Pot Limit Omaha (or PLO, for short) is an action-packed, high-variance poker game. The format closely resembles Texas Hold’em with a few distinct differences:

  • Players have four hole cards in their starting hand preflop instead of two.
  • Players must use precisely two of their hole cards and three community cards to make their best 5-card hand. At showdown,  you can’t “play the board” like in Texas Hold’em.
  • Players cannot go all-in at any moment due to the “pot-limit” aspect. As such, players can only bet or raise the size of the pot.

Having a starting hand with FOUR hole cards instead of two means stronger hands are more likely. 

So, there’s plenty of action in this game, with stacks going back and forth across the table from one hand to the next.

In this article, we’ll cover a wide range of topics involving “the great game” of PLO:

Let’s dive in!

PLO Poker Rules

In this section, we’ll cover the basics of how to play PLO poker

Omaha generally refers to Omaha Hi, where players look to make the best 5-card poker hand.

NOTE: Another (albeit less frequently played) Omaha variant is called Omaha Hi-Lo. In this variant, players look to make the highest and/or lowest poker hands. 

The pot is split in half with 50% for the highest hand and 50% for the lowest hand, provided the low hand “qualifies”. The low consists of 5 cards with a value of 8-or-lower. Straights DO NOT count against the low hand. 

Players in Hi-Lo can also “scoop” the pot if they can make the highest and lowest hand in a single round.

Gameplay Example

The players in the small blind and big blind must post forced bets, based on the stakes. Then each player receives four starting hole cards.

  1. After a preflop betting round, three community cards are dealt, called the flop.
  2. A subsequent round of betting occurs with the remaining players. The action starts with the first player seated to the left of the dealer button.
  3. Once all bets have been matched (or checked through), one more community card is dealt on the table. This card is called the turn, or 4th street.
  4. After another betting round, the river is dealt, and a 4th and final round of betting takes place. 

A showdown occurs if there are two or more players left in the hand on the river.

Here, players turn their hole cards face-up . The best 5-card poker hand wins the pot!

The Distinctions of PLO

A few key differences separate PLO from other poker variants, like Hold’em or Stud.

  1. The greatest one is the number of hole cards each player receives. As previously mentioned, players receive four hole cards at the start of each hand. They must then use precisely two of these cards (with 3 of the community cards) to make the best 5-card poker hand.
  2. The next distinction is regarding the “pot-limit” aspect of the game. Players can only raise to a maximum size of the pot. We can calculate this amount using the following formula:

    (3 * size of your opponent’s bet/raise) + (size of pot before their bet/raise)

    To determine our preflop pot-size raise –
    1. We take 3 * 1bb (accounting for the player in the big blind)
    2. And then add the small blind’s 0.5bb to this amount.
    3. Our maximum raise-first-in (RFI) sizing for a pot-limit game is 3.5bb.

    We can use the same formula and concept for post-flop betting rounds.

    Let’s suppose the pot is $100.

    One player bets $50, and another player raises to $150 total.

    What is the maximum raise size now that the original bettor can now 3bet?

    Using the formula above: 

    (3 * $150) + ($100) = $550, meaning a pot-sized raise would be to $550 total.

    To verify this, we can see if our opponent would be getting 2:1 on a call (indicating a correct pot-size raise):
  • New pot size: our raise size ($550) + original pot size ($100) + opponent’s bet ($150) = $800
  • Amount opponent has to call: $550 - $150 = $400
  • $800 in the pot : $400 our opponent has to call
  • 2:1 à the ratio is satisfied, and the pot-sized raise is correct.

PLO Starting Hands

PLO Starting HandsPLO Starting Hands

For this section, let’s elaborate a bit on starting hands for PLO

  1. Which starting hands are good (+EV)
  2. Which ones are not (-EV)
  3. How you should determine which hands to play

Having four hole cards in Omaha means the ability to make a strong hand goes way up! So, you should look for starting hands that can make sets, straights, and flushes, especially nutted ones! 

By showdown, one pair and two pair hands will have devalued a lot compared to Hold’em. 

The Strongest Pocket Pairs

Many players transitioning from NLHE to PLO often overvalue their AAXX and KKXX holdings. What matters the most is how all four hole cards interact with each other!

Hands like AAXX, KKXX, and AKXX are not created equal. What makes the biggest difference is what other cards go with it! 

  • Can they (together) make flushes?
  • Can they help you make straights?
  • Do you block yourself from improving the strength of your hand?

 *If* you’re looking to stack off preflop, you should aim to have solid cards with your strong pocket pair or broadway cards. 

Let’s use AAJT double-suited as a prime example -

  • You start with a strong made hand (pocket Aces)
  • But you also have the ability to improve to strong nutted ends of straights and flushes.

Hands that have DRAW potential are a necessity for PLO!

Preflop Considerations

It’s crucial that nearly all your hole cards in a playable hand can interact with each other:

  • Suitedness: Flushes will be easier to make in PLO because of the increased number of hole cards. Be careful to not overplay your weaker flushes. Playing hands that are “double-suited” (i.e., two spades and two clubs) will be beneficial.

    Now you can hit a flush in either two of the suits, and you also don’t block yourself from improving. Playing hands that are suited to the Ace (i.e., A KXxXx) will be doubly profitable. You will often dominate your opponents when you make your nut flush.
  • Blockers: Blockers are cards in your hand that prevent your opponent from having a particular holding. But these “blockers” are not just relevant for bluffs. They might help you realise what outs you might NOT have to improve your hand.

    For example, having 2♠222 might look pretty, but it’s one of the worst starting hands in PLO! You only have a pair of 2’s (NOT quads!) and block yourself from improving to a set.

    The same “blockers” concept can be applied to flush draws. It’s disadvantageous to have 3-4 cards of the same suit in your hand. You’ll have 1-2 fewer outs to make a flush (because you can use only 2 of your hole cards at showdown).
  • Connectedness: Playing hands with cards that are connected (with as few gaps between the cards as possible). These work best post-flop for improving to a straight. Ideally, you’d like to have outs to the nut straight as much as possible.

    Having lower cards in your starting hand range is far less desirable than middling to high cards (e.g.,2345 vs 6789 on a flop of 456).
  • Wraps: The more cards you have in your hand that are close/connected to each other, the more powerful your hand. Imagine having QJXX on T92. You have 8 outs to improve to a straight – 4 Kings and 4 eights.

    Now imagine having QJ87 on the same board of T92. Suddenly you now have a whopping 20 outs to improve to a straight! (This is called a “wrap”, where you wrap around both ends of the straight draw.)

    So, for preflop starting hands, you should aim to play hands that have all 4 cards being able to interact in various ways. You should look to target specific board textures and runouts.
For more about wraps, connectedness, and outs in Omaha, be sure to check out this stellar article outlining 6 powerful draw examples you can have in Omaha.

The standard preflop strategies used in Hold’em also apply to PLO:

  • Table Position (Influencing How Wide Your Hand Range Is): The further you are to the right of the button (excluding the blinds), the tighter your hand range selection. The closer you are to the button (when the action has folded to you), the looser you can be with your hand selection.
  • Avoid Flat Calling Too Much: Flat calling (calling someone’s open-raise) leaves you open to large squeeze 3bets from other players still left to act. You will pay dearly when you cold-call and fold, as well when you cold-call and call the squeeze. This mistake can be very costly in an already inflated pot.

PLO Poker Strategy

Your starting hand selection will make up a lot of your PLO strategy base. Beyond that, here are some primary strategic considerations to make:

  • Outs, Outs, Outs: You can easily have many more outs in Omaha compared to Hold’em. However, what matters isn’t just the number of outs you have, but how many draw to the nuts! So, a hand like 5-4-3-2 might seem playable (because of its connectedness). But if it does make a straight, it will not be the nut straight.
    • Regarding outs, you also need to consider if a straight out might simultaneously complete a flush draw. Think about how your hole cards might affect the total number of outs you have in actuality.
  • Board Texture: The wetter and more draw-heavy a board is, the stronger a hand you’ll need to have. As such, you must tread very carefully with already-made hands on these boards. You can easily have someone draw out on you.

    For example, you might think you’re sitting pretty with 98XX on a board of 982. But that board (even with just the 9 and 8) is starting to get quite connected! A Queen, Jack, Ten, Seven, Six, or Five could give an opponent a straight, especially if they have a wrap in their hand.

    Any of these cards coming about on the turn or river leaves your hand vulnerable to a loss. Ask yourself what your other cards are in your 4-card hand (besides the 9 and 8). See if they give you the potential to continue improving your hand. (Do you have straight possibilities alongside it?)
  • Nutted Hands and Redraws: You should always be aware of what the best possible hand might be on a particular board texture. Yes, perhaps you might turn the nut straight. But it’s easy for people to make strong hands in PLO. There is still might a good chance for someone else to outdraw you – perhaps to a better straight, a flush, or even a full house.

    So, always be aware of what made hand you have now. Consider if you have any redraws to go along with back it up. Having a strong made hand with a redraw possibility is the best scenario.
  • Position: Similar to Hold’em, position will play a significant factor in your postflop strategies. You should aim to check more of your hands when playing out of position (even if you had postflop initiative). Many difficulties come along with having other players left to act after you. 

    Oppositely, when you’re in position, you can be a bit more liberal with your betting. But always be aware of the opponents that might seek to be check-raising you!

PLO Advanced Poker Strategy

Bluffing and Blockers

At a more fundamental level, PLO players are usually just looking to make the best hand and not get outdrawn. At a higher level, players are looking to not only make good hands but also use good blockers.

These blockers help establish potential bluff candidates to push opponents off stronger holdings. 

For example, having the Ace in the same suit as a 3-flush on the board will undoubtedly help bluff-raise the river. (You block the nuts by having that Ace in your hand.)

But if you always bluff with 100% frequency when holding the flush Ace, you’re going to be significantly over-bluffing. As such, be selective and use your other cards to determine what good bluff candidates might be.

  • Do your other cards block missed draw hands that you want your opponent to have?
  • Do your hole cards block strong hands that you don’t want your opponent betting?

Bet Sizing Nuances

PLO Pot OddsPLO Pot Odds

Don’t fall into the beginner’s mistake of thinking that all bets in PLO need to be pot-sized. 

Different bet sizes will mean different things. You should utilise them accordingly, similar to Hold’em:

  • Small Bets: Small bets usually mean that the bettor has a broader range of various hand strengths in this size. On the river, small bets typically indicate that the value range is wider at the top, with fewer bluffs included overall.
  • Large Bets: Large bets frequently indicate more of a polarised hand range. The bettor either has a strong made hand or a bluff.
  • Pot Odds: Remember pot odds. Are you getting the right price to continue with your draws? Can effectively deny specific draws from profitably continuing. If you have a strong made hand on the flop, it can be difficult (due to the pot-limit nature of the game) to bet an amount big enough to protect it. There may be so many potential outs that might outdraw you on the turn or river.

    Take this into account when choosing your bet sizes and betting lines. Playing more passively on the flop (check-call) to check-raise on a bricked turn might be a better line than bet flop, bet turn

    Or perhaps you use a smaller size on the flop and then barrel large on a turned brick. This play may deny your opponent the chance of realising their hand’s equity cheaply.

PLO Poker Tips

Here are four essential tips to bear in mind when trying to improve your PLO gameplay:

  1. PLO is about Nutted Hands: The “coolers” that we refer to in Hold’em will be seemingly much more common in PLO. You can avoid getting into too much trouble by first recognising this. Secondly, you can play some of those weaker “strong” hands less aggressively (lower straights, bottom sets, etc.).

    You should also pick your starting hands much more carefully. Look for hands that can help you make the nuts instead of ones that are easily dominated.
  2. Try to Have All FOUR Hole Cards Interacting with Each Other: Having four cards close together is crucial in making solid hands. If you have AK as two of your hole cards doesn’t mean you should eagerly play it.

    If your other cards are (let’s say) an off-suit 7 and 2, this starting hand isn’t great. Even if you pair your Ace or King on the flop, your one-pair hand will rarely have the same strength on the river, like in Hold’em.
  3. Remember Redraws: Just because you have the nuts on the flop doesn’t mean you should fast-play it. It all depends on your other hole cards. Redraws are an essential part of PLO. Understanding this concept can easily give you an upper hand against some weaker beginning players.

    Imagine having 9832 double suited vs A♠Q♠98 on 567 flop with two spades. One player has the nuts with no possibility of improving their hand further. The other player has the same made hand with the ability to “freeroll” to an even better hand with a nut flush. If you do fast play your strong made hands, make sure your other two cards help justify this decision.
  4. Don’t Play All Draws the Same: Your strongest draws will be those that have the most outs and also draw to the nuts. Weaker draws may have fewer outs and may still be dominated if they make their hand.

    It would be okay to fast-play some of your stronger draws. But don’t fall into the trap of simply calling down with every non-nut draws and/or without the correct pot odds to chase.

The above tips will undoubtedly help you improve your PLO game. Also, check out this excellent concise article on the Top 10 Tips for Playing Pot Limit Omaha to help set you on the right path.

PLO Summary

With the addition of two extra hole cards, PLO is an extraordinarily complex game to master. That said, it undoubtedly provides an added thrill with more possibilities and better odds at making a strong hand.

This article is an introduction to getting your feet wet in the game. Further study and reflecting on your gameplay and results can make you an accomplished player. 

Lastly, remember that PLO is going to carry with it a much higher degree of variance

As such, it’s essential to be well bankrolled to accommodate the swings that naturally come along with this great game.

Matthew Cluff is a poker player who specialises in 6-Max No Limit Hold’em games. He also periodically provides online poker content for various sites.