Better Betting

We reveal how your approach to bet sizing must change between no-limit Hold’em and pot-limit Omaha

Last time I gave a general overview of some of the differences between hold’em and Omaha and hopefully encouraged a few people to take the plunge. This month I continue my series on making the transition from no-limit hold’em to pot-limit Omaha by looking at bet sizing in the pot-limit game and the importance of knowing your opposition. Hopefully the example hand opposite will also give you an idea of how these ideas can be put to good use in the heat of battle.

If you’ve ever wondered why hold’em is most popular in the no-limit format whereas Omaha is generally played as a pot-limit game, the answer is simple: no-limit Omaha just doesn’t work. I emphasised last issue that Omaha is a game to be played after the flop, but playing it in no-limit format would turn Omaha into a pre-flop game. As such, anyone with double-suited high pairs would be all-in pre-flop and you’d lose the complexity and creativity of post-flop Omaha… the two things that make the game so much fun.

So what adjustments do we need to make when we move to pot-limit Omaha? Not as many as you may think. The main benefit of the pot-limit format is to make it difficult to get all-in pre-flop, but once you have three cards on show it’s pretty easy for all the money to go in, at least online where you’re usually relatively short-stacked (by which I mean 50 big blinds or less – with 300-500 big blinds you have to adjust your style significantly).

Bet sizing

Bet sizing in no-limit hold’em is an important skill. Bet too little and you may give your foes odds to complete a draw; bet too much and you could convey weakness. But do the same conditions exist in pot-limit Omaha?

Half-pot bet – One of the most common bet sizes in no-limit hold’em is the half-pot bet on the flop. This can mean, ‘I am making a continuation bet after raising pre-flop, and because I’ve missed I don’t want to commit too many chips’; or it can mean, ‘I’ve flopped a monster and want someone to raise me’. The reasons for a halfpot bet are many and varied, and its actual significance will depend on the characteristics of your opponent and your read of him. The good news is that knowing when to make half-pot bets isn’t a real issue in pot-limit Omaha – simply because you don’t really use them.

Often you are likely to have multiple players seeing a flop, all of whom have a good chance of hitting a hand or a draw, so there is little point making a continuation bet if you miss the flop – you’re going to get called whatever. Of course if you are heads-up on the flop and the board does not have any obvious draws, this can still be a very valid play, but it’s still a lot rarer than the often automatic continuation bets you see in no-limit hold’em.

Even if you’ve flopped a monster and want to generate action, a half-pot bet is not necessary because Omaha, by its very nature, is an action game. Because there are more strong hands and more draws, it is usually correct to lead out a strong hand in pot-limit Omaha with a pot-sized or 3/4 pot bet. Slow-playing loses its value when your opponent can have virtually half the deck as outs to beat you. Even on the rare occasions you have flopped top set and people don’t have draws, there’s often someone with a middle set or two pair who will give you action.

Overbet – The all-in or overbet is a vital weapon in the no-limit hold’em player’s arsenal, used to shut out drawing hands, apply pressure to opponents and force major mistakes. In a pot-limit Omaha game, the most pressure you can apply is by betting the pot; but even then the worst odds you can give your opponent are 2/1.

As was shown with last month’s example hand, even when you have top set on the flop you can be even money with a drawing hand. This is one of the biggest differences between no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha – there are often times where you can’t shut out drawing hands and have to put the money in and gamble. Like I said, Omaha is an action game, hence the need for a bankroll big enough to absorb the big swings.

Know your enemy

As with all forms of poker, knowing the players you are up against is vital to creating an edge. I prefer to play no-limit hold’em live as I feel that reading people and applying pressure accordingly is a key part of playing this form of poker. Online, however, I prefer Omaha because if I know an opponent’s style of play I can generally get a pretty good idea of the hand he is holding from what’s on the board and how he plays.

With some tight opponents, for example, if I have K-K-x-x in my hand and the flop is A-K-J and they are playing back at me, I am pretty confident they have made a straight and I will give up my hand. With other players that I know are loose-aggressive, I’d be much more inclined to gamble that my set will hold against their draws. Small decisions like this based on your opponents add up over time to big profits.

Another common situation in Omaha is that you flop a set for a middle pair and bet the pot. If your opponent raises, you are generally looking at one of three situations:

1. You’re facing a big draw and are in a coin flip situation
2. You’re up against a lower set and are a big favourite
3. You’re up against a higher set and are a big underdog

This shows why you should be wary of playing middle pairs in Omaha – when they make sets they are often dominated and ‘set over set’ is one of the worst situations you can be in odds-wise.

A good rule is not to get carried away with middle sets. Secondly, the two situations you want to be in (1 and 3) mean you’ll either be even money or a big favourite, which is exactly what you want – you just need to know what kind of player you’re facing and whether they’d play a middle set that aggressively.

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