How to play pot-limit Omaha: beginner tips to learn this great game
Many Texas hold’em players want to know how to play pot-limit Omaha — one of the greatest poker games in the world. Joey Ingram, the popular poker podcaster, is one PLO’s biggest advocates. He refers to PLO simply as, “the great game.” And that’s a perfect name for it, because it truly is the most fun you can have in a card room, especially if you love action.
Pot-limit Omaha is different than no-limit Texas hold’em in some ways, but similar in others. The object of both games is the same — make the best possible five-card poker hand. Or, bluff your way to victory. One other similarity between these poker variants is that there are five community cards dealt face-down in a hand. That’s sort of where the similarities end.
How to play pot-limit Omaha: basic rules
The rules of pot-limit Omaha are easy to follow, making the game a lot of fun. Players deal, bet, raise, call, and fold, just like in Texas hold’em, but with a few key differences.
Each player is dealt four cards face-down (hole cards) in pot-limit Omaha — two more than Texas hold’em. But you can only use two of those cards, and must use exactly two cards to complete your poker hand. In Texas hold’em, you don’t have to use any of your hole cards, or you can use just one.
After the hole cards are dealt, the first round of betting ensues. The small blind first puts in a forced bet, and then the big blind does as well. If the stakes are $2/$5, the small blind puts in $2 and the big blind puts in $5. Action starts with the first player to the left of the big blind, then works clockwise around the table until the big blind acts.
3. Fold or raise
The first player to enter the pot before the flop has options. They can call the value of the big blind, fold, or raise between double the value of the big blind up to the size of the pot. If you choose to raise the size of the pot, you take all the money in the pot with your call (value of the big blind) and then add the big blind value. So, if the blinds are $2/$5 and you choose to raise pot, you add the $2 from the small blind, $5 from the big blind, $5 for your call, and then add another big blind value ($5), making your raise to $17.
4. Remaining players
The other players at the table then decide if they want to call, fold, or raise your bet. After the pre-flop action concludes, the remaining players in the hand see the flop, with three face-up community cards. Another round of betting ensues. Players on the flop can bet up to the size of the pot. So, if there’s $50 in the pot, you can bet up to $50, which differs from no-limit games where you can bet up to the size of your stack any time.
5. Post-flop action
After the flop, the turn follows with one more community card and another round of betting. This is followed by the river, one final face-up card, and another round of betting. Following the betting on the river, the player who made the best five-card poker (using exactly two hole cards and three community cards out of the five available) wins the hand.
Does my hand win?
As mentioned, you must play exactly two of the four hole cards you’re dealt, and mix them with three of the five community cards to make the best possible five-card poker hand. This can be a little confusing to some brand-new pot-limit Omaha players, so let’s take a look at an example.
Let’s say you were dealt 8-9-10-J, a strong hand in PLO, especially if it’s double-suited. The board runs out 5-5-5-3-10. You don’t have a full house. You have two-pair as the best possible five-card hand you are playing, based on PLO rules, is 10-10-5-5-J (you’re playing the 10 and J from your hole cards).
Here’s another example to consider. Let’s say you were dealt four diamonds in the hole. If one diamond card hits on the flop, you don’t yet have a flush. You only have three to a flush because you can only use two of your hole cards.
Best pot-limit Omaha hands to play
The action in pot-limit Omaha is intense compared to no-limit hold’em, because players are dealt twice as many hole cards. That means you have a better shot at hitting a big hand. That in turn entices most to call or raise pre-flop more than in Texas hold’em.
Although you should play a wider range of hands in PLO than in NLH, you shouldn’t just play any four cards. The best PLO hands are those with a big pocket pair and two big face cards, double-suited (meaning you have two cards of one suit, two cards of another suit). Hands such as 9-10-J-Q, double-suited, or 10-J-K-Q, double-suited (or even un-suited) are strong hands because they can win you big pots if the community cards come out in your favor.
Hands you should avoid are those that aren’t very connected or have low-value connecting cards. Examples include 2-6-8-J (non-connected) and 2-3-4-5 (low-value connected).
Valuable PLO tips
In no-limit Texas hold’em, aggression pays off. You won’t hit big hands very often, so you have to be willing to bluff regularly to win pots. And when you do hit a big hand, the chances are high that your hand is good.
That differs greatly from pot-limit Omaha, where bluffing opportunities are less frequent because your opponents will hit a number of big hands. On top of that, many of the big hands you hit will be crushed.
With that in mind, don’t overvalue two-pair or even a set — hands that are very strong in Texas hold’em. If you have a set (three-of-a-kind) and there are three of the same suit on the board, you should proceed with caution. In some cases, you should fold to a bet because there’s a good chance you’re beat by a flush. This is especially true if you’re up against multiple opponents.
The same can be said about flushes on paired boards. In many of those hands, you’ll be up against a full house. Pot-limit Omaha is an exciting game, but it can also be frustrating and costly if you overvalue hands that are strong in Texas hold’em.
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