PLO Basics, Part 2

In my previous article, I gave you some very basic beginner tips for starting out in pot-limit Omaha (PLO). In this article I’ll get a little more advanced and give you three more crucial concepts with which you must be aware.

To give credit where credit is due, I learned these concepts from Scott Clements. If you don’t know about Scott, he has 3 WSOP bracelets and is one of the best PLO thinkers in the world. You can watch a couple free PLO training videos from him HERE (you’ll need to create a free account). Those videos cover these topics in more detail. Scott also wrote a chapter in Jonathan Little’s bestseller, Excelling at No-Limit Holdem. Scott is in better shape than any poker player I know, which I believe has a lot to do with his success in poker. (“I’m at the gym, call you later”, is usually the response I get when I text him.)

So let’s jump right into it:

Concept #1: Position is even more important

In No-Limit Holdem (NLHE) you can get away with playing out of position, but in PLO position is critical. When you’re in position, you have more flexibility and maneuverability than your opponents. PLO is a more “dynamic” game than NLHE. If you’re familiar with the term “dynamic flop”, that’s the sense of the word I’m referring to. The turn and river card will often change who’s ahead much more often than in NLHE. The player in position can take free cards on the turn and often bluff on a wide variety of river cards when checked to.

Concept #2: Blockers, Blockers, Blockers\n

Hopefully you think about blockers when you play NLHE, especially on the river. A typical NLHE example would be a blocker to the nut flush. Suppose the board is Q6J35 and you hold AK . That’s a great bluffing hand because you block your opponent from having the nut flush.

In PLO, given that you have four cards you can hold a variety of blockers all in one hand, that knock out a big chunk of your opponent’s value range, allowing you to bluff with more confidence. Here are two examples:\n

  1. The board is T9TJQ and you hold QJA9. On a board like this it would be rare for anything less than a full house to win. You only have two pair, but look at all the blockers you have to a full house. You block QQ, JJ, 99, Q-10, J-10, and 10-9. This would be a great choice as a bluffing hand.

  2. The board is AKJT3 and you hold QQ77. . Hopefully you’ve played enough PLO to realize you don’t have a straight here, but by holding the two queens you block half of the possible straight hands in your opponent’s range.

Concept #3: Keep pots small and wait for others to makes mistakes

I can’t stress this one enough. People just play really badly in typical PLO games. You don’t need to build pots, in the sense of aggressively re-raising pre-flop with hands that might have a slight equity edge. Take bad players to the flop, and let them get trapped with their nut straight, when you flop the nut straight AND a flush re-draw or a set. PLO is an action game, and it’s not generally hard to get your money in when you have the best of it after the flop, so it isn’t necessary to build big pots pre-flop.

This is especially true in the early stages of tournaments. You don’t need to struggle to get every ounce of value out of every hand, and possibly burn up a lot of chips in the process. Just sit back and wait for bad players to dump their stack to you, which will happen often enough!