Beginning PLO, Some Very Basic Ideas and Thoughts
So I was on my porch smoking a Series O and enjoying it and got the idea of writing a Beginners guide to PLO. Seeing as nobody plays PLO, I though that for this to be as successful as possible, it would need to be a very basic beginners guide to PLO because the main goal of this is to introduce people to the game and to get them thinking through a lot of the more general theories and ideas out there. There are no hand histories in this, there are just broad examples.
A) Preflop. Due to the nature of PLO and how postflop heavy the game is, most people disregard the importance of preflop. This is a mistake. Its very easy to fall into the category of just playing a ton more hands because they look so much better in PLO but what a lot of people do not realize is that a lot of your holdings are not strong if you really analyse the hand. Take for example, AK78 1 suite with the 78. It looks playable, it really does but if you delve deeper into the hand you see that you only have 2 real combinations, AK and 78. You dont connect at all, the flush is not significant enough and you are limiting yourself to only a few flops. When looking to play hands in PLO, a few things need to looked at, how well the cards work together, how often we are going to flop big nutty hands and what our position is. Position will be discussed a little later because I believe that needs a lot of attention but lets look at the other factors.
1) You need your cards to connect well. I hate using this but it is true, in one omaha hand, you have six 2 card combinations. The point of having 4 cards that work together is to maximise your chances of hitting flops. As anybody who has played both holdem and omaha knows, hand strenghts are different. 2 pair in holdem is a lot stronger than 2 pair in omaha. So we need to be looking for 4 cards that help each other, hands like T986 OR JT98ds are super strong because they complement each other. For example, say with T986ds, the flop comes A75 with 2 diamonds (you hold 2 diamonds as well). Your opponent has AAxx no diamonds. Lets look at equity preflop. Against AAxx with that hand we have 48% and on the flop we are actually ahead with 55%. I know this is an extreme case but it just shows how four cards working together has a great deal of equity against any hand preflop and also trying to show how important drawing hands are in omaha (well get to this even later again). Also as a side note, avoid playing hands that have a dangler in it, ie 1 card that does nothing for you. Hands with danglers loose a tremendous amount of value. Im not saying that they are not strong because they can still be very profitable but they are not as easy to play.
2) Hands that flop big. For beginners now learning the game, one of the things I stress on is that you need to be looking for hands that have nut potential, that is, when you hit the flop or board, you have the strongest possible hand. While low run down hands look good (3456) they are not as strong as you think. Hands that are second nut type hands can cause a lot of problems. They are generally hard to get away from and in a lot of these situations, the big money goes in when you opponent has the nuts. I find it hard how to describe this but hopefully you will understand that in omaha the second/third/forth best hands do not hold as much value.
B) Lets talk about position. I really dont want to dive too deep into this but position is the most important thing in PLO. With position you can profitably play against almost all micro stakes players, given that you know what you are doing. Fox example a lot of PLO players postflop will check/fold on scary boards when they are not very strong, they also lead very often when they have a hand on a drawy board. With position and knowing this about your opponent, you can safely bet flops when checked to and take down a lot of pots that way. When out of position, not being the preflop agressor, how do you play the hands that complete wiff the board? Its hard to make those situations profitable but with the advantage of acting last and seeing what your opponents do, you can turn it into a winning situation. Also as is with holdem, the later position you are in (when folded to you), the more value a hand has etc. I know this is not very informative or detailed but I dont know what other way to break it down without getting too things..
C) A note about AAxx hands in PLO. Im not going into go into 3 betting etc (I feel in PLO we need to 3 bet a lot of hands in position etc but others dont feel the same and well this is for beginners so excuse me not getting into it) but there is always a debate as to whether to 3 bet or not to 3 bet AAxx. Now if you are already 3 betting a lot of hands preflop, you can 3 bet AAxx hands and still be disguised but if you are only 3 betting AAxx hands, thats not going to happen ( you can also not 3 bet AAxx for disguising purposes but I really dont want to get into 3 betting here). Now my thinking about AAxx hands as it relates to 3 betting and 4 betting, If we can easily put in 35-40% of our stack in preflop, we make that raise because with that amount in, we can shove on the flop. The reason I say this is because when you can auto shove the flop with AAxx, the 3 bet or 4 bet is automatically profitable (given that you dont get carried away on JT9 monotone boards). In 90% of flops, the shove is profitable making it an instant winner and a no brainer.
D) Drawing hands. Postflop drawing hands are going to make up a ton of your profit. Drawing hands have lots of value in PLO. wraps with flush draws are extremely profitable (wraps, in lehmanns terms are hands with multiple straight combinations). Also in some cases on flush and straight boards, A set is going to a drawing hand and you will still have good equity. Now with drawing hands, before putting loads of money in, you need to know that just drawing is not enough, you want and need to be drawing against the nuts because in a lot of situations other people will and that will kill you hand. Also, in terms of straight draws, people will sometimes be drawing to the same straight, lowering your equity and why having redraws ( to higher straights, flushes etc) are very important.
E) How to play the nuts. No explanation required
F) Observation and recognising players. Hands will go up and down in value based on the image of your opponent (straight on a flush board is more valuable against maniac as compared to nit). You need to recognise who your opponents are and how to adjust to them. You need to know who is loose, who is a nit, who is a station etc. This comes about by either having and using a HUD or simply by taking notes about key situations. Understanding your opponent will help you determine when to bet, how much to bet etc whether it be for value or bluff.
G) Please, review your sessions or post hand histories for others to give oppinions on how you play. While trying to apply every idea you read on the internet, the help of other more experienced players is so valuable. Also we need to look over our sessions, both winning and losing. Look at the hands we are losing big with, dertermine why. Look at hands that consistently loose 20bb, determine if it is because it is a weak hand or if we are missplaying them. Look at winning hands to see how we are winning, if we are getting lucky or if we are outplaying people.
H) Understand PLO. PLO has a lot of variance, we will experience many prolonged and expense downswings but this will happen, stick with it, continue to learn and you will in the long run win.