David Nicholson: How to crush full ring PLO

David ‘lildave’ Nicholson explains how to set about crushing full ring PLO

Full ring pot-limit Omaha (PLO) is typically a much less favoured format of the game. In the online world the nine-handed game has never gained sufficient popularity to rival the aggressive six-max PLO games that are currently flavour of the month. And while most tournaments are still played full-ring, PLO tournaments fail to attract anywhere near the same fields as their no-limit hold’em cousins, so the game remains a somewhat untamed beast.

One of the most obvious differences in nine-handed PLO, is that we’re going to see a lot more multi-way flops, and these will always be a minefield. The big problems we face if we find ourselves in too many multi-way pots with the wrong hands is being trapped in situations with hands that are not, and not drawing to, the nuts. We can’t bet for value or to protect our equity because it’s too likely someone has a better hand, and we are often unable to realise our equity so subsequently get bluffed quite frequently.

Our best way of responding to this is to tighten up our hand selection in early, or middle position where we think it’s likely to go multi-way. Look who’s left to act, who is in the blinds and who has entered the pot: Are they very loose and likely to enter the pot with marginal hands, or are they very tight? Are they going to call our raises with the same hands they’ll limp behind, or will they fold some hands they would limp if we raise? How loosely are the blinds going to defend? All this should give us a rough idea as to how likely we will see a flop two, three or even six-handed.

Strong hands, big draws

We need to think of the hands we want to play as three groups. The first is the obvious one: Strong and premium hands. We don’t mind playing these hands multi-way or heads-up. These include double suited Broadway hands, good double pairs (8-8-9-9, K-K-T-T) and good rundowns (8-9-T-J ds+). We can play these hands multi-way, we can three-bet with them and inflate the pot if we so choose and we can happily call squeezes or three-bets with them. These hands play themselves preflop, just use your judgment as to who you want in the pot and how big you want to make it.

The second group of hands we want to play is multi-way hands. These hands are important, as these are the non-premium hands we are happy to go multi-way with. We need to make sure these hands have strong nut potential such as hands that contain big pairs. We want to flop top set, and not middle set, in hands that are five-handed to the flop.

We want hands with suited Aces in them, or Broadway dominated hands or hands like A-4-6-7. With this group of hands, we can raise to take the betting initiative in the knowledge that it’ll likely be five or six players to the flop. We can also consider limping a lot of these hands.

While I agree limping does not have much place in six-handed PLO games online, in live full-ring games when the stacks are often deeper limping, and even open limping, starts to  become a credible preflop strategy.

We are very sure that this pot will be multi-way a high percentage of the time, and we know we’re not going to be in position so when we miss the flop we will often be checking to check-fold. We can still build a big pot on a five-handed flop, so getting to see a flop and trying to make a strong hand or a nut draw as cheaply as possible is an appealing and often more efficient option.

Caution ahead

The third group of hands, and one we need to be careful with, is the isolate or fold group. These are hands that we just cannot play multi-way, as they flop bad two-pairs, bad straight draws and made hands we aren’t comfortable getting our stack in with. This group includes hands like low double suited hands (4-5-7-9 ds), the smaller rundowns, (3-5-6-7) and weaker high card hands (K-Q-6-7).

To bea ble to isolate we need the situation to be right as well as the hand. If we have already had three limpers, this is not a pot that we can isolate, as we’re unlikely to get anyone to fold. If
someone has raised in mid position and it’s folded to us in the cutoff, however, this is a spot we really could isolate. Only one player has voluntarily put money in the pot and the bet will be big enough to price the blinds out of calling with even quite good hands. What we want to achieve when we isolate is to get the pot heads-up, or three-way with the betting initiative.

It’s very important with these hands that if we cannot isolate them, we must fold them. It’s very easy to fall into an expensive habit of making loose calls and creating horrible spots for  ourselves that we are trying to avoid.

Sticking to the rules

If we stick to these rules preflop in nine-handed PLO games, we will find that we will get  ourselves into a lot more situations postflop where we can bet for value and to protect our hand. We can semi-bluff because we have nut draws and will be playing against more defined ranges with the betting lead. And we will be able to bluff more often because we’ll be in less five-handed pots where it’s so likely someone has flopped a strong hand.

Nine-handed PLO really favours a strong tight-aggressive strategy and if we are playing in position with strong hands we can constantly present scenarios to our opponents where their only option is to bluff-catch against us and play guessing games. When doing this we need to keep our focus and composure and not slip into playing bad hands in bad spots and allowing our opponents to cause us the same problems.

PLO hand groups for early position play

1. Premium Hands:
Double suited Broadway hands, good double pairs (8-8-9-9, K-K-T-T) and good rundowns  (8-9-T-J ds+).

Play these hands aggressively and don’t be afraid of multi-way pots.

2. Multi-way Hands

Suited Aces, Broadway hands or hands such as A♠-4♠-5♣-6♣

Play these hands multi-way looking to make a big hand as cheaply as possible.

3. Isolate or Fold

Low double suited hands (4-5-7-9 ds), the smaller rundowns, (3-5-6-7) and weaker high card hands (K-Q-6-7).

Should only be played if you can isolate and get into a heads-up pot. Don’t play multi-way.


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