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StrategyOmaha

PLO Hi/Lo Strategy Guide - Part 3

Introduction

In this article
  • How to maximise winnings and minimize losses on the flop
  • Why the flop is a "clean slate" for your hand
  • Which options you have to continue with your hand

In Part 2 we established the criteria for our general starting range, in other words what cards we should be taking to the flop in PLO8. Now on the flop, we should be looking towards maximising our value both by realising our true equity on the flop and looking at how to manipulate opponents to maximise our winnings and minimize our losses.

We will look at equities, positional differences, when to take an aggressive or defensive stance with our hand, when to chase or fold low draws, how to squeeze and how the number of opponents dictates whether we continue past the flop.

The flop in Omaha games typically has a dynamic different to that of Hold’em. The pre-flop aggressor in Omaha does not get the same respect concerning continuation betting. We should consider the flop to be a clean slate for our hand. Any equity we had pre-flop can drastically change on this street, so much so that a pre-flop powerhouse can be worthless on the flop. A234 double suited can be check folded on a KQJ flop as opponents rarely give respect to pre-flop raises like they do in Hold’em.

But that doesn’t mean we should discount the pre-flop action, indeed this is information that is ‘serious business’ and will affect whether we bet out a strong hand or opt for a check-raise. Firstly however, we must learn how to draw conclusions about whether our hand is strong enough to continue with.

AAxx Post flop

Generally the easiest of PLO8 hands to play post-flop. How you play AAxx depends on a number of factors which we shall look at now.

Your perceived range

The more hands you raise pre-flop, the lighter opponents will play back at you post-flop when you’re dealt AAxx. When your range can include low draws, wraps, big pairs etc. players will play back at you lighter when they have a piece of the flop as they believe they have fold equity.

Your low draw

When you hold AA, you have two blockers to the nut low, this reduces the chance of an A2 being out there, so treat AA with a 3 for low as a powerhouse as well. With A4 we are beaten by 23 for low and this is a realistic holding given we have two aces. Let’s look at some typical equities for Aces on a flop:

Equity analysis
Board
QsJd6d
 Hand Scoop
Hi Win  Hi Loss
Lo Win
Lo Loss
EV
As4sAc7d 395 461
359
33
120
0,537
3s5cAd3d 334 359
461
135
22
0,463

Here we have our aces against a nut flush draw with a better back door low draw. It’s close to a coin flip and on this flop, players with nut flush draws will definitely jam their hand as they would with a set. It’s hard for a nut flush draw to be crushed and they can put a lot of pressure on aces to fold the coin flip due to aces fearing being against a set. To compare how bad it is to be against a set, here is the equity for that.

Equity analysis
Board
QsJd6d
 Hand Scoop
Hi Win  Hi Loss
Lo Win
Lo Loss
EV
As4sAc7d 127
127
693
224
0
0,248
QcJcQdTh 541
693
127
0
0
0,752

Versus a typical hand with a set, we don’t have odds to chase our low draw. However we might find ourselves calling off here since opponents will also be aggressive with flush draws or other similar hands that we have good equity against. Simply changing our opponents hand from a set to two pair shows how equities change against hands we would consider to be strong against us.

Equity analysis
Board
QsJd6d
 Hand Scoop
Hi Win  Hi Loss
Lo Win
Lo Loss
EV
As4sAc7d 191
191
629
224
0
0,345
QcJcKdTh 445
629
191
0
0
0,655

So given typical bad flops it’s hard to be crushed with aces, overall when playing heads up, we should be stacking off on these flop heads-up. There will be many times when we bet and the opponent folds, and a few times when they hit their set and we still have 25% equity or more with a low draw. Where however we should strongly consider folding is when action is multi-way. Against two opponents, one holding two pair and the other with a flush draw we are in a lot of trouble.

Equity analysis
Board
QsJd6d
 Hand Scoop
Hi Win  Hi Loss
Lo Win
Lo Loss
EV
As4sAc7d 94
105
561
33
120
0,171
QcJcKdTh 275
334
332
0
0
0,457
3s5cAd3d 202
227
439
135
22
0,372

So what we need for our aces to always confidently continue past the flop is one of the following:

  • A set with no low:

This one is obvious, having top set is a good outcome for pocket aces; play the hand hard and fast because sometimes players will put you on A2 style hands and stack off with their pair + low draw.

  • Good low/ low draw:

This means at least two low cards where we have a reasonable low draw, at worst the fourth nut low such as A5 on a 27K board or A4 on a K75 board.

  • Flush/ flush draw:

Holding aces with a nut flush draw should be treated as a strong hand, unless the flop is all low cards and we have no low ourselves. Play this aggressively no matter how many opponents and be happy with the outcome whether or not you hit the flush.

  • Straight draw:

AAQJ should feel equally comfortable betting a KT4 flop. We have 11 outs to the nuts and maybe even a backdoor flush draw. Since opponents will generally have low cards rather than high, they will stack off frequently with hands like AK43 that at a glance it looks like we’re in trouble against 2 pair and backdoor low, but really we aren’t, we are actually slight favourite at 54/46.

Equity analysis
Board
Ks4cTd
 Hand Scoop
Hi Win  Hi Loss
Hi Tie
Lo Win
EV
As3c4dKh 373
373
438
9
160
0,46
QsAcJdAh 438
438
373
9
0
0,54
  • Paired boards:

If we raise pre-flop and thin the field, typically we end up facing opponents who have some type of coordination in their hand. We can expect to see cards 7,8,9 with less frequency in player’s hands so when boards come K77 we can assume AAxx is good a large portion of the time. Similarly, if the flop comes 885 players will be calling bets with just low draws, so again we can bet AAxx and not be worried about being crushed by an 8 at this point.

  • Flush/Straight boards:

The simple rule associated with these boards is “fit or fold”. Straight and flush boards are typically hard to get people off when you raise pre-flop, therefore flop bets should be for value and bluffs should be saved for specific opponents you have a read on.

Think also about what the board will typically look like on the river and whether your hand will be strong enough to bet or call with by then. If you think you will be folding too much on the river, then you should not proceed past the flop with the hand. Focus on whether your hand is playing for the pot or half, consider folding if winning half a pot is your best outcome on the flop.

Suited Babies

The suited baby is the epitome of fit or fold. However you must always have some way of winning money on the flop. Sometimes this will be from making everyone else fold through aggression, other times keeping the hand multi-way and trapping a player with a worse low.

Monster Babies

You have A234 and the flop comes 844. In spots like this you should value bet small, typically a third of the pot. Keep players interested and hope someone catches a low or tries to bluff you because your bet looks weak. Since you will also have low, you will quarter your opponent and can bet big on later streets knowing they won’t fold. If someone else plays back at you, never fold.

Flushed Babies

Congratulations, you have flopped the nut flush! When this happens, we have a strange situation. Firstly we want to charge players who have a set or 2 pair, but we also want people with low draws to chase if we have the same draw ourselves.

Half-pot bets work well here, players drawing to a low consider themselves “priced in to draw to half” (sometimes they might even raise thinking you’re weak!) whilst you’re correctly charging a set to draw to a full house (the fact that a set can hit a full house and still only win half the pot means it is being charged correctly). Usually though, these turn into value bets, where you bet small on the flop, bigger on the turn and full pot on the river.

Low Chaser

Usually a fold depending on the size of the current pot. A low chaser is a hand where you have minimal equity for the high half of the pot such as A239 on a K86 flop. When someone bets the pot we can assume we will only be taking a share of the low pot should a low card come.

It’s important when playing suited babies to realise your equity on the flop. If you have no way at all of winning high (such as a gutshot straight draw or two backdoor flush draws) then you shouldn’t automatically chase for half the pot if the pot is extremely small.

You may be getting quartered unknowingly by a player trying to price you in. As a general rule, if there is less than one pot sized bet left, it’s fine to call with a nut low draw (it’s correct odds or a small mistake at worst), however if you have more then it’s better to get off the hand. As always if you have protection with your nut low draw, it improves equity significantly.

Here are a couple examples of this, where we have a low draw against a made full house.

Equity analysis
Board
4s4c8d
 Hand Scoop
Hi Win  Hi Loss
Lo Win
Lo Loss
EV
As2s3cKd 1
1
819
630
0
0,385
8sJdJh8h 190
819
1
0
0
0,615

With our low draw with protection, we hit our low 38.5% of the time, this is more than the 33% equity we need to call a pot bet (assuming it puts us all-in). However it needs to be 5% higher as a rule since sometimes our opponent will show up with A24Q type hands that have us in much worse shape.

Equity analysis
Board
4s4c8d
 Hand Scoop
Hi Win  Hi Loss
Lo Win
Lo Loss
EV
As2sQcKd 1
1
819
520
0
0,318
8sJdJh8h 300
819
1
0
0
0,682

Changing the 3 in our hand to a queen now destroys our odds of chasing. Our chance of hitting low is reduced to 32%, so if we’re facing a full pot bet, this becomes a clear fold for hands with no clear way of winning the high pot. This shows the importance of the third low card when chasing for low as it gives 5 additional outs to half the pot.

Pocket pair + low hands

The ‘Plan B’ hand generally requires exactly that to continue past the flop, and that’s a Plan B. It all depends on the strength of the high pair and the strength of the low draw whether or not to warrant playing the hand. Over-pairs are a good place to start, so AKK3 can continue on boards like Q86 as it takes a perfect 4 card hand to have it dominated both ways such as AQ62. Should we however hold AJJ3 then we have to show a little more restraint with our aggression as now it only takes 3 cards to dominate us both, such as AQ2x.

Of course, as previously mentioned, sometimes players will stack off on the flop with nothing but a low draw or with a high hand that has no low draw, so in situations like this you have to use a lot of judgement , considering what your opponents range is, especially what they will treat as good enough to shove.

Plan B hands are a lot easier to fold when multi-way, you should be looking at having hit the nuts one way or having a chance at scooping both. An example of this would be A299 on a board of 987. Here our hand will improve to a full house or better 33% of the time (which we assume will be good for the high pot). If this doesn’t happen then it’s likely we get there for low (we hit a low on 54% of boards). For our hand to not improve to either high or low we would have to see either an A2TJQK hit the turn followed by the same on the river barring whatever the turn card is which works out as 18.5% of the time.

Even then when we don’t improve we may still win with our top set, it’s not automatic someone has a straight and because of the times we are good, this is the final reason why we cannot make any play other than shoving this flop, our equity is just too high on a board like this.

Don’t chase the low!

Changing the board just by one card gives a whole new complexion to the hand. Instead of 987, we have a T98 board whilst holding a similar hand, A288.

Now we have to consider the very real holding of QJxx that we’re close to coin flipping against or TT/99 which are crushing us completely. In a situation where we are against a bigger set, our equity mainly relies on hitting running low cards for half the pot or some backdoor straight/flush. We need to see one of 20 low cards on the turn followed by one from 16 cards on the river to make a low hand. This runner/runner for low hits 14% of the time, therefore since it is for half a pot, gives us 7% equity at most (assuming our opponent also doesn’t have A2 or blockers of any kind).

We can see from this that calling in the hope of hitting running low cards for half a pot is extremely unprofitable. Runner/runner low doesn’t add that much equity to our hand. One of the aspects of a pot limit game is that a small monetary mistake on one street turns into a larger monetary mistake on a subsequent street. So we should always consider our equity against the full range of opponents’ hands.

Equity analysis
Board
9s8cTd
 Hand Scoop
Hi Win  Hi Loss
Lo Win
Lo Loss
EV
2sAc8d8h 302
302
518
160
0
0,466
AsJcQdKh 358
518
302
0
0
0,534
Equity analysis
Board
9s8cTd
 Hand Scoop
Hi Win  Hi Loss
Lo Win
Lo Loss
EV
2sAc8d8h 39
39
781
160
0
0,145
AsTcQdTh 621
781
39
0
0
0,855

These are both best case scenarios for us with our opponent holding no low draw in either scenario and holding no blockers to our draws.

Once we factor in flush draws we can adjust our equities accordingly. A backdoor flush draw turns 53/47 into 51/49 which is a 4% swing in our favour. A flopped live flush draw and set turns our hand into one that crushes, now being 65/35 ahead of a nut straight which is a 36% swing in equity in our favour. However our opponent having a flush draw only changes our equity if it is in the same suit and larger than our flush draw. This shows the importance of good pre-flop hand selection where we try to avoid being dominated by playing small/medium pairs and small/medium flush hands like 6h5h5s3s and 8s8d3d3c.

High Only Hands

High Only Hands have the same flop concept as the Suited Baby hand, only reversed. Now, obviously, we are looking for high cards and are looking to scoop by not sharing the pot with a low hand. These hands typically have to be played hard and fast, charging any low draws the maximum possible, since should a low card hit, we can at that point find ourselves either being freerolled or folding the best high hand to pressure from a low hand on a scary board.

Let’s take a hand like AhKsQd9h, it has a nut flush draw potential and a good kicker should it hit a pair. The toughest aspect of this hand is the times it hits a flush draw, how to play such a draw in PLO8 is difficult as often some of the flush outs will only be worth half a pot instead of a scoop.

So our AhKsQd9h sees a flop of Jh6h3s.

This is not a good flop for our hand heads-up, but gains value the more opponents we have.

Firstly we have no pair, so any random 4 cards with a low draw will be a favourite here against us. We only have 3 cards that give us the nuts on the turn, those being KhQhTh. We do not consider any low heart to give us the nuts since at this point we could be getting freerolled by any low hand with 2 pair or a set.

Secondly when we hit, the majority of the boards will see a low being available, so in a situation like this we need there to be multiple opponents with the same low or a player trapped in the middle with a weaker flush and a low hand that both the best high and best low can win money off. So if a low card hits and a player bets out his low, if you’re last to act you can raise, but when first to act after the bettor, sometimes you make more money by calling with the nuts hoping that someone will raise behind you or at least call instead of folding to your re-raise.

So unlike the Suited Baby, which has a 2 way draw and therefore can be played aggressively, we have to play the suited High Only Hand passively on a board with a low draw and flush draw if we have no showdown equity. Going back to a key topic from Part 2, we are looking to win money, not win pots. Winning half of a big pot where we put in half of the money is worse than winning half of a small pot where we put in a third of the money.

Conclusion

Of course anything mentioned in the article should be treated as a general strategy that of course should be adapted to your current game conditions, and that is something you can only learn through experience. There is no ‘always’ or ‘never’ when it comes to strategy advice, situations can develop where an unconventional line is most profitable and it’s up to you, the player, to use logic and reason to deduce how best to extract money from your opponents.

 

Comments (5)

#1 w34z3l, 17 May 11 20:41

Please give plo8 it's own section on the strategy articles page with these articles in it.

#2 R3T4RD5, 03 Sep 11 07:33

More strategy for PLO (not hi/low) would be very handy.<br /> Thanks for all your effort. =)

#3 surfwell1818, 20 May 14 11:07

Thanks for this

#4 P00kbettor, 29 May 14 09:45

Very nice article

#5 sonorov, 04 Jun 15 05:18

Thanks you