A RECIPE TO BEAT PLO/8 & BIGO — PART 1
I’ve talked about PLO/8 before; it’s pot-limit Omaha played high/low, with an “8-or-better” requirement for the low hand. BigO is the same game, except everybody gets five cards instead of four, because more cards = more fun.
I’ve been playing a lot of BigO recently, because, well, the games are good because the players are bad.
If you’re ready to play a new game against players who have no idea what they’re doing, read on…
Get the book SCOOP! by Greg Vail. Please forgive the shouting—it wouldn’t have been my choice of title—but take that up with Greg. Everything I learned about playing BigO well came from that book, and if you read it, you’ll be way out in front of the competition.
Please note this recipe is for BigO—five-card PLO/8. You can apply it to four-card PLO/8, but be aware that winning hand values do go down a bit when each player has six, instead of ten, two-card combos in their hand.
I can’t over-emphasize this. You will be tempted to jump in with all kinds of marginal holdings—when you’re looking at ten different two-card combos (as 5-card Omaha offers you) it’s easy to find 3–4 attractive two-card pairs and want to see a flop. You will see people jumping in with all kinds of crazy hands and winning monster pots. But remember, a poker pot is like a poker tournament; somebody has to win it. If three mediocre hands decide to build a monster pot, then a mediocre hand has to win a monster pot. But if those mediocre hands keep running up against premium hands, they’re going to get killed.
If your hand doesn’t have an A2 or A3 combination, fold it, with one exception: if you have five—five—Broadway cards (and no trips or quads, duh) then you have a playable hand. I know A4 and A5 combos can look attractive, but lose them. As SCOOP! will point out to you, the chances of finding the trey-deuce combination you need to make the nuts are painfully low. Conversely, A34 is much better than A3 because if you hit your key card (the deuce) then it’s much harder to get counterfeited for the nut low.
A true premium hand is something like A24KJ with a suited ace. That’s three wheel and three Broadway cards in a five-card package. A2KQT is great because if you hit your key card (a jack) and another Broadway card, you’re wrapped all the way around it.
Your whole goal is to get to the flop with what my friend Benton Blakeman calls, “More and better lottery tickets” than the other guys.
As important as position is in hold’em, it’s more important in PLO variants, including PLO/8 and BigO. That’s because the lead horse routinely changes from street to street, and giving up free cards when you’ve got a significant lead can be catastrophic. In hold’em, if you flop best, you’re usually favorite to lead on the turn. This is distinctly not true in BigO. If you’re out of position with what is likely the best hand (or the most equity) you have to just lead out—the danger of giving a free card is too great. The check/raise is one of the great positional equalizers in hold’em, and when it’s too risky to go for the check/raise, being the player with the button is that much more powerful.
Do not be like the other players, who want to limp in and try to smash a flop cheaply. If you have a premium hand, then raise. Most weak players in low-stakes games have what I call a “see the flop” range. That is, once they’ve decided their hand deserves to see a flop, they become fairly inelastic about what it costs to get to the flop—they just need to know the price of the ticket. If those are your opponents, then just click the “Pot” button preflop—you’ll be printing Sklansky$ when they call pot-size raises with hands much worse than yours.
This early aggression also allows you to build pots early, so you can bet that much bigger when your lottery tickets hit the flop. Remember, because of the pot-limit structure, you can’t overbet the pot.
If you discover people are folding to your pot-size raises, reduce them until you start getting a call or two. It’s actually to your advantage to see a flop when you’ve got more and better lottery tickets. This is because your weak opponents will be inclined to plow forward with second- and third-best hands. This is where you get stacks instead of winning the blinds.
But start with pot-size raises and turn down the volume if—and only if—they’re folding.
I’ve recently been playing in a game where one of the players has a very large, glowing “Pot” button. I estimate he’s smashing that button preflop 25% of the time. I did some simulations (thank you, www.propokertools.com) and discovered that a hand such as AdAcJh4d5s is a 58:42 favorite over a “top 25%” range. That is, if PotButtonSmasher is picking the best 25% of his hands to raise (which I doubt), then my AdAcJh4d5s is a 58:42 favorite ahead of that range.
Particularly if I’m in position against PotButtonSmasher, I can punish him for overusing his “Pot” button. By 3-betting my premium against his much weaker range, I collect Sklansky$ from him preflop, likely knock out the rest of the opposition (killing some money in the pot), and bloat the pot as we go to a flop, holding way more lottery tickets. If he gets tired of my shenanigans and just wants to get it in preflop, I’m happy to do that—you don’t have to do a lot of flips as a 58:42 favorite to print a beach vacation.
And here we conclude the first half of the recipe. I’ll be back soon with how to proceed from the flop. In the meantime, buy the SCOOP book.
Lee Jones has been in the poker industry for over 30 years. He writes at the Global Poker blog, plays poker every chance he gets, and coaches poker. You can contact him at www.leejones.com.