Basic PLO Poker Strategy with tips and examples

Dennis  «Dennis_Stets» 
22 Mar 2024
Omaha Strategy
22 Mar 2024

Our basic strategy for playing PLO revolves around two very important concepts. Each is based on what we are trying to accomplish by playing a hand on a preflop. PLO is essentially a post-flop game and it’s where the most important decisions are made. To understand what we mean here, this article will provide a bit of theory and practice on the subject.

Postflop action

Postflop play, for the most part, falls under the following rules:

  • Betting with nuts for value;
  • Semi-bluff with strong hands;
  • Use position to steal the pot when your opponents are weak;
  • Use position for pot-control when we don't have a nut hand that we want to get to showdown.

Based on this data, we have the desire to:

  1. Play hands that could potentially collect a nuts / nut draw on the flop;
  2. Or play in position.

So that’s our basic tactics, reduced into two sentences. We will be picky about starting hands and position. The main goal of our PLO strategy is to collect strong hands on the postflop and thus win on the showdown. In addition, a player should use the position to pick up small and not too big pots when no one has a strong hand. 

The advantage of position will give us the ability to control the size of the pot in case we can't bet intensively for the value. It will also help win by making steal as a bluff or semi-bluff.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Effective ABC poker in PLO is not much more complicated. By memorizing these concepts, you will have an edge over most of the lowest limit opponents.

Quality of the starting hand

Our first PLO tips is to learn how to determine the quality of a starting hand in Omaha. Basically, most of this article will focus on doing just that. In addition, we need to have a basic understanding of the position and how it can be used to bring more profit.

Position acts as an important part of any decision at the pre-flop.

Each of the players is dealt four cards. This means that they can portray any hand at any time. Despite the texture of the flop, every poker player (including you) can almost always hit it well and sit with nuts — or something close to it.

Consequently, playing with so-called non-nut hands without position is quite hard. After all, it's likely that the opponent behind you has assembled a monster hand or is planning to play it in order to bluff you out of the pot.

If you are out of position, but your hand may be the best, even though it is not nuts, you have to choose between two lines:

  1. Bet into opponents who may have a better hand than ours;
  2. Check, giving your opponents a free card and a chance to improve their combinations. 

Checking with a bad hand with no position also allows your opponent to use a bluff against you. After all, by doing so you’ve demonstrated your weakness. Of course, this type of PLO poker strategy is not suitable.

PLO omaha strategy: playing from a position

With position, you can see what your opponents are doing even before your turn. This makes it easier to make decisions with non-nut combinations. If all players before you check, you can often bet (either for equity or as a bluff) with a hand that you should have checked with if you had no position. 

If your opponent bets, however, you have the chance to control the size of the pot. You can do next:

  • Use a raiser with monsters; 
  • Call with a hand when you just need to get to showdown with a small or medium pot; 
  • Fold or even bluff with the weakest hands.

Weak starting hands, in general, do not hit the flop as often or as well as strong hands. On this basis, they are better played in position than out of position. This way, you will be able to get profit more easily with non-nut hands / draws on the postflop.

Before we categorize the starting hands into different categories, we suggest that you do a little warm-up. Here are two examples of pre-flop decisions based on the quality of the starting hand and position.

Notice that in both situations we will try to link the pre-flop and postflop play. It is this form of planning that we will return to a bit later.

Example #1: depth analysis

You are on UTG at the ring 6-max table of PLO5. You are facing Qh-Qs-8d-2c. The game has been loose with some raises and 3-bets preflop. There are usually three or more players watching the flop. Your stack is 100BB and your opponents have at least 80BB each. Should this hand be played? And why?

This type of starting hand (category: high pair with two low hole cards) often creates problems for beginners. Experienced players will often fold it from an early position without any regrets. This hand has a low potential to collect nuts on the flop. To do so, we will need a three of a kind on an uncoordinated flop (e.g. Qc-8d-3c), which is a pretty rare situation. First, let's think about the common reasons why a newcomer to PLO would decide to play Qh-Qs-8d-2c with a raise on the flop:

  • Sometimes we win the blinds, which is obviously a good thing;
  • In some cases we get called, but we win the pot with a counterbet on the flop;
  • There's a chance we'll catch a three of a kind, which will often lead to a win on showdown;
  • We're playing against deep stacks, so we can expect to sometimes win huge pots with a three of a kind.

Hence, our plan for the newcomer in Omaha poker is to either steal the blinds on preflop, take the pot with a counterbet on the flop, or pick up a set and win a decent amount of money on showdown. But, it may cause some problems:

  1. Under these conditions, we will rarely ever take the blinds. In addition, we are quite often called by one or more opponents;
  2. There is a possibility of getting a 3-bet. In this case, we will be forced to fold because our hand is too weak to call a 3-bet with no position;
  3. Due to the lack of position, it will be difficult for us to take the pot on the flop if we don't hit. Moreover, poker game based on the same reason, it is quite difficult to maximize bankroll in a positive situation as well;
  4. In Omaha we will often lose even if we collect a set on the flop. This situation, in most cases, will cost us quite a lot of money.

We have a combination that collects either a three of a kind or nothing. We have no "margin of safety". Consequently, we will quite often not have a hand / draw on the flop, and therefore, there will be no reason to continue participating. 

Since we are out of position and this is an Omaha game (where every poker player can have any hand at any time), continuing to bet with air as a steal against multiple opponents (which is what we expect) will often be too risky.

A typical scenario in the case of a rake from our side:

  • Preflop: Hero ($5) raise pot to $0,17 with Qh-Qs-8d-2c, MP ($6.20) calls, CO ($8.95) calls, button ($5) calls;
  • Flop: 7s-Ks-6c ($0.75).

What we’ll do next? By raising with Qh-Qs-8d-2c under these circumstances on preflop, we are creating a flop with multiple opponents with no position, no hand, and no draws. That's exactly what happened in this PLO example. 

The only way out in this situation is to check — planning to fold in response to the bet.

Automatically counterbetting on the flop with no hand / draw against more than one opponent is just throwing money away.

The problem with Qh-Qs-8d-2c is that we will rarely ever have a strong enough hand to continue dealing after the flop. Therefore, expecting to play a hit-or-miss scenario in multi-sided pots (as in this case), we would prefer to watch the flop cheaper to preserve our potential chances.

Let’s summarize the first example for PLO cash game strategy. If we play this hand, we need to play cheaper preflop and also have position. For example, if we are on the button and we already have one or two limpers in front of us, we can call on a set value with good potential odds. But, if we had a flop before us, we could open with a raise, hoping to steal the pot on the preflop, or we could counter-bet on the flop.

The continuation of the game will be more or less the same:

  • Flop: 7s-Ks-6c ($0.75);
  • Hero ($4.83) check, MP ($6.03) checks, CO ($8.78) checks, button ($4.83) bets $0.75, you reluctantly fold with the suspicion that you played wrong somewhere.

Example #2: depth analysis

You are on the button at a ring 6-max PLO5 table. UTG ($5) raises to $0.17, MP ($6.20) calls, CO ($8.95) calls, you ($5) are looking at your As-9s-8c-7h with interest. So what’s your plan?

Here you have a near-premium (category: suited ace with three cards in a row) with excellent potential to collect nuts (nut flush / straight). Multiple flops will provide you with a very strong hand to continue. You would make an automatic raiser in the event that all players before you folded. 

Furthermore, you would make an instant raiser even if there were several limpers before you. However, you've already had a raiser before you, and that narrows your choice of actions to 2: call or 3-bet.

In this case, a call looks like a good plan for next reason:

You will enter the game with a hit-or-miss scenario with a quality nut hand, having position and good potential chances in a multi-sided pot (which is always a good thing). It should be noted that the lack of initiative in your hands makes your opponent more vulnerable to exploitation on the postflop. 

If all players before you check on the flop, it will generally show more weakness than if they check after a 3-bet from your side on the preflop. This will help you determine a good situation for a steal on a round of postflop.

Since the pot is already multi-sided, a 3-bet is unlikely to win it without a showdown. It is quite possible that several players will call you preflop. After all, three opponents have already entered the pot.

By calling, in PLO you encourage your blinds to call a wide range of semi-trashy hands (seemingly playable cards, but they are very weak, such as Ks-7d-5s-4h). This will certainly provide them with big problems on postflop against quality hands like ours.

They may assure themselves that they are getting excellent potential odds and pot odds with such weak hands. 

However, in reality, they will simply go into the big pot out of position with hands and draws that will often be second on the showdown. For example, they will pick up a non-nut flush and lose to a nut flush on the showdown.

By making a 3-bet, you open yourself up to a 4-bet from hands like AAxx. This means you will have to discard a hand with a lot of potential. We don't have enough power, and our stacks aren't deep enough to call a sweat-sized 4-bet from a possible AAxx. So, we call the raise on preflop, planning to play a hit-or-miss pattern. We will also sometimes be able to take the pot if our opponents show weakness by check-raising.

Observant readers should have noticed that the preflop bets are exactly the same as our first example. The only difference is that we are now on the batton with a great hand that will be suited by many flops. 

So let's go back to the scenario of example #1 again, considering some changes. This will nicely demonstrate how simple it is to play a flop with position and a quality starting hand. Preflop: UTG ($5) raises to $0.17, MP ($6.20) calls, CO ($8.95) calls, we ($5) call with As-9s-8c-7h on the button. The blinds fold, and the deal goes to a four-way flop:

  • Flop: 7s-Ks-6c ($0.75);
  • UTG ($4.83) checks, MP ($6.03) checks, CO ($8.78) checks, you ($4.83) bet $0.75 and all players fold.

So what happened here? First let's go back to our previous example, where we made a raiser with a trash hand on UTG. We were called by three players at once, we didn't hit the flop at all. Later we were forced to check-fold in response to a bet from the button. Now we are on the button with a great hand that caught the flop (which happens quite often with good hands).

We hit a whole cocktail of draws: pair + nut flush draw + two-way straight draw to the nuts. In addition, we received information from our opponents who demonstrated that they are too weak to bet. Hence, a semi-bluff from our side on the flop is obviously a good decision in Pot-Limit Omaha. 

With this stack size to pot size ratio, we are ready to call all-in in response to a check-raise.

After all, we will almost never be far behind any opponent's hand. However, everyone folded on the flop and that's a good thing. It was an easy draw, wasn't it? See guys, Omaha poker strategy is not that hard.

What’s up next?

Our next step in learning about Pot Limit Omaha strategy we’ll focus on the factors that affect the strength of starting hands. Future publications on PLO will be released on a regular basis, so stay tuned for our updates. GL!

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