PLO Poker Strategy

How successful you are as a poker player is defined by your strategy and your capacity to execute that strategy consistently. The best poker players have the best poker strategies, period.

In order to craft an effective long-term strategy in Pot-Limit Omaha, you should focus on the following principles:

    1. GTO Solutions
    2. Exploitation
    3. Optimization

If you currently play Texas Hold ‘Em, we made a post especially for player switching from NLHE to PLO.

1. Game Theory Optimal Solutions

For a long time, poker was considered to be a game of reads and exploitation. In today’s poker environment, poker software plays a huge role in the creation of game theory optimal (GTO) strategies that are based on playing a balanced, less exploitable game.

Working with GTO solvers is not about memorizing thousands of models, it’s about understanding the principles behind patterns that emerge. The solver doesn’t tell us why a hand is a raise. Our job is to make sense of the output by applying logic.

In this clip from our 10-Week PLO Transformation course, we talk about the fields of strategy that need to be discovered to dominate the game.

 
 
 
 
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Once you have learned how to play PLO, there are multiple theoretical concepts that you should know by heart because they are relevant to any given area of the strategy grid. In the following section, we break them down for you.

Mathematics

Following reads and gut feelings sounds less complicated than studying mathematical equations and understanding the mechanics of a balanced strategy.

But if you base your strategy solely on your personal experience, it will be biased. Instead, base your reasoning on game theory optimal solutions and empirical data.

Equity

Equity is the share of the pot that is yours based on the possibility that you will win the pot at that point in play. It amounts to the chances you have of winning the hand at that given moment.

Often you will see a connection between how much equity you have and the size of your bets. The correlation is in essence that the more equity you have, the more often you bet.

On the other hand, when you are holding lower equity, you’re usually going to check more often.

Stack-to-Pot Ratio

A concept you will come across in every session when you’re playing PLO. The stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) describes the size of the stacks in play relative to the pot.

The ratio refers to your stack size divided by the size of the pot. If there is $100 in the pot, and you have $400 in your stack, that means you have an SPR of 4.

When SPR changes, leverage changes.

When SPR is low, the possibility of going all-in increases, and the chances of future streets diminish. When SPR is higher, you’ll play more streets and so you’ll need to take into account more factors when continuing in the hand.

Stacking-Off

Stacking-off means betting all your chips. 3-bet and 4-bet pots in PLO involve a lot of low SPR stack-off decisions.

Learning the stack-off thresholds will prevent you from making large mistakes in big pots.

These are typical situations you don’t want to misplay, as these costly and repetitive mistakes will destroy your win rate. When you are looking to stack-off, you should know what minimum equity is required to get the money in profitably.

Stack-Off Poker Cheat Sheet

A table describing how much equity is needed to tack-off in pot limit Omaha poker.

You can use this PLO poker cheat sheet when you are going over hand reviews or want to join a discussion in a forum.

In this clip, we show you a simple example of stack-off calculations.

Balance

Balance in poker means using an effective strategy that doesn’t offer easily identifiable counter adjustments.

Against unknown players, start with a balanced strategy while minimizing your downside.

Ranges

When you’re balancing your game, you don’t want to only focus on your current hand.

If you focus on the range of hands you’re representing rather than on your actual hand, you will be able to put your opponent in a difficult spot with a lot of hands.

Always think about how strong your entire range is, and how tough it will be for your opponents’ range to fight back, given the board texture.

Frequency

If you’re only betting your strongest hands, opponents could notice that and fold every time you bet. The same goes for bluffing, if you’re betting almost all your hands, opponents can simply start calling more.

It comes down to betting frequency.

When you are betting your strong hands, the goal is to build a pot. But if you bet all the hands you want to build a pot with, your checking range becomes very vulnerable.

If you only check a weak range of hands, your opponent will punish you.

You’ll need to learn that it’s not what frequencies you should take, but the reasoning behind why you should take certain actions that’s important.

Polarization

Polarization is a description of the distribution of your range.

It means you are betting your best hands, bluffing your weakest hands, and checking your medium-strong hands to avoid having a weak checking range.

When you’re playing a polarized approach you are also betting with strong blockers (cards in your hand that block your opponents’ top ranges).

Instead of using black and white thinking, you want to use the term to describe to which degree your range is built to the extremes of nuts and air. Think about your range as being more polarized or less polarized.

Adaptability

A playable hand in PLO has to show a profit, taking not only pot odds into account, but all streets, additional bets, stack sizes, positions, and the number of players involved, as well as the player tendencies.
 
If you fail to adapt to the circumstances, you will certainly lose.

Position

There is a direct correlation between your expected value and your position. It’s called position advantage or disadvantage. Generally, the deeper the stack sizes are, the bigger your position advantage or disadvantage is going to be.

When you are IP you have more control of the pot, and get more information on each betting round. You can play much more straight forward, and your goal with strong hands is usually to build a bigger pot.

The IP player benefits more from multi-street game, so your bets should often be smaller in comparison to when you are OOP.

The OOP is at a big disadvantage and therefore is more interested in ending the spot quicker by betting bigger and being all-in earlier in the hand. This way you avoid playing multiple streets with a positional disadvantage.

That said, many times when OOP, you won’t want to build the pot at all and start off checking.

Calibration

Calibration means studying the context of the situation, understanding the strength of your starting hand in regards to that situation, and then making the right play.

Different hands have different combination qualities. One situation might be preferable with one hand, but not with the other.

In this clip from our PLO Launchpad course, we talk about how a hand’s character and strength can be relative to the context.

 
 
 
 
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Think about how your hand will play out and whether it is appropriate for the situation you’ll be in.

Efficiency

Efficiency in PLO refers to using all relevant components in your starting hand or range and force your opponent into the most optimal part of the game tree, for you.

Efficiency drives decisions.

Understand in which part of the game tree your specific hand or range does best and push the action to this part of the game tree. If you don’t see a clear advantage, it usually means that both equities are very close.

You will then realize whether or not you want to have a betting range at all. Instead of trying to figure out which hands to bet 12% of the time, you can just choose consistency over perfection, and simplify your frequency by checking your full range.

In this clip from our Quick Tips course, we go through some examples of hand efficiency in Pot Limit Omaha.

2. Exploitation

When you get a read on your opponent, find a weakness and know how you adjust to it, you should deviate from your baseline strategy and take advantage of their mistakes.

However, be careful. The information you have on your opponent shouldn’t have the ultimate power over your strategy. If your read is wrong, you’ll lose a lot by choosing the wrong strategy.

Be patient and wait for the right moment, otherwise, you are going to have a massive leak that will hold you back in your PLO career at a very early stage. 

Deviating from GTO

Our goal for exploitation is to build reads. But those reads are oftentimes a lot more accurate if they’re coming from a GTO perspective.

That is going to be our absolute target. Understanding GTO on a fundamental level, spotting deviations, and knowing how to exploit those deviations.

To exploit opponents, we recommend following this step-by-step process:

    1. Understand the GTO baseline
    2. Identify how your opponent deviates from GTO
    3. Exploit your opponent’s weaknesses
    4. Limit the downside and minimize counter exploits

In this clip from our 10-Week PLO Transformation course, we outline an example of these steps being put into action.

Minimum Exploitation

One of the biggest problems you can have is overestimating the reads you have on your opponents. You could see a small statistic and already be thinking that you can exploit your opponent by just maximally going against it.

If you’re making extreme adjustments to your opponents, you also expose yourself to becoming exploited and losing the money you were making from your adjustments back to them.

You should never focus too much on making drastic adjustments to individual opponents, as they can become big mistakes. Your read can be off, or they can counter adjust before you know it.

Although the idea might be attractive in your mind, it is not the best approach.

Making minimal adjustments allows you to maximize your win rate and at the same time prevents you from making massive mistakes on an incorrect read.

Bluffing

Bluffing is part of a good, aggressive strategy. Betting the right frequency gives opponents a very hard time, and they will have no real options to exploit you.

What makes a bluff effective?

    • No showdown value – A lot of times there is a direct connection between a hand that can’t win at showdown that ends up turning into a bluff.
    • Blocking opponents’ continuing range – Our opponent will have natural calls or continuing hands in their range that we can block.
    • Unblocking opponents’ folding range – You don’t want to have a missed draw in your hand but rather in your opponents’ range, as they are naturally folding when we bet.

When bluffing, always consider:

    1. Context – The factors are always different, as well as your bluffing hands.
    2. Equity – Always consider what is happening on streets to come.
    3. Blockers / Unblockers – Your blocker/unblocker has to be relevant.
    4. Showdown value – How much showdown value do you have?
    5. Facing aggression – Can you face a bet or raise, or are you likely dominated?

In this clip from our Quick Tips course, we go over several hand scenarios and the thought processes to decide whether bluffing is the right play.

Just remember, if your opponent is calling too much then you should bluff less and exploit your opponent’s tendency by value betting a wider range of strong hands.

3. Optimization

An effective strategy should be evaluated and worked on continuously.

If you’re incorporating a certain line into your game, you have to continuously evaluate it and see if it’s actually working in the context of how people are reacting to it. And then improve it and optimize it based on the new information consistently.

In this clip from our 10-Week PLO Transformation course, we talk about the research methodology process we use for coming up with strategies.

Before you head to the table, put in the work. You have to become obsessed with that type of work. Execution happens at the poker table after the research, learning, and training is completed.

Winners analyze every game to avoid making mistakes over and over again.

Analyzing Your Game

When it comes to working on your game it’s all about what to work on, how to work on it, and when to work on it, focus on situations that:

    • Have a high impact on your win rate.
    • Occur with a high frequency in-game.
    • Are easy or relatively fast to solve.

Repetition is king when it comes to recognizing patterns.

Make sure to keep track of the most important principles because it will help you to integrate it into your system and become a better poker player much quicker.

Use this step-by-step approach to review your hand and start recognizing the patterns in your game.

    1. Ranges – What is your opponent’s range, and secondly, what is your range.
    2. Parameters – Your range’s equity, polarization, position, and SPR, regarding the board.
    3. Hand characteristics – Look into components like hand strength, nuttiness, and blockers.
    4. Additional considerations – Potential to deviate from a strategy based on reads or exploits.
    5. Best action – Given your analysis, decide what is the best action you can take.

Learning

Approach poker as a game of never-ending learning and discovery.

You have to look at the same thing from multiple angles, over and over again. That’s learning, that’s discovery, and that’s passion. Not the passion for playing the game, but for learning the game, for discovering strategies.

In this clip, we talk about the learning process with our poker video courses.

The improvement cycle functions as a framework for you to continuously improve and evaluate your game. Always understand what cycle you want to go through to improve your game consistently.

A great place to start could be our recommended PLO courses for beginners, from our +700 PLO poker training videos:

Become an active learner and improve your game as fast as possible with our 350+ PLO quizzes, which train you on many preflop and postflop decisions based on lesson content and with further explanations.

Join the PLO Mastermind forums to exchange PLO strategies with people that are in the same path as you are.

Emulation

When it comes to poker, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel.

An effective strategy is used by top players consistently. Look at what some of the top players are doing and how that could work out in your current environment.

Incorporate it so well into your game that you end up improving it.

Conclusion

Your goal is to use GTO as a framework to then find the best strategy by utilizing information and assumptions about your opponents.

Your strategy might change based on your opponents’ behavior, but you shouldn’t expose yourself to the downsides, like playing an unbalanced strategy and risking being exploited yourself.

Optimization is a massively important concept when it comes to crafting and utilizing strategy. You can’t do it all by yourself, and you don’t have to.

Stop grinding, and start crushing.

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Fernando Habegger

Fernando Habegger

As a PLO poker pro I've coached a lot of players, developed high-quality learning programs, and wrote a book about Mastering Small Stakes PLO. I love helping players figure out the game, transform their minds, and achieve success in life and poker.
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