Pot-limit Omaha

Got a bit of gamble in you and want a break from Hold’em? We ask Josh Arieh for his top pot-limit Omaha tips

The player

Josh Arieh has won over $4m in tournaments and has two WSOP bracelets, one of which he won in pot-limit Omaha. He is currently sponsored by BodogPoker.com.

What’s the secret to PLO?

The game is much easier and far less stressful when you have position

You have to gamble. You can’t just sit there and wait on A-K, A-A or K-K [like in Hold’em] and be successful. It’s just not going to work in cash games or tournaments. If you’re happy to win small and you’re playing against weak opponents, then you could wait for premium hands. But when you’re playing against solid opponents you really have to get in there, otherwise when you put in a raise they’re not going to call, or they’re going to call to try and take the pot away from you.

I hate to sit around waiting, and PLO is a game where you can get in there and gamble. Even if someone has Aces or Kings you can get involved with almost any four cards and not be that big of an underdog, but you have to be ready to accept fluctuations.

What’s the challenge of PLO?

What makes PLO more interesting for me is that you’re able to force people to make decisions on all the streets. When playing PLO you have to continue to make decisions. You can’t just get it all-in right away.

What’s the most important lesson to learn?

The main thing to think about is position. I’ll never play a big pot if I don’t have position and will never re-raise somebody out of position. Of course, you want to mix it up sometimes, but 99 percent of the time if somebody limps and then re-raises out of position, they have two Aces and that’s a dream spot. You could tell me that you have two Aces in your hand, deal me four cards off the top and I’m going to call because my overlay is huge. Now after the flop you have to act first and the pot’s huge, so the number one rule to live by playing PLO is don’t play big pots out of position, no matter what your hand is.

But position’s important in Hold’em, too…

Position in PLO is far more important than in NLHE because there are so many different possibilities on the flip of every card. You must be very aware of everyone else in the pot and, of course, the game is much easier and far less stressful when you have position.

Do good Hold’em players make good PLO players?

A great Hold’em player can be a big sucker in Omaha! At first people find it hard to grasp PLO, but once it clicks you’ll start to understand it more. When I first started playing I put two cards on one side and two cards on the other side to make two Hold’em hands. It takes one time of you pulling that naked Ace of hearts out of your hand, thinking you have the nut flush, to find out you need two cards out of your hand!

What draws should you play?

Play straight draws that have more than two ways to hit, like needing an Eight, Nine or Ten, and nut flush draws except when the board is paired. In some cases, when there’s someone that you think you can put on tilt, draw at almost anything if you think it will set the guy off and make the game good. I always think it’s okay to take a short- term negative equity draw when it will change the course of every other hand that you play. I love showing down that I called to make a gutshot straight and hit it.

Should you always bet the pot?

I’d generally recommend betting the pot every time you raise, to prevent yourself giving away too much information. If you start betting a certain amount at certain times and the full pot at others, good players will pick up on your strategy. Pre-flop, I don’t always bet the pot. I’ll bet amounts according to my opponent’s stack. If we’re both playing deep-stacked then I’m going to raise it more because we can play a big pot without going all-in right away.

If I’m playing someone with a short stack I’m only going to make a small raise because I want there to be play and action on further streets. The only time I make a value bet in PLO is on the river when I have a very good idea that my opponent has a set or two-pair and I want to get my straight or flush paid off. I’ll make a really small bet, just to ensure that I make some money, rather than betting the pot when I’m 90 percent sure they’ll fold.

What hands should you muck and what boards should you be wary of?

Hands that are not suited. There are a few exceptions, but most of the time, if I can’t make a flush, I’m not in there. Also, beware of flopping the nuts [say, a straight] when the board is double-suited [by the turn]. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve flopped the nuts and then folded [on the turn] when it would cost all my chips to call. The board can pair for a full house or the flush can come, or the straight could easily become bigger and beat you. Don’t be afraid to take a small loss.

Should you fold if your hand can’t improve?

It’s vital that your hand can always improve. When you’re beat and can’t improve, that’s always a good time to muck your hand. Remember, a new hand will be dealt very soon and if you’re playing confidently and correctly, you’re more than likely going to be able to play that hand as well.

How does pot-limit betting work?

In pot-limit games you can bet anything up to the total of the pot. If you’ve had to call a bet or the big blind before raising, your call is added to the pot creating a larger amount that you can then raise by.

Example bet Blinds: $1/$2
First pot raise: $7
($2 to call the big blind, and then raise by the pot – $5 – for a total bet of $7)
Second pot raise: $24
($7 to call the previous bet, and then raise by the pot – $17 – for a total bet of $24)

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