In the second part of his two-part series, Karl Mahrenholz reveals some of the nuances of pot-limit Omaha tournament play
I’ve previously looked at some fundamental concepts that no-limit hold’em players should use as a basis for their first steps into pot-limit Omaha (PLO). With these lessons in place, I’m now going to consider some of the nuances of PLO tournament play.
During the early stages of an Omaha tournament the game plays similarly to a PLO cash game, due to the size of the starting blinds relative to the average stack. During these stages it is common to see much more limping than you would in an equivalent no-limit hold’em tournament. This is due in part to the pot-limit nature of the game, as when the blinds are small it is not possible to raise enough to force people out of the pot.
As such, it’s possible to see a lot of pots cheaply, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of limping every pot. I don’t mind the occasional limp, especially from early position, but in late position I’d favour a raise, as I can judge how many people are going to be seeing the flop. If I have a big-pair type of hand I don’t want to build the pot fecklessly, as if the action is going to be multi-way I will have to surrender on most flops. If there has only been one limper I might try to isolate and get heads-up to the flop.
Another instance where I’d favour a raise, even in the early stages of the tournament, is when I have a hand that is going to flop very well. I like to try to build the pot pre-flop, at least slightly, with nice run-down hands such as 8?-9?-10?-J? or A?-Q?-J?-10?. I’m much more likely to raise these hands at this stage than I am my big-pair hands.
RAISING AND RE-RAISING
Before I played my first Omaha tourney someone said to me, ‘The key to PLO tournaments is knowing how to play with and against Aces.’ I’ve found there to be a lot a truth in that statement. Many players will bust out of a PLO tournament cursing their luck at their Aces not holding up. When you still have a manageable stack you want to make sure you are the one busting people’s obvious Aces, and not overplaying your own to your demise.
I have had a lot of success playing Aces – and in particular dry Aces – slowly in tournaments. While it’s normal to bring them in for a raise, if someone has already opened the pot in front of me, I will usually just call and see the flop. The problem with re-raising when play is deep-stacked is that you immediately alert your opponent to your hand. I’d surmise that in an average pot-limit Omaha tournament the percentage of re-raises made by someone holding Aces is up there around 80% or more.
Whenever our foes have significant information about our hand we’re playing at a massive disadvantage. By not electing to re-raise every time we hold Aces we allow our opponent to call us down in spots where they shouldn’t, and fold when they should be calling.
Of course I will sometimes re-raise with Aces to keep my opponents guessing, but what allows me to do this is the fact that I am also re-raising (in position) with many of my run-down type hands. These are the types of plays that are going to get less experienced opponents to make severe post-flop mistakes against us.
When re-raising in PLO tournaments you really have two options: never re-raise with any hand or re-raise with a variety of hands that includes but is not exclusive to hands containing Aces. While both are fine, I lean towards the latter because of the added chips you can often win post-flop with the worst hand.
Say for example an opponent raises in middle position and we re-raise on the button with 6?-7?-8?-9?. He is the only caller and we flop any sort of straight or two-pair combination – he’s often going to put us on a completely different range of hands and may well misplay his hand accordingly. Not only this, but when the flop does bring an Ace or a bunch of high cards we are going to be able to steal the pot a very high percentage of the time, as he will give us credit for having hit the flop.
You should be more inclined to re-raise with hands that can hit a flop hard than with hands containing Aces. When you have dry Aces you should be wary of raising with them pre-flop, unless you are balancing your re-raising range with other holdings
Another interesting aspect of PLO tournament strategy is how to play after the flop when you were the pre-flop aggressor but have completely missed the flop. Again, the strategy here differs greatly from no-limit hold’em. Let’s say we’ve raised with A-K in a hold’em tournament, picked up two callers and the flop has come 10-8-7 with a flush draw. We may well make a continuation bet a high percentage of the time here, hoping that our opponents have either a small pair or maybe two high cards and don’t want to continue with the hand.
In PLO, however, highly coordinated flops such as this are not conducive to a continuation bet if the action is any more than two-handed. It’s just too likely that one of more of your opponents has connected with this flop in some way. In PLO, there’s no shame in not continuing if you were the pre-flop aggressor. It’s not weak play but shrewd play, conserving chips and adding credibility to the times you do continue on more broken flops such as K-7-2 or 6-6-3.
Being aware of the texture of the board is very important. Look out for spots on dry boards where you can pick up the pot and be wary of the draw-heavy boards that are likely to have connected with many of your opponents’ hands.
The topic of continuation-betting brings me to one of my biggest gripes with the way people play in pot-limit tourneys. Just because it’s pot-limit doesn’t mean you have to bet the pot! Do you go all-in as a continuation bet in a no-limit tournament, just because there’s no limit to the amount you can bet? No, you usually bet an amount somewhere between half and three- quarters of the pot and there’s no reason to deviate from this here.
Sure there are times when a full-pot bet is required in order to protect a made hand, but for purposes of disguise you should make most of your continuation bets the same size whether you have a strong hand or a complete miss. Making this standard bet a pot-sized bet is just too expensive when you’re working with a finite number of chips.
Don’t bet the full pot automatically when continuation-betting. Try to stick to a consistent c-bet size with your good hands and your bluffs of around two-thirds of the pot. Don’t be afraid to check dangerous flops when you miss as the pre-flop raiser
PLAY OR PASS?
One of the most overlooked aspects of PLO tournaments is also the simplest. Passing! Unlike most no-limit hold’em tournaments there are no antes in a PLO tournament. As a result your play should tighten up. There’s less pressure to make a move and more time to wait for a hand to move in with when you become short-stacked.
People knock themselves out at a rate of knots in PLO tournaments and you shouldn’t lose sight of the tournament as a whole by trying to win every pot at your table. Unlike the online PLO cash When re-raising you really have two options: never re-raise or re-raise with a variety of hands that includes but is not exclusive to Aces games, which are often six-handed, almost all live PLO tournaments will be nine or ten-handed. This means that with the absence of an ante, the blinds don’t come round all that quickly. Patience is one of the greatest attributes of good PLO tournament players.
When you do push, apart from the obvious A-A or K-K type hands, you’re looking for anything double-suited or well connected. Hopefully you can pick up the blinds uncontested, but you know that if you do get called you’ll likely be up against big-pair type hands, so choose your weapons wisely. Unlike in hold’em you will likely only be a small underdog with most playable hands.
In the later stages of a tournament, being a good PLO player becomes less important than simply being a good tournament player. Use the skills you have built up playing no-limit hold’em and play the situations as they occur. Make sure you go for your fair share of blinds from late position, identify the weaker players at the table that you can extract chips from and those who either overvalue their hands or are afraid to put a chip in the pot.
With more and more PLO tourneys appearing both online and on the live circuit, there’s never been a better time to get your feet wet. See you there.