5 Card PLO is the perfect game for those players who want to get as far away as possible from bots and play-by-numbers nits with hand charts. The addition of just a single card to all starting hands leads to an increase in complexity which means that 5 Card PLO Strategy is not susceptible to analysis using simplistic, brute-force solver designs.

Poker Game Variant# Unique Starting Hands
Short Deck Holdem81
No Limit Holdem169
Pot Limit Omaha16,432
5 Card Pot Limit Omaha134,459

Furthermore, even if the game were to be ‘solved’, the number of look-up tables required to sort through to play the game optimally would be so high that human play would still demand a fundamentally different approach to the game than one suggested by those analysts who use blind computation as a crutch.

This intrinsic complexity makes 5 Card PLO a great candidate for growth as an interesting and profitable game for the future. Read on to get acquainted with the unique starting hand equity structure of this game and for a brief discussion of how redraws shape 5 Card PLO Strategy…

5 Card PLO Strategy

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Starting Hand Equity in 5 Card PLO

5 Card PLO can be bewildering, and perhaps you have made it to this article in desperation after a blizzard of a session left you totally disoriented (If so then welcome, you have come to the right place.) It’s a game where you will be dealt AA/KK 8.3% of the time, but where some Kings can be significantly ahead of some Aces pre-flop!


In fact, the pre-flop equity structure of 5 Card PLO is very different from that of any other game which you are likely to have played before. There are a myriad of ways of comparing equity structures, but one of the most useful for preparing pre-flop ranges is to examine the equity relationship between the very strongest starting hands and weaker starting hands for each game. I have done exactly that in the graph below.

What you see in this graph is the equity for each decile of hands (according to VR rank) against the top 10% of starting hands for that game. The VR rank refers to ‘versus random’ whereby hands are ordered according to their all-in pre-flop equity against 100% of starting hands. As a general rule in community-card poker games, VR rank increases in strategic relevance at lower stack-to-pot ratios (SPR). Each point is centred for a given decile, so the 21-30% decile is represented at the 25% rank on the abscissa.

5 Card PLO Equity Graph

From this graph we can immediately identify a key structural feature of Holdem- which is that the very strongest starting hands heavily dominate all other starting hands. This structural feature contributes to making pre-flop raises from early positions valuable, because the threat of domination by a narrow range of starting hands is sufficient to eliminate other players from the pot. It also means that optimal strategy includes 3-betting pre-flop, even from out of position, against constrained ranges because the equity advantage of very strong hands overcomes positional considerations at commonly played SPRs.

The graph also shows that hand equities in PLO and Short Deck reduce gradually from the 11%-20% decile to the 91%-100% decile but that the initial drop-off in equity to this 11%-20% decile is far less sharp than in Holdem. From this equity structure we should expect less folding in those games in response to a 3-bet from ranges which were already constrained enough to open if similar bet sizes to Holdem were used.

So what does the equity structure of 5 Card PLO starting hands tell us?

I’m not going to give an elaborate explanation here (for that you should apply to be considered for Private Coaching) but there is one obvious insight I can share which will instantly make you a better 5 Card PLO player. You will see that for the top 90% of starting hands in 5 Card PLO the equity against the strongest starting hands does not dip below 38%. You can also recognize that the equity vs 10%VR at the 85% point for 5 card PLO is higher than the equity at the 35% point for 4 Card PLO. The synthesis of these observations results has two direct strategic applications:

  1. Unless the opening raise is extremely tight, the Big Blind should defend close to 90% of starting hands in a heads-up pot.