How to Not Lose at Pot Limit Omaha: The 7 Unwritten Rules

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Anyone who’s played Omaha Hi knows how thrilling the game can be. Big hands, big pots, and even bigger draws! What’s there not to love?

But as with any other genre, pot limit Omaha is more fun when you’re winning.

So before you dump your roll on the nearest poker table, you might want to familiarize yourself with the rules of the game.

But even that isn’t enough.

You need to know the best strategies to be a winner. Making hands is easy, but winning with them is an entirely different ball game. It’s about the quality of the hands you play, not the quantity.

So, what do you need to know to master Pot Limit Omaha?

Read on to find out.

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What is Pot Limit Omaha?

There isn’t one PLO definition that sums up Omaha poker in a single sentence because there are several variations of the game.

The most basic definition is that it’s a community card game with turn and river, a flop, and betting rounds that are similar to those of Texas Hold’em. That said, there are subtle differences between the two, which we’ll get to later on.

In PLO poker, each player on the table is dealt four hole cards. To make a hand at showdown, the players must abide by the golden rule of Omaha Poker. That is, they must use two cards from their hand and three cards from the board.

The rule is final and you can’t use more or less than the stipulated number of cards to make a hand. It affects your selection of starting hands, which is part of the game’s strategy.

The variations of PLO come from two sources. First is the betting structure. Second, are the Hi-Lo split games and High-only Omaha games.

The betting can be fixed-limit or Pot-limit. With a pot-limit betting structure, any particular raise or bet can be any size, up to the current pot’s size. Fixed-limit betting structures have predetermined betting amounts.

That gives rise to the four variations of Omaha poker, which include:

  • Pot Limit Omaha High (PLO). The highest hand wins / Pot-Limit Betting.
  • Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo (PLO8). Pot is split between the highest poker hand and the lowest containing 5 cards 8 or lower.
  • Fixed Limit Omaha High: Highest hand wins the slowdown / Fixed Betting Amounts.
  • Fixed Limit Omaha Hi-Lo: Pot Split at Showdown / Fixed Betting Amounts
  • No-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo: Pot Spit at Showdown / No Restrictions On Betting Amounts

In Omaha Hi-lo games, the dealer determines the high and low hands at showdown independently. This means that the cards count in both low and high hands.

What’s the Difference Between PLO Poker and Texas Hold’em?

Starting with four hole cards instead of two is the main difference between Texas Hold’em and PLO poker. But besides that, there are other subtle differences between the two genres of poker.

The first difference lies in the preflop hands. In PLO poker, they run closer in terms of equity compared to Texas Hold’em. In the latter, a hand such as A-Hearts and A-Spades will beat K-Hearts and K-Spades 82.36% of the time preflop.

But in PLO poker, a hand consisting of A-Spades, A-Hearts, 7-Diamond, and 6-Diamond will only win against that of K-Spades, K-Hearts, Q-Hearts, and J-Spades 59.84% of the time.

Such closeness in the strength of preflop hands is one of the factors contributing to PLO players seeing more flops and playing more hands. It also makes Pot Limit Omaha more of a draw game than Texas Hold’em. This results in larger pots, with most of the chips likely to go into the pot following the dealing of the flop.

The second difference lies in the strength of hands you need at showdown. To win in PLO, you need a stronger hand at showdown than you do in Texas Hold’em. In Texas Hold’em, it’s common for players to win a hand with one or two pairs. But in PLO, such hands are barely the best by the river.

The third difference between the two genres of poker is the nature of the betting structure. In no-limit Texas Hold’em poker game, you can bet any amount you want, provided your stack size allows it. But in PLO, the betting structure is “pot-limit.” That means you can only bet the pot’s total size, including your call.

For example, imagine a two-player PLO hand between X and Y. There’s $100 in the pot, making the maximum bet size for the first player (X) $100. When the time comes for the second player (Y) to make a move, he/she can only bet up to $400.

This amount consists of the initial size of the pot ($100), X’s bet ($100), and Y’s call of the first bet ($100). Summed up, that amounts to $300, to which adding the $100 call takes the maximum bet size to $400.

While this might sound a bit confusing for a newbie player, there’s no need to worry because the clicking the “pot” button in an online PLO game will provide you with the correct betting figures. For those playing in a casino, the dealer will help with the calculations—provided you announce “pot” prior to betting the pot size.

The 7 Unwritten Omaha Poker Rules

Here are the seven secrets to winning Omaha poker:

1. Always Play Within Your Bankroll

Resist the temptation to chase bigger games simply because they look enticing. Otherwise, you’ll go broke. As a general rule, always keep a minimum of 50 buy-ins for any given level.

Remember, PLO is a swingy poker game, and the last thing you want is to dump half of your roll going after some fish.

2. Play the Odds, Every Single Time

Odds make PLO profitable and are what distinguishes it from other table games. Pot limit Omaha is beatable because you get to decide when to put some money into the pot.

To be profitable in the long run, always stick to +EV decisions, and keep off –EV decisions. Don’t pursue “feelings.” That’s not how you win unless you’re an experienced player.

The only way to win is to make plays based on math. So know what your odds are, and let that guide your every move.

3. Make the Nuts and Play Tight

When starting out as a PLO player, don’t open your game up because the pros do it. Save that for when you become a serial winner.

Until then, opening up your game will only get you caught up in difficult situations, which will expose you to mistakes and losses. Play tight with the aim of making then nuts and keep a back-up plan in mind.

4. Don’t Over Commit to Aces

Aces are nice, but if you can’t commit before the flop, you’re better off playing them slowly.

In PLO, it’s uncommon for pairs to win at showdown. Even if the aces you have are the best hand, it’ll be hard to get them to showdown so you can find out.

If you have to mark yourself with aces, ensure you have very good ones such as A-Hearts, A-Diamond, J-Hearts, T-Diamond. In other words, your aces should have something to accompany them. Otherwise, your opponents will get a chance for a perfect play against you.

5. Avoid Small Bets

Always try to get as much money as you can in the pot when you’re bearing the best hand. Even the strongest of hands can be vulnerable in PLO, and a small bet size often gives opposing players good value to call.

So if you decide to bet, avoid betting less than 2/3 of the pot size.

6. Read Your Opponent’s Hand

The best way to go about this is to start with the strength and shape of the opponent’s hands. Often, bet sizing will give you an idea you’re your opponents hand preflop.

For instance, some players only re-raise premium hands. Such players are likely to raise high card or pair hands, and will rather call with their rundown hands. Following the flop, some players bet out whenever they get a draw. Others might call with non-nut draws.

With a keen eye, you’ll easily note some patterns. If you’re a newbie player, it’s advisable that you start by studying how various opponents make moves with their Aces hands. Often, double suited rundowns will follow Aces hands.

Once you’ve mastered the art of knowing when an opponent is “protecting” or drawing a made hand from the size of the bet, it’ll be easier to make informed moves.

7. Keep Your Emotions in Check

Just like in Hold’em, you need to be able to keep your game face on even when facing extreme variance. This will prevent your opponent from reading your facial expressions, which can make a huge difference in tightly contested games.

Additionally, keeping your emotions in check allows you to keep a clear head, which is critical to making winning decisions.

Become a Pro in Pot Limit Omaha

Pot Limit Omaha isn’t any harder to learn than other poker games. If you familiarize yourself with the basic rules and the pro tips given here, you’ll be on your way to stardom.

Remember, it’s all about analyzing your hand, your opponent, the odds, the board and using that information to make more +EV than –EV bets.

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