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PLO for Beginners (2) - Preflop Play
IntroductionIn this article
- The most important basic concepts of preflop play
- Which starting hands are playable and which are not
- The most important differences between heads-up and multi-way pots
This part of the "PLO for Beginners" series deals with the essentials of preflop play. Therefore, you will first be introduced to the basics that you need to be familiar with when playing before the flop.
Later in the article we will take a closer look at different hand categories and basic concepts. Selected examples will illustrate why your starting hands selection is so important and you will learn a fair share about the differences between heads-up and multi-way pots.
At the very end of this article you will find some suggestions for your UTG range as well as a section about bet and raise sizes.
In PLO there are a total of 16,432 different starting hands, made up of all the possibilities that result from the 270,725 stochastically possible combinations.
That's the reason why there is no simple starting hands chart for Omaha. Players often heavily argue about the question which starting hand is the best in PLO since they say this does not only depend on the preflop equity, but also on the playability.
Whether you prefer AAKK double-suited or AAJT double-suited - both of these are very strong hands. Also, a starting hands chart would be less useful in Omaha, since the complex postflop game is a lot more important here than in Hold'em.
On top of that, the preflop equities are much closer together than in Hold'em. One of the strongest starting hands such as AAKK is only a 65.5% favourite against a random hand.
In Hold'em, you are likely to win in 85% of cases if you have aces. While this equity edge usually doesn't change much, the opposite is true in many cases in PLO. Many flops can make AAKK an absolute underdog.
That makes it all the more important to know both your equity preflop and the playability of your hand. On top of that you should know the approximate equity against your opponents' ranges on different flop textures.
However, the only way for you to learn how to do this is to analyse your equities after each session and to establish patterns, for example on which board you should play bet/fold or even check/fold when you have aces, and when you can go broke.
However, beginners make most of their mistakes when they 3-bet a wrong range. Many players who have switched to Omaha from Hold'em 3-bet all aces and even marginal kings and queens, since they are used to such play from Limit Hold'em.
In PLO however you should 3-bet a well-balanced mix of good AA, premium kings and double-suited hands with high playability and deception, for example big and small rundowns.
In contrast to Hold'em, an isolation raise from late position against early limpers is not a must in PLO. Position is so valuable and good post flop play is so important that a limp behind is not a mistake, but possibly even an advantage in many situations. Another reason why you should not raise is the following aspect.
Contibet less in PLO. Your opponents will almost always have hit a good hand and especially in multi-way pots you should stay away from bluff continuation bets.
In the long run, you will only burn your money with this. If you raised with AA**, got 3 callers and the board is 875 rainbow, you can basically muck your hand and should play check/fold.
An overview of the different starting hands
The first hand category is made up of all starting hands with a pair.
There are a total of 10,725 different PLO starting hands with a pair and 234 hands with two pair. There is a 30.4% probability that you have a pair in your starting hand. Two pairs on the other hand are much less common, and you will only have this rare hand in 1% of cases.
Since you will rarely win the showdown with a pair in PLO, it's always your goal to flop a set. Although this will give you a strong hand, it won't give you the monster that a set would be in Texas Hold'em.
(Premium, very strong)
(weak aces, no suitedness, not connected)
You have to keep in mind the following aspects:
- Suitedness makes paired hands stronger.
- Double pairs are very strong hands (in 21% of cases you will hit a set on the flop).
- Small pocket pairs are a bit dangerous in PLO, since you can easily run into higher sets.
Suitedness is another very important topic in Omaha. Flush draws are very strong hands in PLO and according to the rules you can only make a flush if you have two cards of the same suit. 2x2 cards of the same suit are therefore the best thing that can happen and it extremely increases the value of your hand.
That's why double-suited hands are the strongest hands in PLO. You will hold them in around 13.5% of cases.
Single-suited hands are not as strong as double-suited hands, in more than half of all cases you will hold a single-suited hand, namely in around 75%. However, you still have the chance to make a flush with these hands.
An exception among single-suited hands are one-suited hands, i.e. four cards of the same suit. One-suited hands are also weak because you are taking away your own outs to a flush and on top of that the possibility that another player also has a (hopefully smaller) flush.
Rainbow hands are usually trash, even with the AA from the example the playability decreases dramatically. You will have a rainbow hand in about 10% of cases.
You have to keep in mind the following aspects:
- Double-suited hands dramatically increase the strength of the hand and its playability.
- Single-suited hands are more valuable than rainbow hands.
- Rainbow hands are usually trash.
- One-suited hands are also weak, since you are taking away your own outs to a flush.
Run downs are a hand category that you will often encounter in PLO. They may be the most powerful hand group in PLO because they have a high straight and nut potential.
The rundown in Omaha is a starting hand of four consecutive cards.
Keep in mind the following basic rules:
- The higher the rundowns, the better they usually are. The higher your cards, the bigger your chances to freeroll your opponent with lower cards. On top of that, there is always the aspect of high card value. If you make two pair, you will usually have the better two pair.
- Small rundowns often don't draw to the nuts.
- Small rundowns are rather speculative hands.
- Double-suited rundowns are extremely strong, since they also have flush potential.
When talking about rundowns, danglers have to be mentioned as well. A dangler is a card that doesn't go well with the others and doesn't give you any additional out possibilities. In the example of AKQ4 it would be the 4 that doesn't support the other cards.
In the context of rundowns, gapped hands also have to be mentioned.
A gapped hand is a rundown as well, but it has a gap. You refer to this gap within the 4 cards as top gap, mid gap and bottom gap. The gap affects the probability of hitting nut draws and is therefore a quality characteristic. The lower the gap is situated, the better your hand. If the gap is at the top however, you will often not draw to the nuts.
When you have a rundown (with or without gap), it is your goal to flop WRAPS.
A wrap is a draw that wraps around the board and therefore has a lot of outs.
The example clearly shows what this means. You have 9875 and the flop comes A64. Your hand virtually wraps around the 6 and the 4, which gives you plenty of outs: Every 3, every 5, 7 or 8 completes your straight - wraps are very strong hands, simply due to the number of outs.
Enough said about the different hand types. When it comes to selecting starting hands, one thing is very important in particular: You always want to have hands that can flop both strong made hands and very strong draws, or even both of these, i.e. a set with the nut flush draw for example, a wrap with an additional flush draw or similarly strong hands.
Preflop: Basic concepts
Especially since the preflop equities are much closer together, you might think that loose play per se will be profitable, because you can hit the flop better than your opponent and often have a decent equity on the flop.
However, this is a fallacy since the equity disadvantage always affects the entire hand. Imagine you call a 3-bet and have 40% against your opponent's range. You will often still have 40% equity on the flop and continue to play based on pot odds. The same goes for the turn and the river. In the end, you will have played with a negative expected value the whole time, but you have levelled yourself into this unprofitable spot yourself.
Carefully select your starting hands and make a solid hand selection to avoid getting freerolled.
Bigger is better because you dominate smaller pairs and secondly smaller rundown hands. You will always have the better draws and on top of that, your two pairs are better than those of your opponent. If you hit trips along with another player, you will have the better kickers.
All these aspects are reasons why you should mainly play broadway cards, especially in multi-way pots.
In multi-way pots it's very important to always draw to the nuts. As already mentioned, you don't want to get freerolled, i.e. you don't want to draw to a 2nd nut flush if someone else draws to the nut flush. In PLO, even the K-high flush is often not good anymore. Make sure that you keep this rule in mind, it will save you a lot of money.
In heads-up pots, e.g. in a blind battle or in a 3-bet pot for example, you don't necessarily have to expect that your opponent has the nuts. Even a smaller flush might be the best hand under certain circumstances here.
You might object that these are all topics relevant to the flop and that they don't play a role preflop. This is not entirely correct: You already have to keep all this in mind when you select your starting hands. Always take into consideration the upcoming flop constellation and the opponent constellation when selecting your starting hands.
In contrast to Texas Hold'em, a well-balanced 3-bet strategy is hard to achieve for beginners. Contrary to NL, 3-bets in PLO generally get called. On the one hand this has to do with the preflop equities being closer together, and on other other hand many hands on the flop have a fundamentally different equity than preflop. That's why players tend to want to have a look at the flop first.
Therefore it's always important to have a well-balanced 3-betting range. You should not only 3-bet AA, but a good balance of good aces, premium double-suited kings as well as big and small double-suited rundowns. This will make your range so balanced and deceptive that your opponent won't be able to put you on a hand.
Vice versa you can very easily exploit weak players who only 3-bet AA, and perfectly play against their one hand, namely the aces.
This flop is a rather unpleasant one for AA**. If you know that your opponent only 3-bets AA, you can always attack this flop. If he doesn't happen to have favourable kickers (e.g. AAT7, AA99) for this flop, he will have to fold to action. The same is also true of course if you yourself only 3-bet AA**: your opponents will attack the board.
If your 3-betting range also includes rundowns besides AA, your opponents won't be able to just blindly attack the board. If you could also have JT97 or similarly strong rundowns in this situation, you will also be able to play your AA more profitably.
Multi-way vs. HU
To illustrate the importance of starting hands selection, let's look at the following example on the flop. You always have to take into account the playability of your starting hand:
You decided to play J987 double-suited. On the flop it looks as if you had flopped gin. You have the straight and a flush draw.
Many players will not put much thought into this situation and already go all-in on the flop, but is this good play?
Let's look at some equities against hands that might also go all-in:
- Axxx with flush draw: 46.92%
- Set with any kickers: 54.99%
- AJxx: 27.75% (AdJd**: 0,00%)
- Set and higher flush draw: 26.54%
- Set, higher flush draw & nut straight: 0.00%
Although the flop looks fantastic for you, it really isn't. Even against relatively weak hands such as a flush draw you can hardly achieve more than a coin flip, against the stronger hands you will already be drawing dead.
You should always raise your strong hands. The standard raise size is either 3BB, up to pot size.
Every now and then you can also think about limp/3-betting hands such as AA UTG, or limp/calling speculative hands in order to keep the pot small. This is definitely an option. However, the game will be easier for you if you make a standard raise: When you do, you don't even have to balance your play. Experiment to find out what you prefer.
A very important aspect has already been mentioned before: Your 3-betting range should be somewhat balanced. Don't only raise AA**, but a healthy mix of good aces, premium double-suited kings, as well as big and small double-suited rundowns. This will make your range so balanced and deceptive that your opponent won't be able to put you on a hand.
SummaryIn this article you learned how important a good starting hands selection is to be successful in PLO. This selection is considerably more complex and affected by more factors than that in NL Hold'em for example. That's why a chart would not make any sense here.
You have been introduced to the different hand types and you have seen the characteristics that help you judge the quality of a given starting hand.
On top of that you have seen what a difference it makes whether you are playing against one or multiple opponents.
When you have internalised the basic concepts just introduced and also carefully read the upcoming articles, you are well-prepared for a successful start into PLO.
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