Pot Limit Omaha

Part 1

One of the most popular forms of poker, outside of the US, is Pot Limit Omaha High (PLO). Through the Internet, PLO is growing in popularity in this country, but it's still rarely spread except for the upper-limit games in the south. Most card rooms that spread PLO don't spread it any lower than $5-10 blinds or maybe even $10-25. On occasion, especially during the World Poker Open in Tunica, $2-5 and smaller games will be spread.

I have always had an interest in the game because of the big action it creates. I think the attitude of most professional players is that they like playing looser than they should, and this game allows you to open your starting requirements greatly. This creates a lot of action by swelling the size of the pot quickly.

Pots in Hold 'Em aren't contested the same as PLO pots, because it's tougher to make a good hand with two cards. Over half the time you take a flop in Hold 'Em, you will miss it and fold to a bet. In PLO, there's so many cards in your hand working for you, you can hit a lot more flops. You can get creative in your play, because almost no four-card hand is a favorite over another by much.

The hands you're looking to play are usually playable from most any position. I say this because in most standard PLO games today, you're almost always going to be able to get action from at least two or three players, if not half the table. This is again because people are getting good odds with hands that can win big pots after the flop. So, if you raise in first position with Ac Jc As Ts, don't be surprised to see half of the players calling. Try limping in with aces, since you have to hit a flop with them to feel comfortable playing them past the flop.

By limping in pre-flop with aces, you can create a big pot by enticing others to limp. Then, if anyone tries to raise from the back, you can re-raise, and get in a lot of chips heads-up.

That's the only time aces are a favorite pre-flop. If you can re-raise a late position raise, and get in the majority of your money right there, you're a favorite to win the pot. Even if he has a good hand and is no worse than 40-percent or better, you're still a favorite to win. Most of the time, they'll have common cards and be a bigger dog than that.

The hands I prefer to play are wrap-type straight draw hands, and suited aces along with them. My favorite hand is something like A T 9 8 double-suited with a suited ace. You've got a nut-flush draw, three working cards for a straight, and an emergency small-flush possibility.

Bigger paired hands with straight possibilities (and other flush draws too) are pretty good hands as well. Regular rundown-type hands, like 3 4 6 7, J T 8 9, and all other hands that are five cards apart or less, are worth seeing a flop too.

Once a lot of people have limped in, and your odds are really high, even junkier hands like K 6 7 8 with a suited king become playable. Maybe you can limp from there with any big pairs, like K K 2 3 rainbow or Q Q J 4. Whatever hands that you can flop top set, or nut draws to straights and flushes, now are all worth taking a flop.

Next time, I will share with you some post-flop play tips.

Jon Eaton

note by gank: Pot Limit Omaha is one of my favorite games. Not only is it the preferred game played by Europeans, it is usually the biggest cash game played during big tournaments like the World Series of Poker.

Pot Limit Omaha

Part 2

In order to better understand tournament situations and non-standard PLO situations, I will show you some hand histories from a recent $10 with one rebuy & add-on PLO tournament I won on PokerStars. The hands all take place at the final table.

Going into the final table, I was about the middle of the pack. I had a massive chip lead early at my table, and rode to the final nine among the chip leaders the whole way. Early on, I tried and relax and let everyone else do the pushing. Finally, I ran into a situation where I had to trust my read and not make the obvious play, which to me was to fold.

Having been aggressive most of the time up to this point, I knew my image was a little lacking. So, when I raised the 6,000 big blind the maximum from the button (21,000 to go), and the big blind came back at me for most of his chips, I knew he didn't have to have anything huge. I had shown I had the ability to lay a hand down, and I was also very fast to attack the blinds.

The problem was I had K K T 3 with three diamonds! I had to hope he A) didn't have aces and B) didn't have a good hand to snap mine off. However, I knew he wasn't waiting for aces and decided to put him all-in, which he called with Q997.

As it turned out my hand was almost a 2-1 favorite pre-flop! It's rare for such a hand to come up in Omaha. In fact, if your hand is more than a 60-percent favorite you're in great shape. I was in spectacular shape, just hoping no nines, hearts or straightening cards fell. Fortunately they missed the board and my kings held up, putting me in good shape early on.

The lesson you should take from this hand is that your opponents will re-steal from you, if they sense weakness, especially if you have shown a history of folding in big pots like this. You have to analyze each and every situation in a tournament from the ground up and figure out what your best course of action is.

In another pot, a very passive but loose player limped in four-handed, as did the button. I completed from the small blind, putting in 6,000 more, and the big blind checked. On the flop of Ah 3s Js, I checked my J 3 x x hand. I had no redraw, but felt jacks up was probably the best hand at a short table.

It checked to the loose player who bet the minimum. On such a dangerous flop, I felt they either had a monster draw, or had a very weak hand. I was leaning heavily towards the latter, because this player wasn't very tricky.

However, if I attack them now and bet the pot, they would likely call with even top pair. The reason being is that a hand like A K 7 5 on this flop is still a coin toss against my hand. With two pair and no redraw, assuming he had no common cards, I am just 51.8-percent to win! I decided my best course of action was to wait until the turn came.

I called, and the 8 clubs fell. Unless he had A 8 in his hand, or even J 8, I thought I had the best of it. Even if he did have one of those hands, he still might fold, fearing I had a set on the flop. So, I bet the pot, 72,000 chips. If they played, they'd only have 6,000 more to put in the middle, so I was essentially saying "play for your tournament life or fold."

They thought for a long time and told me they thought they had the best hand, but finally mucked. There's a very good possibility I either saved myself from losing on the river, or made them fold the best hand with my unusual play.

Another hand to just show how tournament play changes your action came up when I had 8 9 9 T in first position. It was four-handed, and instead of opening the pot like I might usually, I just mucked my hand. This hand is normally good enough to either limp with or raise in late position, but a few things were working against me here. First, my hand is good in multiple way pots, since I have three cards to a straight and a pair that could make a set. It's not one of the best PLO hands, but it's definitely playable under the right conditions.

However, late in a tournament, when most raises are either re-raised or folded to, I felt my hand had little value. If I just pick up the blinds, that's only 18k for me when I already had 121k in chips. That's a nice amount, but the downside to stealing is those times I have to play for my whole stack. 8 9 9 T isn't that good heads-up against an over-pair or a hand with common cards like A K Q T, A J 8 9, etc. In a heads-up pot, I would likely be up against a bigger pair, and I would be praying for one of two nines--not a good spot to be in.

Another similar hand was the Q J T 9 I held later. At this point I was second in chips with 300k+ and raised in first position with this hand. A short stack re-raised and I put him in, and he showed me K K 5 5. Knowing my hand was likely to be a coin toss against a big pair I called and he ended up making quad kings to my dismay. After the hand, my opponent commented "keep raising my blinds," and kept letting me steal them. Seems kind of odd that he would challenge me to keep raising his blinds, inferring he will start defending or re-raising, yet he let me continue to steal them en route to victory.

Finally I wound up heads-up with a two-to-one chip lead and held off my opponent. I doubled them up once, but I felt I still had an edge heads-up and kept pounding. Finally I got my chips in on a Q J x flop with a pair of nines and the nut flush draw. I was expecting to have to race it out, but my opponent showed A T x x with a baby flush draw. All I had to do was dodge an ace or king, and I was gold! Thankfully I did just that and took the tournament down, my first PLO win.

I will try and get a real PLO expert like gank or Jeff Henry to write more about the game. Until then, I hope my advice over the past few columns helps you take your PLO game to the next level!

Jon Eaton

note by gank: Pot Limit Omaha is one of my favorite games. Not only is it the preferred game played by Europeans, it is usually the biggest cash game played during big tournaments like the World Series of Poker.

Pot Limit Omaha

Part 3

Last time I talked about Omaha, I gave you some pre-flop Omaha tips. I didn't really approach a few topics that I feel are important, so I'll approach those first before I move on.

I never really mentioned when you need to raise in this game pre-flop! I assume many of you were wondering about that. I do advocate keeping small pots pre-flop with most of your hands, especially if you have bad position. Raising becomes a good idea when you're in later position, because investing money with good position means you can then bet a bigger amount if everyone checks to you. Let me show you an example of a hand I would play completely different from first position to the button.

Let's say i have K K J T with a suited king. Let's also assume it's a typical $2-5 blind PLO game, with an average of four players taking a flop. It might sound extreme, but head down to Tunica during the World Poker Open--the Gold Strike features games with more than that on average seeing a flop, with bigger blinds!

Under the gun, I am going to limp every single time with this hand. If I raise the pot, and make it $17 to go (assuming there's no other blind money in the pot, I can call $5 and raise an additional $12), and three people call, what do I do when the button re-raises the pot' My hand goes from a great multi-way hand that could flop the nuts and/or make a big hand, to a hand I have to fold because I'd invest way too much of my stack pre-flop.

On the button, if it folded to me, or there were a few limpers, my options would open up. If no one is tricky enough to limp with aces, then I have a clear raise. The reason being isn't because I have pocket kings, but because I can raise to $25, get everyone to call, and create a large pot. This is advantageous to me with position, because now it's likely everyone will check to me unless they flop a monster. If that happens, I can lead at the pot if I flopped a big hand, and charge draws the maximum. If I missed, maybe I take a free card off and catch a miracle.

I also need to note that if the stacks were deeper, and everyone had like $2,000 plus in front of them in this game, then it would make sense to occasionally raise with a hand like K K J T in first position. Let's say I make it $17, four people call, bringing the pot with the blinds up to $75. The button calls $17, and makes it another $92 to go. If I had just like $500 or less in front of me, I could call, but I'd be out of position the whole hand. I am now playing to flop a set, because the only nut draw I can make otherwise is a straight or a flush (if the ace of that suit comes off... since I have only the suited king, it cannot make the nuts otherwise... in which case, I cannot have top set).

Again, I could call here, but it's so much easier to play a pot when I don't have to invest 20% or so of my stack. Limping in early position will work out more often than not, unless the table has real deep stacks, and you can afford to be re-potted. In which case, raising pre-flop is completely acceptable with most of your better hands and nut-drawing hands.

Now, after the flop, in cash game Omaha, you should usually not be afraid to get your money in with your bigger draws. I see many people online flop a full wrap straight draw and just call, hoping to hit one of their outs. The problem with playing big draws on the flop this way is that when you just call in Omaha, it's almost universal that you're on a draw. It's very rare for anyone to call with a made hand, since you'd prefer to make a big bet to push out the draws.

For example, you call a raise with 4 5 7 8. The flop is comes down 3 6 9. You have any 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, or T to catch to make your straight. You have a total of 20 outs possible to make your hand! If you throw in a flush draw or a backdoor flush draw, your hand is almost always a favorite against anything possible out there. If your opponent showed you pocket nines for top set, you'd still be correct if you put all of your chips in on the flop.

This is an important concept because many players will just call with a hand like this, and either fold or again just call on the turn. It's a very bad play in Omaha to just keep calling in spots like this, because you're taking away the possibility of winning the pot without showdown. If you can take down a pot on the flop by moving in, that's a great result.

Another problem is that you are actually taking the worst of it calling. When you have the best of it with your 20-out draw on the flop, if you can get your opponent to commit his stack with top set, you're actually making him put his money in as an underdog.

Another important concept is the redraw. If you have J T in your hand and the flop is 7 8 9 with two hearts, you have the nuts on the flop. You lead into the pot for the whole amount, and suddenly get re-raised in two places! What's your move' In a cash game, I would throw my hand away almost every time. Only when you believe your opponents could do this with something like a set with no other draw, or a smaller straight, then you're probably an underdog to win.

Let's take a look at the numbers on this hand. Let's assume on the 7 8 9 board with two hearts, your first opponent has A J T x with a suited ace of hearts. Your other opponent has J T 9 9. Your dry nut straight with no redraw is never going to win the whole pot, and will actually outright lose almost 70-percent of the time! Even if you're up against J T 9 9 with a flush draw and no other opponent, you will lose the whole pot 60-percent of the time.

As you can see, the nuts aren't even a good hand on the flop sometimes! You must be very good at reading the board, figuring out what cards can come off to either make your hand or destroy it, weigh your options, and make your decision.

Next time, I will cover some advanced concepts as well as how to play tournaments.

Jon Eaton>

note by gank: Pot Limit Omaha is one of my favorite games. Not only is it the preferred game played by Europeans, it is usually the biggest cash game played during big tournaments like the World Series of Poker. In cash games, if you raise pre-flop with a hand and get re-raised, it is so likely that the re-raiser has AAxx in his hand, so adjust your decision based on the likelihood your opponent has pocket aces.

Expert Omaha Hi-Lo Plays

This article will cover:

1. Taking the pot with two low hands and high cards flop.
2. Raising on fourth street with a nut low wrap or flush draw.
3. Going from zero to one-half or from one-quarter to three-quarters on the end!

(1) Since most intermediate players are only playing strong hands with an Ace and a 2 or an Ace baby (A-3, A-4), high flops often present an opportunity for the expert player. Say in a pot you come in raising with A-2-5 or A-3-4, you get called from behind (but not raised). You can quickly deduce that the call from a decent player probably has a similar hand to yours (if he had AA with a baby or AA with high cards then he probably would have 3 bet). Now if the flop comes low you bet out; but what if the flop comes high? You still bet out! Since if your deduction earlier is right and he too has low cards, you are likely to win it right there! If the high flop contains a single baby he may take off another card (in a single raised pot most players would not). This too is OK in that it will likely result in an extra bet won if the 4th street card is not helpful to the low. On 4th street no matter what comes fire out. Since on the flop your opponent didn't raise your deduction is likely right: that he is trying to make a back door low (and/or maybe a flush). By betting you continue to set up the 5th street bluff if a blank comes (with the likelihood of winning many extra bets). If a low card comes and you make the nut low with maybe a high pair or better you would continue to bet hoping to 3/4 your opponent or maybe even scoop him if his resulting low isn't as good as yours and your high pair is better than his high.

Example:
A-2-4-7 vs. his A-2-3-6

Board: 3-J-Q-7-8

Your A-7, pair of 7s, would beat his A-3, pair of 3s.

Also, by betting the low with no high you still might scoop if he had in fact flopped a high straight draw and merely made a low pair on the end.

Example:
A-2-4-6 vs. his A-K-T-8

Board: 3-J-Q-7-8
Him failing to call since you represented high throughout.

One word of caution, these hands do not always work out because of the nature of an eight card combinations to each hand. But since Omaha 8 or better is a limit game and since the pot is always large relative to the size of the bet ;this expert play ,and others like it, in the course of a session separate the good player from the expert.

(2) Another expert play kind of takes the previous play and turns it around. In this situation the expert acts last and catches one low card-but is the key card to his hand.

Example: expert hand, A-2-4-5
Flop: Q-J-3

Since there were multiple raises he takes one off after the flop. Fourth street is a 6 (or even an A, 2, 4, or 5) giving the expert a rap straight draw to the 7 (or to the 6) and an unable to be counterfeit for low draw. When the player with the lead bets the expert play is to raise representing a high hand slow played on the flop. This single raise (one additional bet) sets up a bluff for the 5th street if you brick but many times gets you multiple bets on the river by your opponent not realizing your drawing for low due to the miss direction play you made on 4th street.

Back to an example:

This type of play also works when on 4th street you pick up the nut flush draw with the nut low draw.

Example: Ah-2-4-5h

Board: Qh-J-3-8h

On 5th street if a low card comes you've made the nut low; if a high heart comes you've made the nut high; if a low heart (not pairing the board) comes you've made nut-nut; if a brick comes out- a non-heart high card or a non-heart pairing the board - you bet out hoping to steal the pot by having set up this bluff (if needed) by the misdirection raise you put in on fourth street! Again, the one additional bet on fourth street puts you in position to win many bets even when you brick. Again, this play may not work every time it comes up but you will be amazed at how often it does work and the huge dividends it will pay! Two further notes on these types of plays:

1. Without the raise on fourth street your opponent will often deduce in all likelihood that you are trying to backdoor a low (since you also merely called on the flop) and will call you down if you suddenly bet on the river when a non-low card falls-with most high hands even extremely weak ones! Thus again you can see how these types of aggressive plays separate the expert player from the good solid ground-em-out player.

2. This play also works well from the first position, when the expert player check raises on fourth street (taking the lead) and then fires on the river no matter what card hits!

(3) A popular play by many near experts deals with raising on the end when he is semi-strong in both directions but realizes that the better has him beat in one direction (and hopefully not both) and the third player also has a weak hand but may beat our expert). By raising to knock out the third player, this aggressive play if successful results in 1/2 the pot for the raiser that might have resulted in a zero piece of the pot had he not raised.

Example: 3h-6s-Kd-8d-Td

Better (likely to have) A-2-X-X or a high flush

Expert raiser: A-4-5d-7d

Third player: ?

Of course the real risk here is multiple bets lost if the third player does not drop out of the pot resulting in your zero return or being quartered (if each of you have the low with A-4). Likewise, if the original better has a better 2-way hand you will also get scooped. Again, this play is common among near experts and experts, but the real world class play is the move to go from 1/2 to 3/4 of the pot!!! This play came up twice and I used it successfully both times in the WSOP $5,000 world championship event on day one. Knowing where you are and where your opponent is at is essential for this play to work. The hand that I will describe is the first time it came up in the tournament (the second time having very similar characteristics will not be transcribed here).

The Play:
Board: 3-8-K

Player A (1st to act, in the blind left of the button):

My hand: Ad-2-5-8

Player B (3rd to act):

I had the raised before the flop and player B had jumped the fence and called. Since he didn't re-raise I suspected he had a similar hand as mine and not AA. Player A in the small blind called. The flop was 3d-8d-Kd. On the flop, Player A (a solid player from California) immediately bet out. I called and player B called. I felt with this type of action that player B had a similar hand (A-2) to mine. I also reasoned player A was betting a high hand probably K-8 or K-3 and not giving a free card to the low draws.

The fourth street card was the 7c.

When player A checked he confirmed my belief that he was high. I checked behind him because I believed that player B would bet-and bet he did-confirming my analysis that he too had A-2. When player A called, he confirmed my belief that he was high, with probably two pair (with a set he might have bet out or raised here to knock out a weak or even a strong flush draw that I could have). I smooth called knowing that I was likely three-quartered.

A perfect card: the 7h came on the end!?

Player A checked; I checked, and as scripted player B bet out. After player A called I raised! I believed that my raise at this late date would look like I filled up with the sevens pairing the board. Just as I hoped (and planned) player B reraised, believing he had the low lock by himself. Player A then folded believing he had no win with me apparently filling up and Player B with the low. I then merely called having accomplished my mission to knock out the hand that I felt was high.

When I announced A-8 for high (two pair: 8s and 7s with Ace kicker) with the nut low both players nearly fell out of their respective chairs-and I dragged 3/4 of the pot and not the 1/4 I would have won without making this play!

Art Young

Note by gank: this article was published by my dad, Art Young (aka Youngblood as his poker name), a two time runner up for a bracelet back in the old days and winner of the 1982 Amarillo Slim Super Bowl of Poker. Nowadays, he plays mostly high limit cash games and tells stories about playing with most of the legends way before the poker boom such as Chip Reese, Amarillo Slim, and Gabe Kaplan.