Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pot Limit Omaha Tips Part 1

Early last year, I read Championship Omaha by T.J. Cloutier and Tom McEvoy. My goal was to improve my Omaha 8 game and they penned a very strong section featured in the first 100 pages of Championship Omaha. The next 50 pages were dedicated to Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) and naturally I read it. I started playing PLO shortly after. It was a new game for me. I had played Limit Omaha High, but never PLO. I played Pot Limit Hold'em a few times at the Blue Parrot and in AlCantHang's homegame, but never PLO. I gave it a try and was hooked. On a simple $25 buy-in PLO on Party Poker, it was not uncommon to see people with $150-200 stacks inside of an orbit. The pots were 3 and 4 times bigger than the NL tables I had been playing on.

PLO is an action game and reminded me more like chess than any of the other versions of poker. You are constantly anticipating several moves ahead and implied pot odds and redraws. When are you ever going to muck the nuts after you flopped it? Only in PLO can you have the nuts and be a major underdog.

I played a lot of PLO late nights online when I lived in Las Vegas at the Redneck Riviera. At the WSOP I met a lot of Europeans, both pros and members of the press, who played PLO and they gave me several pointers. Some of the best PLO players in the world were Europeans and I was lucky that I could pick their brains.

When I started my losing streak in November I began playing PLO on Poker Stars to mix things up. I played too many hands and got lucky mostly. Alas, I reread Championship Omaha and tightened up significantly. I'm also folding more on the flop and never slowplaying. Anyway, I figured that I'd share some basic Pot Limit Omaha cash game tips with you. I'm pretty much going to be paraphrasing Cloutier & McEvoy since they know PLO a tad better than me. These tips are for beginner players.

Starting Hands

The best hand in PLO is A-J-A-10 double suited, not A-K-A-K double suited. The reason is because you can make a straight both ways with the J-10.

Other premium hands include:
  • Double suited aces and connectors like As-8s-Ad-9d.
  • A-A-K-K and aces with other big pairs like A-A-J-J
  • Hands with four connecting cards like Q-J-10-9
  • Two aces with unsuited connectors like A-A-J-9
  • Two Kings with connectors K-K-J-10
Generally, I always folded three or more suited cards unless they are A-K-Q-J, which I seem to get a lot. I'll play two aces with three suited cards, but that's the exception.

Avoid playing danglers. "Any hand that has three or more gaps in it, then the fourth card is a dangler," explains Cloutier. A hand like K-K-Q-6 is a hand you should muck. Hands like Q-J-10-6 look good at first, but will get you in trouble. Unless your dangler is suited to your ace, it's not going to help your hand.

Size Matters

In PLO if you raise, it should always be the size of the pot. In Pot Limit Hold'em you can build pots preflop and post-flop and trap players more often. You have to avoid doing that in PLO. You have to protect your hand at all times, especially when you know you have the nuts or best hand at the moment.

Against bad players or newbies to PLO, you will often see them underbet the pot on the flop or turn. That's usually a tell that they have the nuts and are trying to get action. That's why you have to keep the size of your best universal so no one can put a read on you.

Never ever slowplay, unless you flop quads. That's the only exception.

Playing Sets

It's hard for me to fold a set in No Limit or Limit Hold'em cash game. But in PLO, a set is a fickle hand. More often than not, flushes and straights are going to win. And unless you pair the board and fill up your boat, you will probably lose a lot of money.

If you flop top set, then bet the pot and find one or more callers, you're toast. Unless you have unconnected rainbow flop like K-8-3, your K-K is still vulnerable to a flush/straight redraw on the turn. That's why you can't slow play and have to jam the pot with your top sets. If you flop top set on a suited or connected board like: Kd-Qc-3d, you might be in a lot of trouble if anyone gives you action. Some of the toughest decisions you'll have to make in PLO is folding the nuts on the flop and even mucking top set.

Beware of flopping second and bottom set. I've lost a lot of money running into bigger sets and boats. Bottom set is a hand you want to throw away in a multi-way pot. Even if you are heads up with someone, you have a vulnerable hand. I make most of my money on people overplaying bottom and middle sets.

I've flopped top set before and lost to a guy who caught quads on the river after he flopped bottom set. I've also lost to hundreds of draws that hit. Unless you have a redraw to bolster the strength of your set, you have to accept the fact that you have to muck.

* * * * *

I'm running out of time, so I'll return with more tips after my trip to Atlantic City. But here are two quick tips.

1. Never draw to a flush that is not the nuts. Chasing and catching King high flushes can and will suck the life out your stack. Never ever consider chasing a flush below the nut flush.
2. If you flop two pair without a redraw, just go ahead and muck. You're behind especially with bottom two pair.

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