Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha Excerpt 1

Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha by Rolf SlotboomThis week we’re going to be running some excerpts from professional Dutch player and author Rolf Slotboom’s recently released book. Rolf is an expert limit hold’em and Omaha player.

This is an edited excerpt from Rolf’s brand new “Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha” book, available at all the major (online) gambling book stores, including Amazon & Conjelco. For more information, check out Rolf’s own site or the site of the publisher,

Ace Speaks: The amount of the bet in pot-limit Omaha

Some poker authors have stated that in pot-limit poker, you should not vary the size of your bets, but always bet the same amount (full pot). This way, your bet won’t give your opponents information regarding the strength of your hand. There are for instance players who bet full pot on the flop when they have some kind of made hand (set, top two pair), but make a smaller bet when they are on a draw. A good player will always know where he’s at when people play like this, and it will be only a matter of time until he gets the money. While it’s true that always betting the size of the pot is better than betting according to the strength of your hand (great hand / pot, good hand / half pot, mediocre hand / small bet), it is not the optimum strategy. There are a few situations where betting a smaller amount is sometimes better than betting full pot:

  1. when you are playing a small or medium stack,
  2. when there are no draws on the board, or
  3. when you have bet the pot on the flop and then on the turn the board pairs.

In fact, there are a few (great) players who bet a smaller amount in other situations as well. For instance, Ray Zee’s frequent underbetting in big-bet poker has been discussed many times, and as we shall see in this book, I too rarely come out betting full pot. But because playing like this requires advanced theoretical thought processes and the ability to read your opponents perfectly, I won’t get into this just yet. I think that for quite a few players it is good to always bet the pot when they decide to bet at all, whether they’ve got some kind of made hand or a (premium) draw. This way, you:

  • Don’t give away too much information about your hand
  • Show your opponents you are serious about trying to win the pot, which will make them less apt to play back at you
  • Are giving your opponents the worst odds in case they try to draw out on you.

Still, if you always bet full pot regardless of the circumstances, you will sometimes face the situation where you’ll only get called (or raised) when you’re clearly beat, and your betting action will have cost you a lot of money. Sometimes making a smaller bet will send the same message to your opponents (that you probably have the goods) as a full pot bet, and you will save money in the event your hand isn’t good.

In this two-part article series, I will analyze two reasons why you can or should sometimes vary the amount of your bet. In this first part, I analyze the texture of the board with regards to this betting size. In the second part, I will analyze both your and your opponents’ stack size.

Aspect 1: Varying the amount of the bet because of the texture of the board

When you have bet the pot on the flop and then the board pairs on the turn

Say the flop comes J84 rainbow. You bet the pot and get called in two places; now the board pairs on the turn. What do you do? A lot of weak players do this: they bet when they are full but check when they only have a draw, fearing someone else may have a full now. Some other players do this: they check when they are full and bet when they have nothing. Both plays are horrible – although the second is not as horrible as the first. The thing to do is to bet small (a bit less than half the pot) whether you have made your hand or not. If you bet with nothing and your opponents are on a draw as well, they are not going to call you and you have (semi-) bluffed them out of the pot at a relatively cheap price. If you do get called, you know you’re probably up against a full and you’re not going to put any more money into the pot. By always betting like this your opponents will fear your relatively small bet as much as a full pot bet. You might be able to steal an occasional pot by playing like this and if your (semi-) bluff doesn’t succeed because your opponent has filled up, well then it was relatively cheap. By betting full pot when the board has paired, the same hands as before are going to fold, but if you get called (and thus are beat) you’ve cost yourself a lot more money than necessary.

Playing against an ill-coordinated board

When the flop comes something like J96 with two of a suit, you know your opponents may have flopped some pretty powerful draws. But if the flop comes K83 or Q72 rainbow, there are no draws. If you bet a hand like top two pair or a small set (or maybe even a lesser hand) against this board, you’ll usually get called only when someone has you beat whether you have bet the pot or not. A lot of good players always bet one thirds to half the pot against flops like these, whether they have a set or not.* By playing like this they are able to steal quite a few pots without putting a lot of money at risk. And if they do get called (or raised) by an obviously big hand, they may be able to get away from their hand cheaply. So, the “half-pot” strategy against these types of boards gives them information at a cheap price, and helps them steal small pots at a cheap price – a very good combination. Only once the opposition becomes more knowledgeable, and only once you start running into players who use this type of thinking too, will this strategy lose a lot of its value.

* Don’t even think about checking a small set here. You’re not going to give free cards in this game; just bet small and pick up the pot but don’t try to get fancy by letting your opponents catch up. The only hand you could afford to check here is top set, because then the free card could make one of your opponents a very good but costly second-best hand. Even then, I usually prefer betting with a big hand over checking, for the simple reason that you want your opponents to know that you also bet your monsters aggressively in situations where slowplaying would have some merit.

Some final words

In the second part of this series, I will analyze the second aspect: Your and your opponents’ stack size as a reason to sometimes vary the size of your bets.

This is an edited excerpt from Rolf’s brand new “Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha” book, available at all the major (online) gambling book stores, including Amazon & Conjelco. For more information, check out Rolf’s own site or the site of the publisher,