Exclusive book extract: Small stakes PLO

In an excerpt from his book, Strategies to Beat Small Stakes Pot-Limit Omaha, Matthias Pum reveals the ten strategic reasons why people struggle to move up the levels in PLO

Playing AAxx

Some years ago I would have called this mistake ‘Overrating AA’ but I’ve got the impression that a lot of people are scared of playing AA nowadays, because they faced a lot of bad postflop situations in three-bet pots where they are left with an unsatisfying big SPR (stack to pot ratio) and the board is scary.

Others still overrate them by blindly three-betting every AAxx hand they get dealt. Playing AAxx the right way in pot-limit Omaha could almost be considered an art, but as an easy rule of thumb I can give you the following hints.

When you have <150bb you should always four-bet all AAxx hands, when you have <200bb four-bet your single suited AA, and above that only four-bet the best single suited AAxx and all double suited ones.

For three-betting I would three-bet all single suited AAxx hands in position as well as the better ones, plus all double suited AAxx hands out of position.

Not understanding the difference between SB and BB

I could write a whole article on this topic but to keep it simple I just want to mention the differences between the small blind and big blind because I still see a lot of people folding too many hands from the big blind (even against small blind steals). The reasons why you should play a lot more hands in the big blind are:

• You are closing the action, so no one can raise behind you and you know exactly how many players will be in the pot.

• You get better odds than in the small blind (since you already invested half a big blind more).

• Folding every hand in the big blind would result in a ‘winrate’ of -100bb/100 in this position, so your defend doesn’t have to be highly pro table.

• Equities in PLO are very close. Even if they have the best hand in PLO they still would have only 70% equity against a random hand, so it’s tough for you to find a bad call.

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Calling cold three-bets before you too much

Calling three-bets before you can be very dangerous. RFI (raise first in) and three-betting ranges will both be very strong, so be careful that you don’t defend too loose against this setup and always consider the fact that the open raiser still has the ability to four-bet, so your call can be very costly! Don’t defend more than 5-7%.

Calling for the worst draw

This is especially a problem multiway. When there are multiple players in the pot and you have something like a Ten-high flush draw, consider it only as a backup equity or even blockers. Avoid calling only for hitting the mid flush. Don’t stack off against multiple opponents when justifying it with your non-nut flush draw.

Over-estimating wraps on flush draw boards Wraps are a unique Omaha draw which are very nice draws against all different kinds of made hands (even against sets) and other draws. You should still be careful when hitting a wrap on a flush draw board. The value of the wrap decreases drastically, especially multiway. Heads-up it’s always a nice ‘equity insurance’ when having a pair in addition to your wrap so that your equity against other draws rises.

Playing absolute instead of relative hand strength

This is also a very deep concept in PLO. There will be times where the Ace-high flush is just not good enough to call against a raise on the river even though only the straight flush beats us, or top full houses have to find a crying fold when only quads are beating them.

Also HU there will be situations where you x/c the turn with something like a pair and a weak flush draw and have to fold the rivered flush since only better flushes would bet when you’re repping the flush credibly.

On the other hand a pair of Jacks can be good enough to call a three-barrel. Mastering the concept of relative hand strengths is the real art of PLO and surely one of the most difficult. Thinking about which story Villain wants to sell you and how likely he really is able to credibly do this (aka hand reading) is the key to become a very good PLO player.

Bluffing without being able to represent

There are times (more often than not) where you don’t hit the draw you waited for. Just keep mind that the line you choose has be credible in order for it to work. Otherwise you will see some pretty weak hands calling you (and making you look dumb). Be aware of the fact that it’s not always that the other players are bad when they’re calling you thin but you might just have not been credible enough.

Overplaying rundowns preflop

When analysing my students’ hands, I regularly see them overplaying rundowns preflop. Those overplays include open-raising with small rundowns from early position (like 6543ss), three-betting rundowns like 9765ss against tight UTG ranges (which therefore often get dominated) and also four-betting hands like 7654ds for 100bb.

As an argument I mostly hear them saying that the deception value is big. The problem in four-betting those hands however is that they don’t have an equity advantage against any hand of our opponent.

Also in four-bet pots, stack-off ranges get really thin (one pair is mostly enough) so that the fold equity is thin and our deception value is diminishing, so we waste a hand with great playability for basically a gamble.

Betting an arbitrary amount without assigning calling/folding ranges

Finding correct bet sizing is a very complex topic. In order to choose the right bet sizes you need to have a good idea of hand reading and assigning hand ranges to your opponent and thinking about what you can represent. As a rule of thumb I would think about the bet size you would be willing to call in his shoes (with the range you assigned to him), and then slightly adjust it to the bigger side if you want him to fold or the smaller side when he should call.

No solid x/c ranges

Speaking of postflop leaks of regulars, the biggest one is possibly c-betting too much and check-folding only the weakest part of their range. Most players underrate the value of check-calling, but it has the big advantage that it keeps all the bluffs in your opponent’s range.

There are also a lot of hands of your middle range that just have to fold against a raise, even if you get semi-bluffed off your hand which very often has more than 50% equity. Try to slowly elaborate check-calling ranges that can improve on a lot of turn cards.

My book Strategies to beat Small Stakes Pot Limit Omaha describes all of these issues in more depth. There are also a lot of exercises and practice examples so you’re not overwhelmed by too many theoretical aspects.

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