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PLO Fundamentals - Part1 (Hand Selection), by Botafogo

Discussion in 'Poker Strategy Articles' started by Botafogo, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. Botafogo

    Botafogo
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    Pot Limit Omaha Fundamentals (Hand Selection)

    1. General Overview: Even though PLO seems like a game of high variance and luck, it is not as big of a gamble as it seems to the inexperienced player. If you put enough effort in learning the fundamental knowledge behind a consistent winning play, you can achieve a pretty smooth upwards loping graph over a large sample of hands. In fact, once you optimize your game, you can achieve a more consistent and much higher win rate than in NLHE these days. It is well known that there is clear correlation between your edge in the games you are playing and the variance that you are experiencing. The bigger your edge is, the more winning sessions you will have consistently over time and the less variance. Since, PLO has so many fish and bad regulars on the tables, it is very easy to establish a HUGE edge over your opponents, which will decrease the variance of the game a lot, and will make you a consistent winner.

    The most important concepts you need to learn to be a big winner in Pot Limit Omaha are: a) solid preflop hand selection b) the correct way to evaluate preflop hand strength not by preflop equity, but by flopping potential/equity distribution c) the importance of position d) the postflop equities of your hand and when you should be stacking off and vs what type of range, and e) bet sizing and how to use your SPR(stack-to-pot-ratio VERY IMPORTANT IN PLO) to make correct mathematical decisions and to make your opponents fold/call incorrectly postflop. Mastering all these concepts is how you make tons of money in PLO, simply because very few players out there have put the time and effort to learn them in depth. I will try to discuss in detail all of these important concepts in a series of articles. This first one combines points a) and b) and teaches you how to select your hands preflop based on their postflop potential.

    2. Hand Selection: This concept along with position is probably the most important thing you need to master in order to become a big winner in PLO. When you look at almost any random starting hand in PLO like 9d6dKs3c, it looks playable and you know that it’s preflop equity vs very strong hands like AAxx is still close to 40%, so it cannot be that bad to play it, right? Not exactly. This is where a big difference between NLHE and PLO comes. In PLO you don’t let preflop equities determine whether you should play hand postflop or not. The power hands in PLO are flushes, straights, full houses, and strong 13-out-or-more draws. For this reason the 3 most important factors that determine the strength of a PLO hand are:

    - suitedness
    - connectedness
    - postflop equity distribution


    a) Suitedness is the ability of the hand to flop flushes and flush draws. Higher suited cards Q+ are valuable to play in multiway pots and out of position. A double suited hand is very powerful because 2% of the time you flop a flush, 25% of the time a FD, and 60% of the time a BDFD. You should be very careful, though, not to play smaller suited hands multiway because vs 3ppl+ if you have an openeder+small FD (let’s say you have 9s6s5dTh on a JsQd3s) your hand may seem like a monster to a NLHE player, but usually if you get it in on this flop in a multiway action, your FD is most certainly covered and your hand is actually in terrible shape, with only 6 clean outs to the straight (non spade eights and Kings, where a K does not give us the nuts straight either) . One of the most common sayings in PLO is – “you should be always drawing to the nuts”, and this is mostly true for multiway pots or deep stack play. With lower suited hands it is best to isolate in position and try to play the pot heads-up, because versus 1 opponent in a reraised pot a lower flush has much more value and is more often the best hand when the flush gets there.

    b) Connectedness is the ability of the hand to flop straights, big wraps (a good wrap is a 11 out+ straighdraw and a monster wrap is a 20out straighdraw, where you usually have 2 openenders, or an openeder + 2 gutshots, or a combo of 3-gutshots + a BD straight), pair+gutshot or pair+openender type of hands. Four connected cards in PLO are called a “rundown” and these are the type of hands that flop big wraps. One example of such a hand is JT89, which is one of the best rundowns. Such hands play great against overpairs like AAxx, KKxx etc. It is almost always profitable to call a 3-bet with such a hand in or out of position if you think your opponent has an overpair, because you will flop 40% equity on more than 50% of the flops you will see, which is enough to get it in.
    Hands like 2345 are not as good, though, so be careful. They do not flop top2 pair enough, and when they hit a straight or a wrap it is often not to the nuts ( example: you have 2345 on a 456 flop, where 78xx and 73xx beat you). In order to hit a wrap or a straight, a hand like 2345 sometimes needs an Ace to fall on flop, so agains AAxx, it reduces your flopping potential by lots of combinations, due to AA blockers. So, I would advise playing rundowns from 4567 up.

    Other decent connected hands are the gapers – which is a rundown with a gap somewhere between the four cards, like 79TJ or with a double gap like 3678. A good rule to remember is that when you play gapers it is always better to look for those that are gapped in the bottom like 9JQK, and not gapers like 5679. The reason for this is simple – in order to flop a strong draw or a straight with a gapper, you usually need the gapped card to all on flop ex. With 9JQK, you need a T on the flop to form any kind of straight draw or a straight. So, when your gap is lower, this means that most of your connected cards will be higher than that missing card, so when you flop straights or big draws, you will always be drawing to the higher end of the straights. Example is the 9JQK hand on a T83 flop, where you have an opender+3gutshots and all your outs are to the nuts, and you dominate hands like 5679 a lot, because it only has 3 clean outs to the nuts (sixes). A hand with a gap at the top like 789J is not as strong on a TQ5 flop for example, because the only outs to the nuts are the three eights. If you hit a J, your straight is dominated by AK or K9, if you hit a 9, your straight is dominated by JK, if you hit a K, you are dominated by AJ. So, remember that a gap in the bottom, or even the middle is always better than a gap at the top.

    With premium rundowns like JT89 you can always reraise in position or isolate limpers and you can almost always call 3-bets and even 4-bets, preferably with a suit or two in your hand. With a premium rundown you flop: 3-5% straight, 15-20% wrap, 5-8% 2pair+straightdraw = about 33% of excellent flops, if you add a suit to it for additional 1% flush and 12% FD, you get to see about 50% of good flops for your hand.

    c) Postflop equity distribution is the ability of the hand to flop good equity often enough to play it profitably postflop. It is the most important characteristic of a hand in PLO, unlike NLHE where preflop equities are more important in your decision making. There are basically 2 good postflop equity distributions – polarized and smooth.

    - Polarized equity distribution comes from hands like QQ75, or doublepaired hands like KK88. A double paired hand flops a set about 21% of the time and a full house+quads about 3% of the time, so you usually get 24% of flops with very high equity, and the rest 76% of flops your hand potential is much lower. These type of hands are profitable to play in multiway pots, in deep stack play, and to defend vs 3-bets especially if you think your opponent often has AAxx. This is best demonstrated when you go to propokertools.com (the most useful tool for learning PLO equities) and plug in KK88 vs a random AAxx hand. Then you hit the “Graph” option, and it shows you how the postflop equity of KK88 is distributed vs AAxx. As you can see from the picture KK88 only has 32% equity vs AAxx preflop, but postflop it has 70% equity on about 20% of flops (Point. A).

    PLO chart - polarized

    In PLO the threshold of getting it in on the flop in a 3-bet pot 100BB deep to make stacking off break even is usually 40% equity, so when you look at the graph, you see that we will have 40% equity or better on 30% of the flops. This becomes important in trying to calculate if it is profitable to call a 3 or a 4-bet preflop. So let’s say in a 100PLO game villain raises to 3.5BB and you reraise KK88 to 12BB and villain 4-bets to 37.5BB with AAxx and if we call he will push allin on any flop. You have to call 25.5BB more to see a flop. What happens is on about 70% of flops you have a lot under 40% equity so you have to c/fold, so you lose your 37.5BB and on 30% of flops you get it in with 40%+ equity, but because of the highly polarized equity distribution of the top 20 percentile of a hand like KK88 you want to look at average equity in those 30% of flops. (exact calculations are complicated but to look at it simply on the first 10% of flops you see that you have 90% average EQ, on the next 10% of flops (from 10-20 x-axis on graph) you have 75% average EQ, and on the last 10% of flops you have 50% average EQ. To get total average we add 90+75+50 and divide it by 3 = 215/3 ~ 71%. So, EV of calling the 4-bet and playing correctly postflop is 0.3*($200*0.71 -$62.5) = $24, so you win 24$ on average by calling the 4-bet and playing correctly postflop. Since you had to call $ 25.5 for the 4-bet to see the flop total EV of calling the 4-bet is 24 -25.5 = -1.5.

    So, the call is very close and slightly loosing but if you add a suit to your hand along with the possibilities of bluffing some scary flops like JQ9dd, when villain decide to give up and check/fold with his AAxx and no diamonds, it makes the long run expectation of your defend slightly positive. Adding a suit or two makes the hand even stronger; a doublsuited doublpaired has a lot of equity usually when it gets a piece of the flop, so you should almost always play those.

    - Smooth equity distribution comes from seeing flops with rundowns or gapers like 9TJQ. These type of hands are good to play in 3-bet or 4-bet pots, in deepstack play, and if they hit nut straights and nut straight draws - they are good in multiway pots as well. Using the same exercise on propokertools.com to plug JTQ9 vs AAxx we get the following result.

    PLO chart - smooth equity distribution

    As you can see, the slope of this graph is much steadier and smooth, which means that AAxx and a good rundown have almost the exact same postflop potential, even though preflfop the equities run at 40-60 for the AAxx hand. In PLO the threshold of getting it in on the flop 100BB deep to make stacking off break even is usually 40% equity, so when you look at Point. A on graph, you see that we will have 40% equity or better on half of the flops. This fact along with the fact that we can often use our position or opportunities to bluff our opponent off his AAxx if he decides to give up on some drawy boards, which do not hit our hand like 456sss, makes playing these rundowns profitable when you call 3 or 4-bets and makes them good hands to reraise in position with or to 3-bet aggressive BTN and CO openers from the blinds.

    Again adding a suit or two makes the hand even more powerful. A doublesuited rundown is good to play in almost any situation and it has a decent amount of equity 40%+ on more than half of the flops. In a 4-bet pot you actually need 31% equity on the flop to break even ($ amount of shove you need to call on flop divided by total amount of pot after you call shove = 62.5/200 = 31.25%) So, let’s try that 4-bet EV calculation again. You have to call 25.5 to see a flop after the 4bet, and then on 63% of flops you will have equity of 31%+. Average equity in this case will be about (85%+70%+56%+49%+45%)/5= 61%. So, EV of play = 0.63*(200*0.61 – 62.5) = $37.5. Total EV of defending the 4-bet then equals (37.5-25.5) = $12. As you can see it is quite profitable to defend with good rundown hands vs a 4-bet.

    Here are a few more sample graphs so you get an idea of which hands have decent postflop equity distribution and which ones don’t:

    PLO sample chart 1

    PLO sample chart 2

    Pot Limit Omaha sample chart 3

    Pot Limit Omaha sample chart 4

    So, these are some of the most important things you need to know in order to learn how to choose which hands flop well and you can defend 3 and 4-bets with. Remember high pairs like KK75, or doublepaired hands like TT99 are good in single raised or in multiway pots. Decent rundowns and gappers are better in 3 and 4-bet pots and in heads up pots and are great to reraise with and isolate. They are only good in multiway pots if your rundown combination can flop dominating straights and draws.

    For example, when there is a raise and one or two callers you, should not be defending gappers single suited to low cards from the blinds like J974ss(ss=single suited) suited to the 9. In multiway pots try to play hands that flop nut draws and dominate other people's draws, like AKJx suited to the Ace or King. Fold non nutty hands out of blinds and OOP and don’t raise them from early position, because they get you in trouble multiway, like 3789ds(ds=double suited), or 68Q9ds, but suited to 8 and Q really hurts your hand multiway!!!

    Also, having a pair in your hand like 66TQ really hurts your postflop potential because the sixes don’t work together with the TQ, and don’t help you hitting 2 pairs or many straights/draw combos, so avoid hands like this at all cost. These are called “ two-NLHE” hands, like 66TQ, or 45JQ, which look deceptively pretty and strong to a starting PLO player who comes from a NLHE background, because they are thinking “45 can flop straights and draws, and so can JQ, so I should play this hand.” However, in PLO you need at least 3 of your cards to work together in order to hit enough good combinations of flops to make playing your hand profitable postflop, but lots of starting players fall in the trap of seeing a hand like 459T and thinking they should play it.

    To help you identify these trappy NLHE pretty looking hands, I will end this article with a good Hand Selection Rule, which skilled PLO players use as a basic guide. Think of PLO hands as combinations of NLHE hands. For example 45JQ is composed of 2 NLHE hands that are decent - 45 and JQ. And 66TQ is composed of 3 playable NLHE hands TQ, 66 and 6T. But look at AKJT – you have AJ, AK, AT, KJ, KT, TJ, which is composed of 6 great NLHE hands. So, the so-called 6NLHE hand rule is the following:

    • 2 -NLHE hand combination = bad PLO hand
    • 3 = decent, but not good enough to play often
    • 4 = good
    • 5 or 6 = good enough to raise/ or call a 3-bet in almost any situation.
    I hope this article was extensive and informative enough to give you a good idea of how you should be selecting your good starting hands in PLO. If you have any questions feel free to post them on the site and I will be happy to answer. My next article will probably be on the importance of position, which is the other super important concept in PLO. I know you are probably eager about videos, but I think it is most important to introduce all the fundamental theory first in the articles, so you can gain the most value from watching the videos later. So, be a little more patient and read through my first few articles carefully and I promise to make videos soon after the main concepts are introduced in sufficient detail.

    Cheers,
    Botafogo
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 10, 2010
  2. piskun

    piskun
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    Nice one cheers :)
     
  3. ytricky

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    Hopefully you can empathize in your next article which hands become playable from certain positions while they are not playable from others and how VPIP from all postionions should look like. Bascially i would like if you post the Omaha Manger positions tab.

    Good article, wraps together most of the knowledge of PLO beginners videos and is not as time intensive.
     
  4. gavrosh

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    Beautiful article! I love the in-depth analysis you made, and it's explained excellent. I can't wait for the next one!
     
  5. radotdr

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    Very nice and simple explained. Thank you !!!
     
  6. AstraLa

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    nice1! gj!
     
  7. Zografa

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    I am impressed!
     
  8. pe3ucTop

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    very nice article, hope we will see more in near future. Thanks in advance.
     
  9. gavrosh

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    I'd like to hear more about the delusive hands, that only look good. Trivial example is AAAA witch contains 6 monster NLHE hands, but is actually naked aces :)
     
  10. Mitiozo

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    One more time good game at WSOP28

    I am reading "PLO The Big Game Strategy" by Jeff Hwang and in combination with your simple explanations I understand the game better. Thanks and I am really looking forward for next article!!
     
  11. Ozzy

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    gogo next one!
     
  12. Rorrybery

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    It was awesome.
     
  13. civver

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    hi,

    the article is great, but since 2010 there is nothing new on this site. no following up article as announced at the beginning. is this site dead ? no new articles or videos, except promos for different pokersites
     

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