Pot-Limit Omaha: Pre-Flop Play

In Omaha, the increased number of hole cards gives you more possibilities of hitting the flop. It is important for the strength of the hand to come from the way all four cards are combined. Something else to remember: Two (good) Texas Hold'em hands don't even come close to making a good Omaha hand. For example, and are both playable hands in Texas Hold'em (even if not unlimitedly). However, in Omaha the combination of these, , is a clear case of a hand that should generally be folded. And our position at the table plays at least as important a role in pot-limit Omaha (PLO) as it does in Texas Hold'em (TH). These two types of poker, Omaha and Texas Hold'em, are very different games and you need to keep that in mind at all times.

Starting hands

Let's begin with the starting hands:

  • , and similar hands:
All aces, plus two face cards up to ten, ideally double suited, are the best hands in PLO. These hands should be raised or re-raised from every position, if possible we should even go all-in pre-flop. These cards can win without any help and even have a good chance in multiway pots.
  • , and similar hands:
High pairs (KK-TT) with connecting cards are also very strong. They can be played especially well heads-up, but they should also be raised from all positions when playing against several opponents.
Since in PLO a player often has aces, you should not go all-in with these hands before the flop
  • , and similar hands:

Medium pairs with connecting cards (connectors) are strong, especially in pots with many players, since their value comes from flopping strong draws or made hands. They are therefore rather speculative. But if we hit a set combined with a straight draw, for example, we want action.

We should limp with these hands. It is also okay to call a raise, if possible with a few other callers.
  • , and similar hands:
These hands are strong but are quickly dominated in pots with a lot of action before the flop, especially by high pairs. In early position, these hands should be played cautiously. In late position, we can call a raise or raise the pot ourselves.
  • , and similar hands:
Medium connected cards are very strong hands. They can be played from any position. These are "drawing hand" and you should therefore call with these types of hands.
Once in a while, however, this type of hand needs to be played like good aces and raised in order to remain unpredictable.
  • , and similar hands:
Low pairs with connected cards can be played well in late position. These hands can often be played profitably, especially if we hit a "wheel" ().
  • , and similar hands:
Low connected cards should be treated almost like medium cards. But since these often only form the lower end of a straight, they should be handled carefully in early position and not too optimistically even in late position.
  • , and similar hands:
What characterises these hands is that one of the four cards does not combine with the others (also known as a "dangler"), but otherwise the hand looks good. This type of hand should really only be played in small pots and in late position. It certainly wouldn't be a mistake to fold these hands either. After all, why should we compete with only three useable cards when our opponents are playing with four? That would be a 25% disadvantage that is avoidable.
  • , and similar hands:
The value of these hands is based on hitting top set, i.e. the highest three of a kind possible. So we shouldn't invest too much of your stack. However, if we can limp or have the chance to close the betting round by calling a raise, these kinds of hands can be played very well.
We have to keep in mind that, even aces without good kickers are not a big favourite like in Texas Hold'em. Against good drawing hands they just amount to a coin flip.
  • , and similar hands:
Having three of a kind in our hand is a major disadvantage, since only two of these cards can be played and the third card would have been an important out that we now lose.
Completely uncoordinated cards are also of little use. A hand where all four hole cards are of the same suit is even more useless since that means we lose two important outs to a possible flush.
  • :
Four of a kind is very rare and looks great, but it's worthless. This hand can be played for fun in a small pot, since in the special case that a straight is dealt on the board around the four of a kind (here around the ten) (e.g. ), an interesting opportunity to bluff arises. Obviously, no one else has a ten. But it can cost a lot of money to stay in the hand that long and if someone calls us, we will lose even more chips.

One more general tip: In Omaha, hands can always be played significantly better if they are made up of two different pairs of suited cards. This is called "double-suited" or "ds". So, is significantly (!) better than . If these two hands were to be played against each other, the second hand would have no chance of winning. The first hand would, however, make a flush in 14% of the cases and therefore win the pot. In the other cases the pot would be split. A nice freeroll!!

But even , because it's double-suited, is a small favourite against .

A hand that has at least two cards of the same suit (e.g. ), is still better than four different suits.

If three cards are of the same suit (e.g. ) the value of the hand goes down, since, of course, only exactly two cards can be used for the showdown and we therefore lose a flush out.

To summarise, we need to remember that starting hand selection in Omaha is even more important than in Texas Hold'em. That is simply because the opponents' chances of flopping strong hands are too good. That's why we have to have a hand at the showdown in order to win. Even the second nuts on the river lose relatively often in PLO (e.g. king-high flush).