Many elements of Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) and No Limit Hold’Em (NLH) play are similar. However, there are key differences which distinguish the two games. The increase to four pocket cards, pot limit betting caps, and other variations yield key strategy differences between the two games. For players new to PLO, the most basic rule difference is that you must use exactly two hole cards and three board cards to create your hand. Think that’s easy? Well, see how often, when first playing PLO, that you believe you’ve made a straight when you haven’t.
Here are the technical and strategy differences between PLO and NLH you need to look out for.
Pre-flop Equity Differences in PLO are Much Smaller than in NLH
Most hands in PLO have no more than a 2:1 pre-flop equity advantage. For example, pocket aces in NLH have an average equity advantage of about 85/15 against any random hand. In Omaha, holding two aces and two random cards is only about a 65/35 advantage. So many combinations can hit a flop that even the raggiest starting hands have potential against very strong hands. What this means is…..
PLO Loves Action
The reduced differential in PLO pre-flop equities means that players frequently have pot odds to enter a hand pre-flop, particularly in late position. While a VPIP (Voluntary Put Money in Pot) of 10%-15% in NLH would not be unheard of for a decent player, that same frequency would be exceedingly tight for a PLO player. Even some very good PLO players may have a VPIP of 25%-30%. Of course, some players enjoy the shrunken equity disadvantages far too much. Be prepared to open your ranges in PLO, but be cautious about justifying entering every hand. Also, sharpen your board reading skills, because you’ll be seeing more flops than in NLH.
Position is even More Important in PLO
PLO is a drawing game, and you want to be in position on your draws. In PLO, there is more calling behind pre-flop than 3-betting, and more defense of 3-bets in position. If you are 3-betting pre-flop, it should be for value only, not as a bluff. While play is loose, you don’t want to increase the pot size too quickly before the board has unfolded. Out of position you should only be raising with premium hands. Beyond that, try to keep the pot multi-way, which means more early position limping than is typically seen in NLH.
Set Mine with Caution in PLO
While small pair set mining in deep stack NLH games can be profitable, it should generally be avoided in PLO. The odds of losing set over set, or a set losing to a straight or flush is much higher. A hand like 6633 should likely be discarded.
You Need Stronger Hands to Win at Showdown
In NLH, you can generally bet any flush with impunity. In PLO there are times when, given the action, small flushes absolutely should be folded. Be judicious about your draws. When drawing to flushes or straights, you almost always should be drawing to the nuts.
Also, while over-pairs are likely to call at least one raise in NLH, they are folding most of the time in PLO. Similarly, while two pair is a strong holding in NLH, it’s only a bluff catcher in PLO.
Suitedness Matters More in PLO
Experienced NLH players will play suited cards cautiously, understanding their limited increase in equity. However, double suited hands such as AsAd8s4d and Jh10h9c8c (for its straight potential as well) are considered among the top 10 hands in PLO. Look at every Top 20 or 30 starting hand chart in PLO and it will come with the tag “All hands are double suited.” Suitedness, particularly double suitedness, matters in PLO.
If you are transitioning from NLH to PLO, attention to the differences above will save you a lot of heartache.