PLO Poker Tournament Strategy Guide

Make The Shift To Pot Limit Omaha Poker Tournaments A Profitable One
With My Quick-Start PLO MTT Strategy Guide

Omaha Tournaments are more than just an entertaining variation from NL Holdem, they can be very profitable too. After reading this article you will understand the key differences – and be ready to take full advantage of some of the more common ‘adjustment’ mistakes your opponents will make.

There are 3 focus areas for this article. First, the closeness of starting hand strengths makes a BIG difference to your approach to PLO poker tournaments. Secondly, the ‘Pot Limit’ betting requires you change up your game at certain key points. Third, I will focus on those opponent mistakes – showing you how to spot and exploit those people playing ‘Holdem Hands’.

PLO Poker Tournament Strategy – Close Starting Hands

Since you have to play 2 cards from your hand and 3 from the community card board in PLO, it is essential that you choose hands with some ‘structure’. What you need is the ability to hit nut hands (or nut draws) on a variety of flops. Having 4 cards which work together in terms of suits, connected cards and / or high cards + pairs gives you the maximum number of ‘combinations’ of 2 cards which can hit. Just a single unconnected card will reduce the number of active combinations you hold from 6 to 3…

With suits and straights involved, most matchups will be no better than 65% / 35% in PLO. This results in 2 changes in play, especially at the lower limits:

  1. A lot of players will try and limp in or otherwise see a cheap flop
  2. Your need to accumulate chips early is bigger than in Holdem, since you will need to survive some close encounters through the mid to late stages… and if you wait then a big stack will be happy to look you up – since they will know that they are rarely that far behind.

You can often ‘punish’ or isolate limpers from position. In the early stages this will often result in several calls, as you get into the mid-stages and beyond it will be more difficult to call these bets. Aggression + position are more important in PLO. You not only need to accumulate chips, you will need to be prepared to use them to win pots throughout the game – Omaha is not a game for the faint of heart!

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PLO Tournament Strategy 2 – Pot Limit Betting

Betting only the size of the pot makes for some interesting play in Omaha poker tournaments. You can not give your opponent worse than 2-to-1 odds on a call and can often not  get all your chips into the pot as fast as you would like.

Pre-flop you can only bet a small proportion of your stack. With several betting rounds to come you do not want to give away your hand while the pot is small… if you only raise with aces (for example) you will get called in a lot of places and find you only get action from hands which have you crushed after the flop.

There is also risk in re-opening the betting, since your opponents will then be able to come over the top for a far bigger bet. While you must continuation bet a lot in PLO (both to protect and to get value from big hands / draws), you need to ensure that you check behind often enough that observant opponents do not check-raise (or bet 4-bet) as a default against you.

If you do have a monster hand and want to get those chips into the middle, then an easy rule of thumb is to go ahead if the pot pre-flop will be bigger than your remaining chip stack. Your plan is to get the chips in on any flop… by doing this you would have been able to turn up your cards before betting, announce that the rest go in on any flop, and your opponent would still not be able to get a mathematical edge against you!

PLO Tournament Strategy 3 – Common Opponent Mistakes

My favorite thing about PLO tournaments is that you will see some horrible mistakes! Many of these involve misjudging hand strengths or giving away hands too easily.

Players more familiar with holdem will play Aces like they are a sure thing a lot of the time. A-A-2-7 with 4 suits is ok if you get the chips in pre-flop against some bad kings… however against 8-9-10-J with 2 suits it is only just a favorite. Combine this will a player who refuses to fold on a draw-heavy flop and you can see why these players are good to play against. Ace-only raisers are gold in PLO MTTs!

It is not just the aces you need to watch for, opponents will overvalue all high pairs (even uncoordinated ones). They will often play smaller pairs too, trying to set mine with them. As you gain experience with Omaha’s set over set vs big draw showdowns you will quickly realize that smaller pair starting hands are basically unplayable without some seriously coordinated backup.

In PLO games, especially in the early stages with multi-way pots, if a draw comes in then you have to assume someone has it. Many opponents will keep drawing to the low end of straights or bad flushes, or play trips to the end on a 3-suit board. In Holdem there is a good chance nobody hit, with just 2 cards each – with up to 6 combinations of 2 cards in each players hand, you could be playing the equivalent of 12, 18 or even 24 holdem hands… thing everyone missed the flush and your small set is good now??!?

The final mistake I like to look for is differences in bet sizing. ‘Reading’ PLO hands is hard, there are too many combinations. What many players will do is signal their relative strength for you. For example, a player might insta-pot the flop when weaker and pause then bet 2/3rds when strong. Some players will always bet half pot on the flop in position when they took the lead pre-flop… if they are tighter (only playing high cards or big combos) and you feel the flop missed them then you might be able to take the pot right there. Some players will check with the nuts, always looking for that check-raise (this is generally a bad idea in Omaha – betting a lot of hands is a better disguise, though you should change it up sometimes!). If these same players lead out into you then you can be sure they do not have the current nuts.

Omaha Tournament Strategy – Summing It Up.

With mistakes as big as the ones you will find in some online pot limit Omaha tournaments it is no wonder they are growing in popularity. These games are not for the shy types – you need to go to war with your stack to ensure you have enough in your stack to cope with a couple of reversals (those close starting hands...).

What you will find is a lot of players who give away either the content of their hands, or their relative strength after the flop. If you stay observant you can find ways to pick up a lot of pots… hopefully on the way to that final table!


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