Introduction to Pot Limit Omaha – PLO Basics

The Tip Top Fox introduces you to basic Pot Limit Omaha game mechanics, including hand rankings, the blinds, and strategy tips

So you’ve read our introduction to No Limit Hold’em and fancy trying your hand at a different poker variant?

Although No Limit Texas Holdem (NLHE) is the most popular poker variant, Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) is the second most played variant of the game and has recently seen a rapid increase in popularity. This section will take you through the basic rules of Pot Limit Omaha.

As in NLHE, the aim is to win all of the chips in a tournament and as much as possible from your opponents in a cash game. A pot can be won either at showdown or by inducing all players to fold their hands. 

The Hand Rankings:

Pot Limit Omaha and No Limit Hold’em share the same hand rankings. Ordered from highest to lowest:

  • Royal straight flush
  • Straight flush
  • Four of a kind 
  • Full house
  • Three of a kind
  • Two pair
  • One pair
  • High card

Basic Pot Limit Omaha Betting Rules:

As you can tell from the name, PLO is a pot limit game. This means that a player can only bet or raise up to the value of the chips currently in the pot. 

For example, if the blinds are 1 and 2, the maximum opening raise would be 7. To work this out, calculate the value of the blinds (1 + 2) plus the raise, which is 2 x the value of the big blind (4), so the maximum raise preflop = 7.

A good rule of thumb to work out the maximum opening raise is to multiply the big blind by 3.5. After the flop, the maximum bet cannot be greater than the value of the chips in the pot. When raising, the value of the initial bet is added to the pot by the raiser before calculating total pot size for the raise.

Four Hole Cards

Instead of being dealt two hole cards as in NLHE, players receive four in PLO. There is one additional rule that separates PLO from NLHE; Players must use two of their four hole cards when making their best five card combination. Exactly two cards, not one, not three and not four. Here is an example:

Board

2 6 J 8 3♣

No Limit Hold’em Hand

A K

Pot Limit Omaha Hand

A K K♠J

In NLHE a player would have the nut flush, as they are holding the A. In PLO the player is only holding pair of kings. Because two cards must be used from a player’s hand, in order to have a flush a player must hold two hearts. In this example, as the player only has one heart in their hand, they are forced to use a non-heart card as their second card.

This rule has the same impact on all hand values in PLO. Another example is a board that reads A-A-A-K-2. If a player holds K-2-3-4, they would not have a full house as they would be playing K-4, giving the player the hand A-A-A-K-4. In order to make a full house on this board, the player needs to be holding a pocket pair in their hand.

Blinds and Button

Before any cards are dealt or any betting takes place, the ‘dealer button’ is placed in front of one of the players. The button signifies the order of play and moves left (clockwise) one seat at the start of every new hand. 

The two players to the left of the button are forced to make compulsory bets – known as the ‘small blind’ and the ‘big blind’. These are called ‘blinds’ because players have to make these bets prior to receiving their hole cards.

The player sitting to the immediate left of the button is referred to as the ‘small blind’ and the player sitting to his or her left is the ‘big blind’. The small blind is usually half the value of the big blind.

Basic Pot Limit Omaha Strategy Tips

  • The average winning hand in NLHE is two pair. Players can expect to see many more strong hands when playing PLO as there are twice as many cards in play. This greatly increases the strength of the average winning hand.
  • PLO is a nut-based game. If a player doesn’t have ‘the nuts’ (the best possible five-card combination) by the river there is a good chance they may not win the hand.
  • Players should try to be selective when playing hands both pre and post-flop. It is best to avoid playing weak hands (such as those containing low cards) as a player will lose the hand the majority of the time.
  • In NLHE a player holding a straight or a flush will win the pot the majority of the time and losing to a higher flush in NLHE is a relatively rare occurrence. However, in PLO a low flush will lose to a higher flush far more often. This reinforces the need to carefully consider which hands to play.
  • Treat suited cards with caution. Players should draw to ace high (nut) flushes. Depending on the number of players in a hand, drawing to non-nut flushes is not advisable. Non-ace high suited cards are only helpful for redraws, multiple draws, or back-door flush draws. Be careful drawing to a flush that is not the nut flush.

Intermediate Pot Limit Omaha Strategy Tips

  • High pocket pairs are good starting hands. This is because they have the chance of building a big full house though reassessing hand strength after the flop is still the most important consideration.
  • Strong pre-flop starting PLO hands can be rendered weak if they don’t connect with the community cards. For example, a double suited hand like A♠AK♠K is one of the best starting hands in PLO. However, on a 7♣27Q♣8 board, the player is only holding two pair (A-A-7-7-Q). This is unlikely to win at showdown. If a player does not hit three of a kind or better with a big pair then the pair is normally worthless. 
  • Connecting cards are also an important factor. A hand like J-T-9-8 is a very good PLO hand because it provides the player with many straight opportunities. Holding J-T-9-8 is better than holding Q-J-5-6 because you can build many multi-way straight possibilities with the former, which you cannot with the latter.
  • A common mistake in PLO is that players tend to overvalue small and middle pocket pairs. A hand like 5-5-8-8 is not as strong as many players think. Even if you hit a set, you can easily lose to a higher set, straight, or flush.
  • Position is very important in PLO (as it is in NLHE) and later position is better. If a player is in early position and flops ‘the nuts’ in a PLO game they will almost always have to bet their hand to protect it. People in early positions therefore tend to give away their hand strength and it is easier for players in late position to bluff and win the pot if the early positions are not showing strength. 

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