Pot-limit Omaha continues to be a favorite game among poker players. Many rank it their second-favorite variant behind no-limit hold’em, while some make PLO their top choice.
There are various reasons why players enjoy PLO, one being the fact that with four hole cards instead of two, the game produces a lot more nuance and variety.
The game also poses a different sort of challenge. As Fernando “JNandez” Habegger shows in his forthcoming book Mastering Small Stakes Pot-Limit Omaha, that means those who take the time to study PLO and improve their skills can enjoy a meaningful edge, especially in lower-stakes games.
Due out this October, Habegger’s book draws on a decade’s worth of experience as a player and coach to share all the tools needed to enjoy a big advantage in small stakes PLO games.
With tons of hand examples, Habegger emphasizes understanding common mistakes to help players learn to avoid them and learn how to exploit them in others. Both cash games and tournaments are covered, as are other areas including mentally dealing with PLO’s big swings and bankroll management for PLO.
The following exclusive excerpt comes from the section of the book that deals with postflop strategy. Specifically, Habegger here explores what to do in single-raised pots with various hands and on various boards when playing heads-up and in position.
Postflop Theory: Single-raised Pots
Flop C-bet IP Strategy (Button Versus BB)
The postflop section will feature a mix of theory and hand examples. At the beginning of the chapters, we will discuss the concepts that drive the baseline strategy. We will then clarify the concepts by giving multiple hand examples.
In this first chapter on postflop play, we are going to examine how to play single-raised pots in position as the preflop aggressor. Please note that all the hand examples are based on a situation where you are on the Button and your opponent is in the BB.
The following c-bet sizings are the standard ones that you should use when you are in a single-raised pot, playing IP [in position], as the preflop aggressor (Diagram 22).
The main factor that drives these different bet sizings is the board dynamic. On very static boards, your range needs less protection so you can use a smaller bet sizing. The term “static boards” refers to scenarios where the nuts don’t tend to change much on future streets.
On an unpaired board such as Q♠J♠6♥, there are many turns and rivers that can completely change the dynamic and the nuts of the board. On a paired board such as 9♥9♣3♣, there are fewer turn and river cards that will change the dynamic and the nuts. Therefore, you don’t need to bet as big because your range requires less protection.
The suggested sizings are baseline sizings and you can use them every single time if you want. However, sometimes it can make sense to use a different sizing. For example, if either your opponent or you are playing with much deeper or shorter stacks. Another reason to adjust these sizings is from an exploitative perspective if you think that your hand is going to play a little bit better when you use a different sizing. So don’t feel obliged to just blindly follow these sizings, but they are a good starting point.
Expected Value (EV)
When you are deciding whether to c-bet or to check, there is one main question that you should ask yourself, “Which option offers a higher EV, checking or betting?”
The two main factors that increase the EV of a c-bet are:
- Your showdown value. If your hand has high equity and nuttiness, it is likely that you should be c-betting to increase the size of the pot.
- Blockers. If your hand has strong blockers or future blockers, you might also want to bet. This is because you have more fold equity either now or on future streets. This will help you to generate turn and river bluffs.
In many situations, checking will have a higher EV than betting. So, what are the factors that decrease the EV of a c-bet and increase the EV of a check? The following are important:
- Holding reverse blockers to your opponent’s continuing range. This makes it more likely that your opponent is going to continue and decreases your fold equity.
- Most medium-strength hands don’t benefit from betting because they have a hard time defending against a check-raise and are needed to protect your checking range.
- Hands without nuttiness don’t benefit from inflating the pot because they can easily be dominated and lose a big pot.
- A hand that is very turn-determined. These are hands that have some very good turns as well as some very bad turns. They benefit from seeing a free turn card.
Hand Examples on Flop J♠10♦6♦
Hand Example 12
You are on the Button with A♦K♥J♦10♠ (Diagram 23).
You are holding top two pair, the nut flush draw, and the nut gutshot. A hand with such high equity and nuttiness almost always requires a bet.
Hand Example 13
You are on the Button with J♦9♦6♥5♥ (Diagram 24).
Hands with a top and bottom pair with no overcards and a medium flush draw should be checked because you have low nuttiness. When it is very difficult to make the nuts on any runout, you usually don’t benefit from building a massive pot. However, you can utilize these hands to protect your checking range as these hands can pretty much call any turn. Although you would be able to call a flop check-raise, realizing your equity on the turn and the river will be very hard, especially at high SPRs. These hands cannot apply a lot of pressure on subsequent streets. So, you don’t have a hand that wants to build a pot on many turn cards and your check back range can easily be protected by checking back this hand.
Hand Example 14
You are on the Button with K♦K♠3♠2♥ (Diagram 25).
At first glance, a hand such as this looks like a bare weak overpair. However, you also have a backdoor flush draw, a relevant flush draw blocker and straight blockers. This kind of hand is a good one to c-bet because you will be able to use your key cards to barrel-bluff. If you get check-raised, you can easily fold without losing much equity. Furthermore, this hand doesn’t gain much from checking back because there are not many turn cards that improve its showdown value. Therefore, the way to maximize EV is to bet the flop and hope for a fold or that you turn a blocker or improve your equity.
Hand Example 15
You are on the Button with A♠K♦K♠5♣ (Diagram 26).
This is a similar pocket Kings hand but this is one you should check. You are holding average equity and this hand will be more defined by the turn card. You have some nutted outs on the turn and you don’t want to get pushed off this equity by a flop check-raise. With guaranteed nut outs, multiple beneficial runouts (turn-determined) and a bigger EV loss when check-raised, you should check this hand and plan to continue on many good turns.
Mastering Small Stakes Pot-Limit Omaha by Fernando “JNandez” Habegger is available for preorder in paperback or as an e-book at D&B Poker.
D&B Publishing (using the imprint D&B Poker) was created by Dan Addelman and Byron Jacobs 15 years ago. Since then it has become one of the leading publishers of poker books with titles by Phil Hellmuth, Jonathan Little, Mike Sexton, Chris Moorman, Lance Bradley, Martin Harris and more, all of which are available at D&B Poker.