Pot Limit Omaha, or PLO for short is the second most popular poker variant behind No Limit Texas Holdem. Originally mostly played in Europe, Omaha’s popularity has spread worldwide since the dawn of online poker and in fact at the highest stakes, Omaha is now more widely played than Texas Hold ‘em. There are several other variants of Omaha poker such as fixed limit Omaha Hi-Low in which the person with the lowest value poker hand gets half the pot. This game is also played as a pot limit game. This means that the maximum bet or raise by any player is equal to the current size of the pot.
Playing Pot Limit Omaha
At the start of an Omaha hand, each player is dealt 4 cards faced down. The 2 players to the left of the dealer are forced to put in blind bets to start the action with the player to the dealer’s immediate left paying the ‘small blind’ and the next player paying the ‘big blind’, typically twice the small blind. The action then begins with the next player to the left and continues around the table in a clockwise fashion.
Each player has the option to fold, meaning to give up on the pot, call the amount of the big blind, or raise to an amount which must be at least twice the big blind but no more than the total size of the pot. When all of the ‘pre-flop’ action is complete meaning any raises have been matched and there are two or more players remaining in the hand, the action moves on to the ‘flop’. If everyone folds to the big blind before the flop, he wins the pot.
On the flop the dealer places 3 cards face up on the table. These 3 cards can be used by any player, along with exactly two of their hole cards to make the best possible 5 card poker hand. The betting action starts with the player who paid the small blind and continues around to the dealer, with each player having the option to ‘check’ passing the action on to the next player, or bet. If there has already been a bet in front of them they have the option to call, raise or fold but cannot check.
When the flop action is complete and all bets and raises have been matched such that there are at least 2 players left in the hand, we move on to the ‘turn’. As with pre-flop, if a player bets or raises and everyone folds, he wins the pot.
On the turn the dealer places a single card face up on the table which can also be used by all players to make their hand. They can now use any 3 of the 4 ‘community cards’ along with 2 of their hole cards to make their poker hand. As on the flop, the turn features a round of betting which is led by the small blind or the first player to his left if he is no longer in the hand. If there are still 2 or more players remaining after the turn betting round, play proceeds to the river.
On the river, the dealer places a final single card face up on the table. Players now must use 3 of the 5 community cards along with two of their hole cards to make their final poker hand. There is a round of betting on the river and once the final bet is called or both players have all of their chips in the middle, or all players check, they are required to ‘showdown’ their hands with the player holding the best poker hand according to the standard hand rankings winning the pot.
Key Differences from Texas Holdem
The main difference between Omaha and Hold’em is that each player is dealt 4 cards instead of 2. In effect this means that each player has 6 combinations of Holdem hands. As you can imagine the winning hand at showdown in Omaha is consequently much stronger. You should be aware that drawing to a weak flush is often a bad move because the likelihood of another player having a better flush is so high. The same is true of drawing to a flush on a paired board because of the likelihood that your opponent will have a full house.
Another point to note is that hands are much closer in value pre-flop than they are in No Limit Holdem. For example AA is about a 94% favourite over AK, whereas in Omaha one good hand is rarely more than a 60% favourite over another. This makes post-flop play very important in Omaha.