Phil Shaw looks at pot-limit Omaha sit&gos and shows you how to excel at this ever-popular game
Pot-limit Omaha has grown in popularity over the past few years to the point where it is now surpassing no-limit hold’em as the game of choice for high-stakes players. This is because it is a more complex and sophisticated game, but also one where there is more gambling to keep weaker players happy.
Although the structure is similar to hold’em, with community cards and hole cards (of which you must use exactly two in Omaha) there are a lot of adjustments to make and sit&gos are a good place for beginner players to try these out.
Similarly, if you are more advanced or proficient in sit&go play, the format itself will allow you to use some strategy adjustments that will be very profitable against weaker players.
In the early stages of a pot-limit Omaha sit&go you will be playing fairly deep with 50-75 big blind stacks and will need to amass chips, assuming you are playing the standard format of 50%/30%/20% payouts.
However, since you cannot rebuy and the game is one of small edges and high variance, be wary of getting in big pots unnecessarily where you don’t have a big equity edge.
For this reason, it is advisable to limp in early position, then raise more in late position where you can control the pot.
Omaha In Action
Because you have four cards in your hand (and therefore six two-card combinations) you want them all to be working together, so hands like 6-7-8-9 or A-K-Q-10 double suited are very desirable, as are high pairs with strong supporting cards like K-K-Q-J or A-A-10-J with suits.
However, be wary of middle or low pairs, which may flop an underset or inhibit your wrap (like 6-7-7-8), dry Aces (like A-A-4-8 rainbow), which are easily outdrawn unless you can get most of your chips in pre-flop or unconnected or weak hands.
Of course, in position on the button and cut-off you can raise much wider as you will be able to bluff and put your opponent in tough situations.
Post-flop, you want to be drawing to the nuts most of the time and looking to flop very strong hands, since with six combinations it is much more likely someone will hit the board hard.
In a multi-way pot, if a flush or straight is possible someone will usually have made it, so getting involved with weaker or non-nut hands can be tricky. Because of this, though, you can still play aggressively in position, continuation betting and barrelling as scare cards come since your opponent will be hard pressed to call down if he doesn’t have a very strong hand.
In pot-limit Omaha, even a decent flush is a bluff catcher if it’s not the nuts or the board pairs.
Another thing to note is the relative strength of made hands versus draws in pot-limit Omaha, since you can often find yourself in situations where you have a set and are flipping or even behind a big wrap that has multiple straight or flush outs.
For this reason, low sets and hands like top two pair are often much weaker than they appear and you should sometimes play them cautiously on the flop and wait for safe turn cards.
Similarly, with weaker draws, getting all-in isn’t always necessary on the flop, since a bad turn card will often kill your hand and you want to get away cheaply.
As the blinds get higher and players are eliminated, the sit&go format becomes more important because of the same ICM considerations that apply in no-limit hold’em sit&gos, where you would need to be a decent favourite to get all-in early pre-flop in a sit&go and a very big favourite to get all-in on the bubble (in the latter case about 65% or more).
Because hands run so similarly in equity in pot-limit Omaha with four cards it’s very hard to be more than 65% with anything less than strong Aces. And so you should play cautiously as the game progresses, limping more in situations where getting re-raised is terrible for you and calling raises rather than re-raising, even with strong drawing hands.
This is also partly due to the pot-limit format, which makes bubble play far more complicated than in no-limit hold’em where you can simply move all-in for ten or even 15 big blinds with many hands.
In pot-limit Omaha, by contrast, only being able to raise to 3.5 big blinds gives your opponents lots of leverage and will often put you in tough situations as a result.
For this reason, planning out a hand is very important in terms of whether you can fold to a re-raise, whether you can afford to bet a flop or whether you will be committing yourself to calling a raise and risk getting all-in where you don’t have a big equity edge.
Therefore, cautious play is usually a good idea around the bubble, although this still depends a lot on the circumstances. Against very tight players or in late position you can still be trying to steal the blinds by raising if you are unlikely to end up in a bad spot.
It is also fine to get most of your chips in with a single raise or re-raise with a strong hand.
Due to these bubble play problems in pot-limit Omaha sit&gos, you can play aggressively when you have a very big stack and can afford to lose all-ins without being knocked out.
Here, you can really leverage the fact that people can’t move all-in against you or re-raise you out of pots easily to wreak havoc and force them to fold in many situations after putting some chips in the pot.
If you can get far enough in front and reduce the other players to playing for second and third, you can be raising every hand as you will rarely be in terrible shape when all-in.
This is where you can show the most profit by far (and have the most fun) in pot-limit Omaha sit&gos, and so while you shouldn’t gamble recklessly early on, you should still try to get involved in pots (especially against weaker players) and bear in mind that a chip lead on the bubble will be an enormous advantage.
Short-handed and heads-up, the same adjustments apply as in hold’em sit&gos, with the end of the bubble freeing people up to play more hands unless they are still competing for second with a short stack, and you should bear this in mind, both in your opening and calling ranges.
Again, stack sizes will be key here, so look for ways to manipulate them where someone else is likely to make a mistake like raising then betting any flop all-in when checked to. Above all, play to win!