Player profiling

Profile your opponent’s patterns in heads-up pot-limit Omaha – these are the best weapons you have

A passive opponent checking the flop is likely to have nothing or everything, so taking a small stab at the pot is low risk

When playing medium strength to weak hands on the flop, it’s important to tell a good story to your opponent. What I mean by this is that sometimes we are trying to tell our opponents that we are weak (when we have a good hand) and sometimes we are telling a story of strength (when we are trying to bluff).

At other times we might have a strong hand on a very dangerous board and then we tell a story of strength, since we want our opponent to fold there and then. But before you devise any story you should determine whether or not you have the best hand, which, in turn, comes from playing the hand in a way that maximises the amount of information you have in making this decision.

Let’s take a pot-limit Omaha hand where you have no re-draws, but have flopped a decent hand like two pair. You have A-K-5-3 and the board comes A-9-3 rainbow. You are very likely to have the best hand right there (it’s not too strong, although the board isn’t that scary either). There are no flush draws available and the only straight draw is the gutshot draw to the 5. How you play depends on the profile of your opponent.

If a passive opponent bets into you

If your opponent bets into you and is not a super aggressive opponent, he’s probably caught some piece of the board but you don’t know how big that piece is. He is unaggressive so his bet probably means something – either that he is taking a weak shot at the pot or he has nothing. This is the perfect time to flat-call and get a good read on your opponent on the next street, to pick up that extra piece of information.

On an untextured board, a flat-call in position is going to be very scary to an unaggressive opponent. If he bets into you again on the turn, that is a strong bet. If you have not improved your hand, you can take a read and either just call or even fold if your read is strong enough. By just calling, you minimise your loss when it turns out he does have you beat but you also maximise your win when he doesn’t. By not raising you encourage a worse hand to continue betting instead of folding and thus maximise your earn.

Against this kind of opponent you can also use the flat-call on the flop as a bluffing mechanism when you are very weak. Most players’ instinct is to try to bluff the flop. But this is exactly when, in pot-limit Omaha, you are most likely to get a call because players are unwilling to fold many hands that have some drawing power heads-up. By flat-calling the flop in position you scare your opponents and are much more likely to get a check on the turn opening up a less expensive bluff. If you get bet into on the flop and want to bluff, you will raise the whole pot. If you flat-call and get checked to on the turn, your bluff is now only going to cost you 1/2 to 3/4 of the same pot and you have an extra piece of information working for you by waiting till the turn. A cheaper bluff with more information makes sense.

The flat-call to bluff the turn is particularly effective in one of two spots. The first is when you’ve caught a very weak piece of an untextured flop. On the A-9-3 board you might have Q-J-10-9, for example. This is a great time to flat-call to bluff the turn because there are actually a lot of cards that can really help your hand. Another 9 will most likely give you the best hand. Two pair might also give you the best hand but certainly gives you a straight draw at minimum. When you now bet on the turn with either of these, you may actually be betting for value. Also, a King or 8 will give you a wrap, which turns the bet on the turn into a semi-bluff.

If an aggressive opponent bets into you

It’s important to punish players who are too aggressive and you can do this in one of two ways. If they bet into you and you have a hand like A-K-5-3 on a A-9-3 board you should generally raise right then. An opponent who bets willy-nilly needs to be punished here and taught that he cannot just bet into you unpunished all the time.

The problem with flat-calling an opponent like this is that he will generally take a second barrel at the pot – so waiting doesn’t buy you that second piece of information and you are not making him pay either for his initial bet or for sucking out on you if that happens. By raising right there you don’t allow him to exert the kind of pressure that his game is built on. In addition, by raising with stronger hands like these, when you do choose to bluff your bluffs will have more impact.

Against aggressive opponents the bluff on the flop is more effective since they are more likely to be betting with nothing and you don’t gain the extra information by waiting for the turn.

If a passive opponent checks into

When you flop a medium-strength hand that is likely to be good against an unaggressive opponent who checks, in order to extract maximum value out of him it is usually right to just check back. If a passive player checks, it usually means he has nothing or everything – not an inbetween hand. By checking here you accomplish two things: first you don’t open yourself up to a big checkraise in the case your opponent has a huge hand. Second, you stop your opponent from folding a bad hand and encourage him to try to bluff the turn with a bet.

Even the most passive opponents will often take a shot at the turn when the action goes check/check on the flop. Any action that does double duty like that is good action. If your hand is super weak, you can now bet the flop against him. A passive opponent is generally not going to notice that you are checking your bigger hands and betting your weaker ones on untextured boards.

Remember in the past I’ve suggested betting your huge hands on textured boards and those bets will give these kind of bluffs value and credence. A passive opponent checking the flop is likely, as I said, to have nothing or everything, so taking a small stab at the pot is low risk. By betting around half to 3/4 of the pot you’re likely to just pick the pot up right there and when your opponent comes over the top, you can just fold. Notice, you don’t want to bet your medium-strength hands because you actually don’t want a fold, and if your opponent does check-raise you don’t want to have to make the decision with the two pair in terms of calling. Here you want a fold and there is no decision to make if you get raised.

If an aggressive opponent checks to you

Against a super aggressive opponent, on the other hand, you want to bet the flop when he checks to you. Aggressive opponents will often check to check-raise bluff on the flop, especially against another aggressive opponent. You should always give him that opportunity. By betting the flop you accomplish four things at once: first, you maximise the probability that you will win a big pot. Second, you let him know loud and clear that he is not getting free cards from you with the check, which is very important against aggressive players. Third, you set up bluffs with weaker holdings by betting stronger ones right on the flop. Lastly, you discourage him from checkraise bluffing you in the future when you demonstrate that you’ll often be betting strong holdings on the flop.

Bluffing weaker holdings against these types of foes is another matter entirely. If you know your opponent is likely to check-raise, as a bluff or not, then betting to bluff the flop doesn’t make much sense since you’ll be opening yourself up to having the pot taken away from you too often. Instead, now it makes sense to wait till the turn to bluff. If your aggressive opponent checks again he is almost always very weak and you can try to pick up the pot right there. Also, by waiting one more street you give yourself a chance to improve for free and turn your hand into either the best hand or a strong semi-bluff.

If your aggressive opponent does bet into you on the turn after your check on the flop, you can take a read on whether he is just betting because you showed weakness or because he actually has a hand. Then you can choose your spots on the raise – and your raise will have much more power since it will feel more like you were slowplaying a huge hand. Plus, the aggressive player will be much more likely than the passive one to have absolutely nothing in this spot and thus be an easy bluff anyway.

Opponent profiling is the single most important factor in determining your strategy in heads-up pot-limit Omaha. In position, this kind of profiling allows you to maximise your bluffing success, minimise your losses on bad hands and maximise your earn on the good ones.

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