5 Leaks that leave you stuck at PLO 50

PLO 50 is the first level at which a keen Omaha player can start making decent money. $5 per table per hour is attainable with a good grasp of PLO fundamentals and discipline. If you 6-table, this is $30 per hour which is better money than most jobs in many countries.

In terms of Omaha skill, PLO 50 is a haven for grinders who aren’t familiar with poker’s version of the Peter Principle:  they have reached a level at which their combination of skill and discipline is only sufficient to break-even but they are too stubborn to recognize it. This manifests itself in two separate claims:

1) “There’s too much variance”
2) “The rake is too high”

Both of the above are excuses of course, and the solution for most grinders is too increase the number of tables to 12 and before long we have another FPP pro. If you yourself are guilty of this line of reasoning, here are 5 leaks to fix to break you out of your PLO 50 rut.

1) Stop with the pre-flop reg-on-reg violence

Fish are plentiful at PLO 50 and one of the best ways to increase your variance and be a rake-victim is to get into pre-flop shoving wars against regulars. The reasons for this should be readily apparent: a) pushing a marginal equity edge can easily become -EV in a high-rake game b) your light 3-bet won’t isolate the regular when there are two players behind you with 60+ VPIP.They won’t respect your 3-bet and you end up in a bloated pot frequenly on a guess with a hand that plays badly multi-way. There is a time and a place for light pre-flop aggression, but it is primarily when the fish is no longer in the hand and your regular opponent has too wide a pre-flop range or plays badly post-flop in 3bet pots.

2) Fold to some 3bets!

Many of the regulars at SSPLO and MSPLO will have 3-5% 3bet ranges from the blinds against CO (and many even BT) opens. You aren’t being clever when you flat JT♠9♠2♣ against such a range, you’re being an idiot. Unless you have observed that said regular’s range consists of all Aces and all Kings (and is thus very easy to play against) your opponent’s range is going to be too strong for this to be a profitable defend at 100BB stacks. A range of {Strong Aces, premium Kings, strong suited 4-card rundowns, 4 broadway cards} makes 5% of starting hands which connect very well with many flops. Furthermore, if we invert our perspective, we know our opponent wants us to call weak hands against such a range. He only 3-bets 5% because he wants to play big pots with big hands; don’t give him that pleasure and you take his most profitable hands out of the game.

On a separate note, if you defend your button opens with horrific hands like AQ72ss or K873ss you are throwing money at a competent opponent. Check your database to see how often you are playing fit/fold after defending a marginal hand, you may be surprised.

3) Respect the mathematics of 4-bets

The overwhelming majority of your opponents at these limits have a 4-betting range of AAxx in most situations. If you 3-bet to 9BB or more and face a pot-sized 4bet at 100BB stacks  there is no special poker skill that you possess that means you may disregard the maths of your fellow mortals. The two most common mistakes are:

a) Calling the 4bet at 50-70BB stacks with the same range as with 100BB. For example JJT9ss is a marginal call at 100BB stacks but loses you 2.7BB/hand at 50BB stacks even if you play your opponent’s AA face-up


b) Calling the 4bet with an obviously dominated hand such as Axxx or KKxx. Most double-suited Kings are close to a fold at these stacks and yet many regulars insist on calling even KK98ss to a 4-bet. To have an idea of how bad it is to call a known AA 4-bet with an Ace in your hand consider that AQJ9 double-suited rates to lose 2BB/hand. The next time you want to auto-call a 4bet with AJT9ss reach for the fold button instead and feel good about it.

4) Bet-sizing

Whole volumes could be written on bet-sizing in Pot-Limit Omaha, so this section can only serve as a small reminder. You should not be C-betting the same size on static and dynamic boards. You should think about what you are trying to achieve with your range by betting. You should think about how your opponent will respond to your bet-size. If your opponent is a loose-passive player who merrily calls 80% of C-bets then bet pot on that JJ2 board when you have a Jack, he’s still going to call his KK and he doesn’t care about your sizing. If you have called a raise OTB and face a tight regular who has checked to you as the PFR then just fire half-pot: he is likely check-folding 75-90% of the time and that statistic is more important than the board texture.

On the river, choose your bet size for a reason. Good reasons include: potting for value against a calling station, betting large enough that a nit with a capped range will fold most of his range, betting small enough that a nit with a capped range will call with 2 pair even though it’s never good, betting enough to fold a fish off 1-pair when most of his range is missed draws but small enough to avoid Value-owning yourself when he rivered a random 2 pair.

If you habitually just bet 2/3 pot on every street, the above guidelines on bet-sizing should be enough to get you started on being a more thoughtful and creative bettor.

5) Calling versus Shoving on the flop

I saved this one until last as it is the most important in terms of developing your Omaha game. It’s not a leak that is as restricted to SSPLO as the other leaks are, players at all stakes are guilty of it. When we call in position and are heads-up on the flop with 4+ Pot-size bets left we have all the post-flop lines we can imagine available to us; in short, we can play some poker. There is presently a huge trend to ram-and-jam the flop as much as possible in the misguided belief that this makes you hard to play against. The subconscious reason for these lines is that they stop you being able to make a mistake on a later street, since that street never comes.

A quick step back demonstrates how absurd this position is: when a flush card rolls off on the turn we are in position and can see how our opponent reacts- it will be harder for him to play his range out of position than for us to play in position. Of course we will make mistakes, but over time we will gain experience in these situations to make a lot of profitable decisions that we could not have made if we simply shoved the flop. If it is genuinely the case that your opponent’s range will be easier to play OOP than yours is IP then you have either made a mistake pre-flop (i.e called a weak hand against a strong range as in ‘3’ above) or the flop hits your opponent’s range a lot harder than yours. If the latter is likely, then shoving the flop is going to be -EV and you should just be folding.

Finally, many players who do prefer to shove many flops completely screw their narrow post-flop calling ranges. Since they are shoving {Nut flush draws, combo draws, top two pair+} on the flop they often have a flop calling range composed of mediocre made hands {bottom two pair; top pair, low pair + gutter} or draws which they don’t want to shove such as a wrap on a two-tone board. If you are one of these players you should be aware that your turn range is at present ridiculously easy to play against. By transferring many of the flop-shoves into your calling range it is possible for you to have strong hands on most turn cards and thus to be able to represent a wider range by the river. Experimenting with flatting the flop will add a lot of $$ to your bottom line.

If you liked this article and would like to see more on a particular theme please comment below. Subscribe in the sidebar for regular updates on PLO strategy.

Happy May Day!


Show 1 footnote

  1. This assumes you can hero-fold when your opponent has your flush draw dominated but call when he doesn’t. In practice your EV is even worse.
By | 2017-04-10T13:23:29+00:00 May 1st, 2012|


  1. Nolan March 11, 2018 at 12:19 am - Reply

    Phil, could you shine some light on this analysis for me? When I query my database for called 4bet equals true, it reveals that although calling with kkxx axxx is losing, it is still winning more than outhright folding to the 4bet is. Folding costs me approx 10bb/hand and calling im losing approx 3bb/hand. This is over a sample of about 300k total hands @PLO25. it seems although almost no hands i play are better off folding than calling. Am i missing something here? Thanks!

  2. […] mediocre Kings. If there’s one thing I’ve railed against consistently it’s that calling 4bets with KK against known AA is a bad idea. Whilst I’m sure the pain would have been alleviated somewhat if they didn’t keep […]

  3. QHealthy August 31, 2012 at 5:49 am - Reply

    I’m a new subscriber and I really like your stuff. Keep it up!

  4. corey h July 13, 2012 at 11:49 am - Reply

    I have been reading this post before sessions (25 and 50 PLO) and it really helps. Keep up the good work.

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