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First Impressions: Pot-Limit Omaha

True to my word, I spent the bulk of my free time playing pot-limit omaha over the weekend. It was pretty refreshing to hit up the poker tables after my month-long absence. Everything seemed so new yet familiar. Fire up the laptop, start up Poker Tracker and PokerAce, launch the Full Tilt poker client, open up four juicy-looking tables, join waiting lists, and datamine until I get a seat.

Of course, I had some excitement along with the comfort of following a practiced routine. The game of choice was PLO: a game I've played very, very little with little-to-no success. But I said I was going to learn PLO this year and I'm sticking to the plan. Wondering how things went?

Thankfully, PLO was kind to me as I took the plunge into unfamiliar waters. Rather than try to come up with some verbose prose about my first real experiences at Full Tilt's PLO micro-stakes games, I figured I'd stick with the tried-and-true list format:

  • Micro-stakes PLO players are just as clueless as micro-stakes NLHE players.
  • 6-max PLO games are a lot more popular than full-ring PLO games.
  • I'm pretty sure that I was playing way too tight pre-flop and that my opponents were playing way too loose. Given the choice, I prefer to stick with my "too tight" strategy for now.
  • Position is very important in PLO - even at the $25 tables. I can't tell you how many times I was able to steal the pot with a big bet after having my opponents check to me. 
  • I forgot how passive the $25 micro-stakes games play out. My VPIP was probably a little high given that I was able to limp all of my speculative hands from UTG or MP without fear of playing a raised pot OOP. And even when the pot was raised behind me, I was able to call given that pots were being played out four- or five-handed.
  • While many NLHE players overvalue top pair, PLO players seem to overvalue any two pair. I've had difficulties assessing the strength of my hand since I'm never sure if my opponent's pot-sized river bet means two-pair, a set, or the nut straight.
  • It's very difficult to get dealt a premium Omaha hand. At the same time, it's very easy to get dealt a hand that looks good but is actually crap. I saw a guy play 3322 like he was holding the nuts. I know I'm a PLO n00b and all but I'd insta-muck that hand myself.
  • I consistently under-value the strength of my holdings on the river. Or maybe I'm being results-oriented given my opponents' "quality" hands at showdown. For example, I check down middle set on the river due to the board showing a possible flush and straight only to have my opponent show down an overplayed two-pair. Until I learn the ins and outs of PLO, I may have to stick with a cautious approach to the game.
  • I am terrible at calculating my nut outs when holding a 3 or 4 card rundown on a board that hits my hand. For the time being, my strategy is to compare the colours of my cards (using a 4-colour deck) to the flop: a lot of matching colours is a good thing. As for straights, I group my hand as a high, medium or low hand: if the flop matches my hand in that regard, I like my hand.
  • I don't know when to raise pre-flop. I had the same problem when I started playing limit hold'em. I understand the value of aggression in no-limit hold'em but I'm not sure if it's quite so easy to take the betting lead in Omaha. I always feel that my opponents are trapping me.
  • I give my poor-playing opponents too much credit. And I give my sound $25 PLO opponents too much credit; level 1 thinking may be enough to beat these games.
  • The software application PokerEV works with the Poker Tracker Omaha database. I'm looking forward to seeing if I was lucky or unlucky over the weekend.
  • PLO combines my love of folding marginal hands pre-flop with my ability to lay down marginal hands post-flop.
  • And finally, I really enjoy playing pot-limit omaha! It's fun, different but not too different, and no one seems to understand how to play!
All in all, I played about 350 hands of PLO over the weekend. I find that I'm clearning about 50 hands per table hour; I plan on playing another 150 hands before attempting to multi-table PLO. I find the micro-stakes games pretty relaxing in that I don't have to pay close attention to the action. Most hands end up being played out by two donkeys bashing heads over top two-pair vs. bottom two-pair. I don't think a second table will affect my results too badly.

I'll leave you with a hand that I played on Saturday. I think this hand is pretty standard given stack sizes and a typical micro-stakes player's abilities; of course,  I appreciate any comments on my play.

Full Tilt Poker $0.10/$0.25 Pot Limit Omaha Hi - 6 players
The Official DeucesCracked.com Hand History Converter

SB: $14.50
Hero (BB): $25.00
UTG: $27.20
MP: $22.40
CO: $15.30
BTN: $35.90

Pre Flop: ($0.35) Hero is BB with K Q J T
2 folds, CO calls $0.25, BTN calls $0.25, SB calls $0.15, Hero raises to $1.25, CO calls $1, 1 fold, SB calls $1

(Premium hand = raise!)

Flop: ($4.00) A 6 T (3 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $4, CO folds, SB raises to $13.25 all in, Hero calls $9.25

(Unless SB has a set, I have a lot of outs...right? Screw it - I'm all-in!)

Turn: ($30.50) J (2 players - 1 is all in)

River: ($30.50) 7 (2 players - 1 is all in)

Final Pot: $30.50
SB shows 9 T A 4 (two pair, Aces and Tens)
Hero shows K Q J T (a straight, Ace high)
Hero wins $29.00
(Rake: $1.50)

I'm hoping to play a little PLO tonight if my current cold doesn't get any worse. Stomach flu followed by a nasty head cold? Hilarious...

Have a good one!

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