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Getting Started in Pot-Limit Omaha by Brandon Adams

To the uninitiated, the only discernible difference between a game of Omaha and a game of Hold 'em is that players start each hand with four cards instead of two. But what a difference those two extra cards can make throughout the course of a hand.

In Hold 'em, your two cards represent one of 169 possible hands. In Omaha, where you must use two of your four starting cards to make your hand, you're essentially being dealt six different Hold 'em hands. But don't let the seemingly endless hand combinations frighten you away from Pot-Limit Omaha because it's one of the most entertaining forms of poker you can play.

If you're new to the game, I've got three important concepts that will help you lay a solid foundation for improving your game.

Play Dominating Hands

The basic idea of PLO is to play hands that have your opponent dominated if you both hit. The advantage of any A-X flush draw means that when you make your flush, it's the best possible hand you can, unless the board pairs and brings full house possibilities. This becomes especially important at lower limits because most players will pay off big bets with a lower flush. If you face a large bet or re-raise when you make a low flush or the board pairs, it's usually wise to let it go and wait for a better spot.

Know the Value of Your Starting Hands

Generally, the best starting hand in Pot-Limit Omaha is A-A-K-K double-suited. You hold both a pair of aces and a pair of kings, and being double suited means that you also have two flush possibilities in your hand. As-Ks-Ah-Kh has more value in PLO than a rainbow A-A-K-K because of those potential flushes.

Hands that are double-suited and hold four to a straight also rank high in value. For example, Qc-Jc-10d-9d runs fairly close to A-A-K-K. When you play a hand with four to a straight you're not looking to make one pair, but instead, looking for a board with strong drawing value. A good flop for this hand would be 10-9-3 rainbow − you hold both a made hand (top two pair) and a draw to the nuts (an open-ended straight draw).

Generally, you should tread carefully with hands like Ad-Ks-Qc-Jh. At first glance, this hand looks appealing, but the lack of flush draws lessens its value. While you hold the top straight on a flop of Js-10s-9h, you could easily be up against someone with the same straight and a spade flush draw. You're in especially bad shape against a hand like Kc-Qs-9s-9h.

You should also stay away from hands with only one pair and little else. Hands like 8-8-J-3 have very little value, even if they are double-suited because you are too easily dominated if you make your flush.

Don't Overplay Aces

Beginning players make this mistake more than any other in PLO. While Aces are a strong starting hand, too many players are unable to lay them down when the situation demands it. This is especially true for players moving into PLO from No-Limit Hold 'em, where Aces are worth much more before the flop. Don't be the player who blindly pushes their chips into the middle with two Aces hoping that they simply 'hold up.'

The main rationale for raising or re-raising with a hand that contains two Aces is that if you and your opponent both hit your hands, you will have hit yours harder. You figure to get all-in where you are a major favorite over your opponent, either with a higher set, a higher flush, or a higher straight.

It's also important to remember that if the flop doesn't improve your hand, it will very likely help your opponent. I don't recommend playing a big pot with one pair - even if they are Aces - in PLO.

Because Pot-Limit Omaha is such a multi-layered game, it's important to realize that most of the action is going to happen after the flop. With four cards in your hand, you'll have many more opportunities to draw to winning hands than you do in Hold 'em. Of course, your opponents also have many more chances to outdraw you, which is why understanding the value of different hands before the flop is so important.

By developing a solid understanding of the basics of PLO, you'll give yourself a strong platform on which to build your game.

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