One of the common and biggest mistakes Hold’em players make is the way they perceive PLO. They think it’s a gambling game without structure–just pot-sized bets and people jamming flush draws all the time. This is a huge mistake.
It’s a very technical and complex game with more possibilities than Hold’em. Equities are a lot closer together than they are in Hold’em, meaning if you face an all-in as a favorite, a lot of the times it will be around 60%, whereas in Hold’em your percentage will be way higher. After all, extra cards can make extra combinations. If you run a situation where it’s 60-40 numerous times, the standard deviation can be much bigger in PLO. This means that good or bad runs can last a lot longer. If the better player keeps his discipline in check, he will be the eventual winner, but it could last a while before that happens. This is why I feel Pot Limit Omaha is more suited for recreational players as well.
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One thing you need to immediately let go of is your NLHE hand values. You get twice as many cards, so general Hold’em hands go down drastically in value. Queens are okay in PLO, but by no means are they a good hand. You get aces about 3% in PLO, but they are a lot more vulnerable and can rarely bet three streets for value. A lot of hands can look pretty. With hands like double suited KJ63, the possibilities might seem endless, when in actuality you have a pretty trashy hand with a lot of second nut draws in it. So the average hand strength post-flop goes up as well. Flushes and straights are more common, especially backdoor ones.
Where in NLHE you might consider losing with 78 to KQ on 9TJ a huge cooler, in PLO it’s something you have to consider as a serious possibility and a lot of the times all you are holding is a bluff catcher. This takes some time to get used to. People seem more aware of this fact with straights than flushes. At our regular bar we often play €20 buy-in tournaments and small buy-in NLHE cash games. When I explained PLO to them and we played a few SNGs, you could tell people would just go crazy with low flush draws. They approached it from the NLHE perspective. Big mistake.
The fact good hands are more likely also means that you can make some really cool bluffs. If your opponents have a decent grasp of hand strength in PLO, they will know that flushes are more common. Because you have to use two cards from your hand, having the sole ace of spades on a four flush board doesn’t give you a flush. What it does give you is the information that your opponent cannot have the nuts. Because general hand strength goes up, you can credibly rep the nut flush and play it like you have it, simply because it’s easier to make in PLO than in Hold’em. This is called a blocker-play. Another very common example is having QQxx on KT9. You can either use it to bluff with or make hero calls with. There are a ton of possibilities that way, and it’s one of the reasons I love Omaha.
The new Omaha Week promotion PokerStars is running is a great opportunity to try the game while having the opportunity to win great prizes. Play around with it, and see if you like it. Try to approach it as a new game with the same poker rules. That way you will not immediately have leaks in your game that come from things you do in Hold’em. Different game, different strategy.
Good luck and see you in the Wild Wild West of Omaha!
Lex “L. Veldhuis” Veldhuis is a member of Team PokerStars Online