Try Your Hand At PLO8

In a series looking at lesser-known poker variants, PokerPlayer gets ?to grips with pot-limit Omaha Hi/Lo (8 or Better)

Preflop Strategy

The most important thing when getting started is to think about starting hand selection. The best hand in PLO8 is A-A-2-3 double-suited, but don’t expect to find it too often. Any A-A-x-x hand where x-x are wheel cards (2, 3, 4, or 5) are monster hands and should be played aggressively as you have chances to win both sides of the pot.

Generally speaking, though, when looking for a good starting hand you want one that contains A-2. That’s because A-2 will usually be the nut low on most boards featuring three low cards, but it’s also important to have strong cards with it. A-2-3-K double-suited is much better than A-2-9-J unsuited, as your chances of winning the high are much increased.

Also, having a second card to the ‘wheel’ in your hand alongside the A-2 becomes a valuable commodity if you get counterfeited. For example, using the two hands above, the board could be reading 5-6-8 and both hands have the nut low, but if a two comes on the turn, then the A-2-9-J becomes ‘counterfeited’ as it can only make 8-6-5-2-A still but A-2-3-K can now use A-3 instead for 6-5-3-2-A to make a better low, while still sharing the high (in this case both hands have a pair of deuces with Ace kicker).

A-2 hands with poor kickers, no suits or back-up can still be played, but their lack of scooping power means you should be much more careful about raising with them, especially out of position. You should avoid worse low hands such as 2-3 or A-4, since they will often make the second best hand, which is a disaster.

Hands you should raise in position are ones like A-3-4-6 double-suited or A-2-Q-Q, while avoiding wherever possible hands like 6-5-4-3 and 9-8-7-6. These middle rundowns, so good in PLO, lose all value in the split game, as if lower cards come then the rundowns will likely only win the high half, while when higher cards come they will make the bottom end of the straight or flush, a recipe for disaster. It’s much better to be raising with A-2-K-Q without any suits, than 8-7-6-5 double-suited in PL08.

Postflop Strategy

Although the flop action is important, many of your decisions will often come on later streets. The most common mistake most PLO8 beginners make after the flop is to make a big pot-sized bet with nothing more than the nut low draw when the board contains one high card and two low cards. This can scare off other people holding A-2 but the problem is that anyone who has a strong draw or a made high hand with a low draw as back-up, will happily put all their money in the middle. You’ll then find yourself often drawing to just a quarter of the pot, and sometimes getting scooped.

Without a big draw, or strong made high hand, it’s much better to check back and then reassess your plan on the turn. If another high card comes you can get away cheaply, but you might make your low and/or gain some high hand potential.

The number of players in the pot will also affect how you play both low and high hands. With three players, for example, you should always play your low very slowly, since it’s much more likely someone else has the same hand as you than a big high hand. Conversely, if you have the nut high hand in a three-way pot, you should be trying to get as much money in the middle as possible, since you’ll make more if both other players have the low.

Whether you’re involved in a pot or not, take time to try and figure out who is chasing what hands and bet according to what will win – or save – you the most money.

Things To Think About In A Multi-way Pot

Sample Hand: Full ring $1/$2 PLO8, $200 effective stacks
Your hand: As-3h-4h-6s

One player limps in mid position. You raise pot ($9) from the button. Your position combined with a hand that has a lot of potential makes this a clear opportunity to raise. The big blind and the limper both call the raise.

Flop: Ks-Jh-5c

Action checks to you and you check behind as there’s very little potential for your hand right now but there are a lot of cards on the turn that could improve your situation.

Turn: 6h

The big blind immediately bets $22 into a pot of $28, the limper thinks for a while and calls. The turn gives you a pair, a flush draw, straight draw and the second nut low draw, but you should proceed with caution and call, since only an offsuit two will make you the nuts. It looks like the big blind has some sort of made high hand or big draw, whereas the limper looks to be drawing and cannot have a strong made hand just yet.

River: 2c

The gin card for you, but both players check. Clearly no one else is holding a straight, but there might be another A-3. You bet $88 – nearly the pot. After a long think the big blind calls and the limper folds. The BB flips over Ac-4s-Kc-Jd for two pair and 6-5-4-2-A low (using all four of his cards it’s worth noting) but you scoop with your six-high straight (using A-3) and 6-5-3-2-A low (using A-2). The big blind was unlucky but his main mistake was being in the pot with A-4.

Tournament Strategy

Most of the advice in this article is geared towards cash play, but PLO8 tournaments can play very differently. Here’s a few tournament tips…

1. You can’t reload in a tournament so play tighter. It’s not criminal to fold A-2-7-J no suits when out of position.

2. Don’t go to war with just a low hand. Remember, there’s not always a low hand but there’s ALWAYS a high hand.

3. If you have a very good hand that is strong both ways, be prepared to push it hard – sometimes you’ll scoop the pot.

4. Don’t fall in love with A-2. If you’re not making the nut low with a decent draw to the high as well you often won’t get to see the turn and should just fold.

5. Fold the medium run-downs. A hand like 9-8-7-6 is a trap. The nine is the worst card in PLO8 – it’s no good for the low and hardly ever best for the high.

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