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 Omaha, you should focus on the following principles:
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.
Game theory optimal solutions are created by software running billions of calculations to understand what course of action triggers the highest expected value.
Our goal is not to blindly follow GTO.
Working with GTO solutions is not about memorizing thousands of models, it’s about understanding the principles behind patterns that emerge.
The poker solver doesn’t tell us why a hand is a raise. It doesn’t reason. Our job is to make sense of the output by applying logic. This is where we as humans come into play.
We need to develop a hypothesis, run solver experiments, and compare situations. Then we implement and test the strategies in the real world to build a deeper understanding.
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.
Position refers to your turn to act relative to the other players.
If you are the last player to act post-flop, then you are in position (IP). Otherwise, you are out of position (OOP). There is also relative position, where you are IP over one player, but OOP against another.
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 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.
Think about how your hand will play out and whether it is appropriate for the situation you’ll be in.
When you’re balancing your game, you don’t want to only focus on your current hand.
You want to think about playing with your entire range as well as your opponents’, and how the ranges interact with the board texture as well as against each other.
If you focus on your range rather than on your actual hand, you will 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.
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 reason behind why you should take certain actions.
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.
Efficiency in Omaha poker 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.
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.
You should base your reasoning for certain strategies on game theory optimal solutions and empirical data.
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.
When there are future cards to be dealt and you are not all-in, equity is not the only thing that matters. In these cases, you need to consider equity realization, which depends on additional factors like position, range-board interaction, and range polarity.
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.
In Omaha, equity does not equal expected value (EV). Equities run closer in Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) than in Texas Hold ‘Em, but it’s no reason to play more hands.
The main difference between equity and expected value is that equity doesn’t take realizability, position, player tendencies, and the number of players involved into account.
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.
There are more than 270,000 starting hand possibilities being dealt in 4-card Omaha, it’s best not to focus too much on individual hand combinations, but rather on hand characteristics like connectedness, suits, and pairs.
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 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 winrate. 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
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 from our 10-Week PLO Transformation course, we show you a simple example of how to make stack-off calculations.
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.
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:
- Understand the GTO baseline
- Identify how your opponent deviates from GTO
- Exploit your opponent’s weaknesses
- 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.
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.
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 exploitative adjustments allows you to maximize your win rate and at the same time prevents you from making massive mistakes on an incorrect read.
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.
When you are 3-betting, you are very often going to end up heads up, especially when one player open raises and there are no cold callers in between.
The SPR is going to be much lower than in a single raised pot, therefore the stacks are going in very often. This also means that there will be fewer streets played. With 100bb stack sizes, a heads up 3-bet pot will have an SPR around 3.5, or just under two pot-sized bets left.
When you call preflop, you get into multiway pots more often, especially when you are calling from an early position. Usually, someone will flop a piece big enough to put out a bet, and you’ll need a pretty high threshold to continue.
Even if your hand is not doing amazingly well in a 3-bet pot you might still want to consider 3-betting because it’s good enough to play but it does even worse in a multiway pot.
Leading a bet into the preflop raiser is a big part of a solid strategy.
You should consider leading boards where you block all strong made hands and draws. It’s likely that the opponents will not actually bet themselves, and you will be either building a pot with a strong hand or taking it down with a hand not suitable for showdown.
Leading into de preflop raiser denies opportunities where they can effectively bluff us. If you let your opponents get a free card, they have an easier time representing hands in the turn or the river.
Think about the board texture and the hand that you have.
Lead when opponents don’t have a very strong range on a board texture, like a tight range that is very unlikely to hit a low board.
Calling too many rivers is an easy way to lose a lot of money.
The issue when you’re calling river bets is that the bet amount is usually very large, in proportion to earlier street bets.
When you make a mistake on the river it’s going to cost you a lot, because it’s the biggest bet in the game.
Ask yourself what hand is your opponent going to turn into a bluff in the river. Most people play very straight forward, they are not going to arrive in the river with enough bluffs.
If that’s the case, then you should adjust by folding the river more often.
Be patient and wait for the right moment to bluff-catch your opponent, otherwise, you are going to have a massive leak that will hold you back in your PLO career at a very early stage.
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:
- Context – The factors are always different, as well as your bluffing hands.
- Equity – Always consider what is happening on streets to come.
- Blockers / Unblockers – Your blocker/unblocker has to be relevant.
- Showdown value – How much showdown value do you have?
- 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.
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.
No winner is made without preparation. Having a lot of passion for poker or a very competitive drive is not enough to make you win. You have to prepare and have the will to prepare, which is a different will than the will to win.
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.
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 from our 10-Week PLO Transformation course, 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:
- The Launchpad talks about fundamentals and basic PLO preflop and postflop strategy. You can watch the first 10 episodes by signing up for a free subscription.
- Escape the Micros is great if you want to learn about how to deal with specific tendencies at low and micro stakes PLO, like facing preflop limpers. Crushing Small Stakes PLO is a great course to gain even more insights on these exploitative plays.
- The 10-Week PLO Transformation builds up from beginning parts of the game and slowly expands to a more advanced strategy.
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.
Working on Your Game
There are so many hand combinations in Omaha poker, that knowing more about one hand is not as important as learning more about the overall patterns from groups of hands.
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.
- Ranges – What is your opponent’s range, and secondly, what is your range.
- Parameters – Your range’s equity, polarization, position, and SPR, regarding the board.
- Hand characteristics – Look into components like hand strength, nuttiness, and blockers.
- Additional considerations – Potential to deviate from a strategy based on reads or exploits.
- Best action – Given your analysis, decide what is the best action you can take.
Narrowing Your Focus
Narrowing your focus is extremely important and highly undervalued. It’s very easy to be an opportunistic person who just jumps on the next trend or the next shiny object.
Omaha poker is a deep and rich game, and there are so many variations. At some point, they can all seem like a very attractive alternative and opportunity.
Start by putting all your focus into one small part of the game and aim to come out as an expert. This way you’ll surely gain a natural edge over your distracted competition.
Stay ahead of unfocused and unstructured players who are just “passively learning” by watching PLO livestreams and videos, and start becoming the best PLO player you can be.
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.