nuts. Choose coordinated starting hands, which give you flush and straight possibilities – and remember than even a set can be 2nd best to a ‘wrap around’ straight draw with flush potential.
- Don’t Give Away Your Hand: Many players new to Omaha will only bet (or 3-bet) with aces or kings. Experienced players are on the lookout for exactly this – and will call with a wide range of hands. If you get out-flopped, you might only have a slim chance of catching up, and the pot can get big before you know it. You need to raise more hands to disguise your monsters. Pick double suited cards and rundowns for this purpose.
- Position Counts: As with all forms of poker, you should stay tight in early position and only play speculative hands from the button and close to it. This gives you the opportunity to see how your opponents act before you commit any more chips. You also get the chance to check behind in an unraised pot, giving yourself the opportunity to catch up.
- Look for Bet Sizing Tells: A lot of novice PLO players will bet different sizes on later streets with different types of hands. For example, someone might bet half-pot with draws and full pot with trips or over-pairs. Look out for these ‘tells’ and make notes on your opponents. If you know what their bets mean, you can steal a lot of pots, and your opponents will never know that you have this information!
Pot Limit Omaha in Different Formats
So far, I have covered PLO in cash game format, this is the most common way you’ll find it – with 100’s of active tables at the bigger poker rooms. Here is a list of the different ways you can enjoy PLO live and online:
#1 – Cash Games: Omaha works well at both full ring (9 players) and 6-max for cash games. Here the chips you have in front of you have real monetary value, and you can reload at any time. A typical buy-in is 100x the big blind. Cash games online start at 1c / 2c blinds, and go right up to the ‘nosebleed’ stakes. You can also find heads-up cash games, where you will play a single opponent.
#2 – Tournaments: PLO is popular in tournament format. Here you buy in for a stack of tournament chips, and play until a single player has them all. The prize pool is typically distributed between the top 10% of the field. There are plenty of tournament variations at the bigger online poker rooms. Examples include rebuy tournaments, knockouts (where each player has a bounty on their head) and turbo speed events.
#3 – Sit N Goes: 1 table tournaments, which start as soon as the table is full, are a popular way to enjoy Pot Limit Omaha. There are some unique strategy considerations for these games. The bubble, when one player needs to bust before the money, is made more interesting by the pot-limit betting rules (which stop players from simply going all-in every hand).
#4 – Fast Fold Poker: In this online variation, players join a pool instead of sitting at an individual table. You get randomly combined with other players at the start of each hand. When you fold, you immediately go to a new table – meaning no waiting around for others to finish their betting.
PLO is popular enough to be played in live tournaments too. There are many events which feature PLO and other Omaha variants at the World Series of Poker.
Special Notes for Lower Stakes Online PLO Games
In low-stakes PLO cash games and in many tournaments, you will find passive play pre-flop. What happens is that players will limp (match the big blind) with 4 or 5 seeing every flop. These types are trying to make a hand or strong draw before committing more chips.
Many of those same players will happily call your pot-sized bet preflop. This can result in a bloated pot with multiple players – a dangerous combination in this poker variation!
You can get an immediate advantage in these games simply by raising a wide variety of premium starting hands. Playing bigger pots when you have an advantage is a winning strategy, even if the number of opponents increases the variance. Doing this from position gives you an even bigger edge.
What you need to assess is which opponents are drawing only to nut (or very strong) hands, and which will call down with non-nut holdings. In these loose and passive games, a raise on a later street could be a big danger sign.
Micro stakes players who limp most hands also have the tendency to wake up and raise when they hold aces. This gives you a shot at turning the tables by making the call yourself with speculative hands (again, position is key). If you out-flop them, you could be in line to win a big pot.
Note that as you move up stakes, you’ll find a lot more aggression – making PLO a volatile game. As long as you stick to the most coordinated starting hands and play positively, you should have an edge over time – regardless of the short-term swings.