Pot-Limit Omaha: Flop Play (2)

Now that we have discussed the made hands in the first part of flop play, we will take a closer look at the hands that make Pot-Limit Omaha an action-packed and expensive game in the second part.

Drawing hands 

We generally distinguish between two types of draws: Draws that can give us the nuts (the best possible hand at this point) and draws to good hands but non nut hands.

If we have a hand with which we draw to the nuts, we should play it like a made hand, especially if we have a lot of outs thanks to the variety of cards or due to various draws.

  • Example:

We are holding .

The flop comes:

  • a) or
  • b)             

In case a), we would have a draw to the nut straight with any ten, jack or queen. In case b), we would have the nut straight draw as well as the possibility of getting the second nut flush or even a royal flush.

If in case a) we currently have nine safe outs and possibly additional outs with the two kings, we should play the hand passively and hope to hit one of our outs. So this would be a good situation to play check-call or check-fold. If we are in position and it is checked to us, we can try a semi-bluff, depending on the opponent.

Flop b) gives us another seven outs so that we have a total of 16 outs (plus possibly the two kings.) In this situation we can play the hand like a made hand. If we don't hit our draw on the turn, we have to consider whether it's worth it to continue playing either as a semi-bluff or as a lucrative call (OOP or depending on the opponent's bet size). But in position we can also take a free card if we think that our opponent has us beat at that point.
If the board pairs after we were called on the flop, we can assume we are probably far behind and should play the hand to the end as inexpensively as possible (check-check, check-call, or check-fold).

The general motto for draws is:

  • Play strong draws strong.
  • If there is a lot of resistance, we have to assume our opponent also has a strong hand and reassess the number of our outs.

So if we have a good draw, we should play it strong. First, this allows us to disguise our made hands which we also play strong, and secondly, it wouldn't even be unusual to raise for value since the opponent's hand is actually much weaker than expected

It is also common that two draws play against each other. Usually the player who wins here is the one who is aggressive first or the one who is drawing to the nuts.

That's why nut draws are significantly stronger than other draws, especially in Omaha.

However, we shouldn't play most draws unconditionally. We should definitely respect an opponent's raise or re-raise. Often the opponent not only has a made hand, but a combination of a made and a drawing hand and this significantly reduces our chances of winning. Folding is not a bad reaction to a re-raise, especially if there are other draws or even made hands possible that can no longer be beaten.

  • Example 1: Good flop for a drawing hand

We are holding and are the third player to limp into the pot. The small blind and big blind are also in and five of us see the flop.

The flop comes: .

This is a very good flop for our hand. We not only have an open-ended straight flush draw, but additional outs, as well. Not only will any hearts card help us, as well as a or a , but so will any or any . We have a total of 19 outs. If we bet the pot here and only one player calls us, we have pot odds of 2:1, a very desirable situation!

  • Example 2: Bad flop for a drawing hand

We're holding . We're on the button and limp as the second player into the pot. The blinds are in too.

The flop is: .

This is a bad flop for us. Although we are holding an OESD and a backdoor flush draw, only two of our outs are really safe ( and ). All of the other outs could give an opponent a better hand. We should fold our hand as soon as there is any action.

In PL Omaha there are draws that are actually a favourite against the current made hand. For example, there are straight draws with up to 20 outs that have up to a 58.54% chance of winning against a single opponent. We have put together a few tables below that show which hands we should call when we have a good straight draw:

  • The following situation:

We open the pot with a pot size bet and only the small blind calls. There are eight big blinds in the pot (3.5 BBs from our raise, 3.5BBs from the call and a BB from the big blind). The small blind is an aggressive player and hits top set on the flop. Furthermore we calculate the equity in case he also has a flush draw or a straight draw.

We are holding a nut straight draw and the second nut flush draw. We assume that the small blind will always bet the pot on the turn, even if a flush or a straight is possible, but if we were to raise, he would fold. If he is called on the turn, he will only bet the river if no draw is possible, but call our half-pot bet to see how strong his set is. If we hit one of our outs on the turn, we just call so that he bets again on the river (which would generally be a mistake at this point because our opponent has redraws).

If we win, we get a total of 76 BB (8 BB pre-flop + 8 BB flop + 24 BB turn + 36 BB river)

If we lose, we pay a total of 32 BB (8 BB flop + 24 BB turn)

Here are our calculations for the hand discussed above:

  13-Card Nut Straight Draw vs. Set

Our Hand

Opponent's Hand

Flop

Our Equity

Turn&River 

Opponent's Equity

Turn&River 

 Win/Loss

in Big Blinds

 

 

 

 43.54%

 56.46%

 +15.02 BB

 

 

 

 50.49%

 49.51%

+22.53 BB

 

 

 

 37.80%

 62.20%

+08.82 BB

 

 

 

 48.54%

 51.46%

+20.42 BB

 

 

 

 29.03%

 70.97%

-00.65 BB

 

 

 

 42.07%

 57.93%

+13.44 BB

 

 

 

 41.46%

 58.54%

+12.78 BB

 

 

 

 28.41%

 71.59%

-01.32 BB

 

16-Card Nut Straight Draw vs. Set

 Our Hand

Opponent's Hand

Flop

Our Equity

Turn&River

Opponent'sEquity

Turn&River 

 

Win/Loss

in Big Blinds

 

 

49.51%

50.49%

+21.47 BB

 

 

55.00%

45.00%

+27.40 BB

 

 

39.33%

60.67%

+09.19 BB

 

 

50.49%

49.51%

+22.53 BB

 

 

35.31%

64.69%

+06.13 BB

 

 

46.59%

53.41%

+18.32 BB

 

 

47.32%

52.68%

+19.11 BB

 

 

33.17%

66.83%

+03.82 BB

 

20-Card Nut Straight Draw vs. Set

Our Hand Opponent's Hand

Flop 

Our Equity

Turn&River 

  Opponent's Equity

Turn&River 

 Win/Loss

in Big Blinds

55.49%

44.51%

+27.93 BB

 

58.54%

41.46%

+31.22 BB

42.26%

57.74%

+13.64 BB

50.98%

49.02%

+23.06 BB

 

39.88%

60.12%

+11.07 BB

 

50.85%

49.15%

+22.92 BB

53.41%

46.59%

+25.68 BB

37.07%

62.93%

+08.04 BB

 

We can see from the tables above that with our straight draw with 16 outs we already have a positive expected value against top set and a nut flush draw, as long as we stick to the approach described above.

And even with 13 outs, we have a positive expected value in most cases. Especially in cases where we are holding two backdoor flush draws, because these will turn into a flush 10% of the time. Of course, we shouldn't calculate with the full 10% since we are not drawing to the nut flush, but this "bonus" still helps us.

Made and drawing hands

It is not unusual to hold not only a made hand or a drawing hand, but both.

  • Example: 

We're holding .

The flop comes: .

We're not only holding the current nuts with a set of aces, but also the second nut flush draw and an open-ended straight draw. This means an additional 16 outs that can improve our hand.

Combinations of made and drawing hands like these make sure that plenty of chips find their way into the pot. These hands are extremely strong and should be played accordingly. Since PLO is so action-packed, it doesn't make much sense to play such strong hands slow as we would lose value. We get paid off much too often, even if we play aggressively

  • Example 1: Good flop for a made and drawing hand

We're holding in the small blind and complete after two players have already limped in. The big blind checks and four of us see the flop.

The flop is: .

We hit trips and the gives us a straight draw with four outs (every ), nine outs to a full house (which could give other players a straight) and an out for the last remaining in the deck. This gives us a total of 14 outs to improve our already good hand. Of course, we could already be beat ( or ) or be behind if another player is holding the last seven but has a better kicker. We also shouldn't forget that every out to a full house can give another player a better full house if he is holding the corresponding pair in his hand. Although that's unlikely, it's not impossible and when we have three opponents and there is surprising aggression, we should definitely consider that we may be behind. To make players with possible draws pay, we should play aggressively or even raise.

  • Example 2: Good flop for a made drawing hand

We're holding in the hijack and open the pot with a pot size bet. The cutoff, button and both blinds still call.

The flop comes: .

This is an excellent flop for us. Not only are we holding the current nuts with our set of kings, we also have the second nut flush draw (or take two of the outs away from the player with the nut flush draw) and we have an OESD. Even against a player with a nut flush draw and OESD who is holding , our chances of winning are 56.46% to 42.93%. We should take advantage of this opportunity and act aggressively by betting or raising the pot.

Freerolls

There are situations where a made and drawing hand amounts to a freeroll. If two players come up against each other on the flop and both have hit the nut straight, one of them can still have an advantage.

  • Example:

Player A has
Player B has

Both see the flop and each of them has flopped the nut straight. But while Player B has only a chance of splitting the pot, Player A has the nut flush draw as well as a backdoor flush draw in hearts. This means that in 60% of cases, the pot will be split, but in 40% of cases, the first player will improve his hand and win the pot.

In this example, we can also see how important it is in PL Omaha to make sure the cards in our starting hand are at least single suited, but ideally double-suited. Don't forget, there are freerolls with the nut full house too.

  • Example:

Player A is holding
Player B is holding

The flop comes: . Now both players have the nut full house. But Player A still has the chance to get a better full house. Every and every will give him a better hand which means that he has a total of six outs. And one of these outs will appear in 27.44% of the cases.

These freerolls happen more often than we would expect at first, so we should try to get on the right side of the equation beginning with the starting hand selection.

Trash hands 

It often happens that we completely miss the flop or only flop top pair with no draws worth mentioning. We can be thankful when this happens because we can simply fold these hands without them costing us any more chips. In favourable situations (lots of action pre-flop and then everyone checks on a flop), a bluff bet could work. Since presumably no one has really hit this flop, a bet has a good chance of winning the pot. If one or more players call, we have to decide whether we want to fire a second and possibly a third barrel or prefer to just give up

Position

Many players consider the position in Omaha to be much more important than in Texas Hold'em. Paired with the right amount of aggression, we can quickly become a dangerous opponent. Out of position we can win a lot of pots with a donk or continuation bet if the flop and the pre-flop betting sequence make a made hand plausible.

  • Example 1:

We are holding in the big blind, a player in early position has raised, two players have called and we call as well.

The flop is: . We bet the pot and everyone folds.

The flop probably didn't help the raiser or the callers. Not many players call a raise with low cards ( to ). But the other players wouldn't put it past us to have low cards in the big blind. With a donk bet we will win the pot often enough in this case - one of the few advantages if we are out of position.

  • Example 2:

We're holding on the button and re-raise a loose EP raiser. He calls.

The flop comes: . The EP raiser checks, we bet the pot, representing a hand, our opponent thinks for a minute (he is probably holding an ace, as well), but then he folds and we win the pot  

In general, we should always try to play in position or we should raise to force the following players including the button to fold so that we are in position afterwards. A good position also usually guarantees that we can act on the flop after the aggressor. Although a continuation bet in PLO usually has a very good effect, it helps to re-raise with a good hand or to be able to fold at the right time and cheaply with a bad hand. Playing OOP against the aggressor is often expensive and therefore not advisable.

Here are a few more examples

Here are a few examples for various situations on the flop and how they can end:

 

  • Example 1: Playing a drawing hand aggressively

In this hand, our player raises with his strong starting hand and hits a strong draw on the flop.

In addition to his nut flush draw (nine outs including the for a royal flush), he also has three outs for each , , to a straight. But at this point we should disregard the because another player with or would be holding a better straight. That still leaves 18 outs all together and consequently a 68% chance of winning if his opponent isn't holding any redraws. So he can push the chips into the middle with a clear conscience.

Then one of his many outs appears on the turn and our player continues his aggression. Consequently, it won't be easy for his opponent to put him on a certain hand and he has a wide range of hands with which he will call the bet. The river is a blank and now even player 1 has realized that he is behind. A nice pot. For comparison: If our player had only checked with the draw on the flop and then bet the turn, he would have won a significantly smaller pot and his hand would have been more obvious which could have brought the round to an end after the turn.

 

  • Example 2: Playing a drawing hand passively

 

This hand aims to show that it doesn't make much sense to play a good hand passively. Our player limps with a strong hand instead of making the pot a little bit bigger before the flop. Although Omaha is a flop game, it still makes sense to raise good hands a) to reduce the number of opponents and b) to build the pot so that more value can be generated when we have a good hand in later betting rounds. And particularly at 6-max tables, good hands have an even higher value since fewer opponents can have a better starting hand.

On the flop our player has nine outs to the nut straight (three each for every , , ). Calling here would not be a bad play, since raising with two players who seem to like the flop would be too risky and our player doesn't have a strong enough hand yet to really be able to withstand a re-raise (e.g. from a player who has hit a set).

The turn gives our player eight more outs (we already counted the before!), but the player remains passive anyway, despite the fact that even the previous aggressor has shown weakness. By doing this, he not only gives away the chance to force better hands (e.g. two pair) to fold by betting, but also misses his chance to extract more chips from weaker draws.

When the coveted for the nut straight appears on the river, it is apparent that his hand is the strongest at the table and he won't get paid off by any of his opponents. In the end all our player wins is a $20 pot, six of which he put in himself. A poor result for a nice starting hand and hitting the nuts in PL Omaha. By playing aggressively he would have probably won more money.

 

  • Example 3: Playing a made and drawing hand aggressively

Here our player raises with a strong starting hand. On the flop he not only hits top set, which is also the nuts in this case, but also has the second nut flush draw and an open-ended straight draw. So he has a total of 18 outs that could improve his hand even more. Of course, we shouldn't calculate with nine outs for the flush draw, since someone with would have a better flush.

Some players start playing slow here, but we can be severely punished for that even with such a premium hand. Any or could give another player a straight and seven other hearts cards are still in the deck which could complete the nut flush for someone with (13 hearts cards - - - = seven outs). All together that makes 13 outs against us. They do not include two other outs, a and which would complete someone's quads since this would be unlikely. But nothing's impossible, especially in PLO

Our player bets the pot here and still gets two callers. An excellent result. The turn is the and gives him the nut full house. Now he can really only be beaten by quads. The chips make their way into the middle and there is still a player who doesn't want to believe that he has lost! The river is a blank and after the rest of the chips are in the middle, there is a showdown. Our player's full house is enough to win the hand and it becomes obvious that the opponent made some clear mistakes in the hand.

 

  • Example 4: Playing a made and drawing hand (freeroll) aggressively

In the last example, our player raises pre-flop with a decent hand and is rewarded with an excellent flop. He not only flops the nut straight, but also has two pair which makes it possible for him to get a full house. An opponent bets and our player raises the pot. At this point that is certainly the right thing to do because he is currently holding the nuts. But his opponent could be holding a set or overcards with which he could draw to a higher straight or a full house.

The turn is a blank and our player is still holding the nuts. The opponent's resistance is getting stronger and both players are all-in at the end. When they show their cards it is clear that our player can't lose. There are even eleven other cards that will improved his hand (seven clubs to the flush and the four remaining and to a full house). That would happen in 27.5% of cases. And that's what happens in this hand and our player wins in the end with a flush.

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