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Pot Limit Omaha Poker From Square One - Part IV: 3-Betting

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In the previous parts of this PLO series, we’ve focused mostly on how to select our starting hands and how to navigate things before the flop, choosing between limping along or raising to isolate the limper(s) and, possibly, secure position for ourselves. This is just something you’re going to do a lot in Omaha as it is such a flop-centered game.

However, like in Texas Hold’em, there are certain hands and situations that merit 3-betting before the flop (or at least giving it serious consideration), and that’s precisely what this article is going to focus on.

Before we go any further, it is worth emphasizing that 3-betting in Pot Limit Omaha is often a tricky proposition. With hand equities running so close in general and having to play out of position representing a great disadvantage, there aren’t that many hands that are mandatory 3-bets no matter what. By the same token, being in position and especially up against weaker opponents, we can expand our 3-betting ranges by quite a margin.

PLO From Square One - Part 4/8

Things to Consider When Thinking About 3-betting in PLO

Blue Thinking Man

Let’s first look into some of the general factors we need to account for every time we’re considering putting in a 3-bet before the flop. These factors can serve as guidelines of sorts when discussing more particular aspects of strategy later in the article. So, the things you should always think about before making up your mind are:

  • Position
  • Number of players in the pot
  • The original raiser’s hand range and skill level
  • Your own hand

Position

Like in any other PLO situation, position gives you more power, allowing you to 3-bet more hands. Being in position allows us to widen our 3-betting range and introduce some speculative hands. Out of position, we’ll mostly stick to value hands that tend to play well on the flop and should be ahead of the original raiser’s range.

Number of Players in the Pot

The number of players getting involved in the pot should be an important factor to consider before deciding whether to 3-bet or not. You should always be more inclined to 3-bet against a single opponent rather than two or more players. You’ll be more likely to win the pot before the flop, and it is much easier to navigate 3-bet pots against just one player.

The OR Hand Range and Skill

Every time you 3-bet, you’re most likely to end up playing against the original raiser, be it by way of them calling your raise or putting in a 4-bet. So, we need to first account for the hand range of the original raiser and adjust accordingly, i.e., 3-betting tighter against a tight opener and widening our range against someone who open raises more often.

Of course, we should also account for any information we have about the raiser’s skill level and how well they play after the flop. Against weaker players who will mostly play fit-or-fold on the flop, we can afford to use a wider range of hands, expecting to win quite often by simply continuing the aggression and getting a lot of folds.

Your Hand

As you can see, the value of the cards we hold is low on the list of things to consider when thinking about 3-betting. This isn’t to say that our hand isn’t an important factor as well, but it isn’t as important as the other things we’ve discussed. If other aspects are favorable, we don’t have to rely on the strength of our hand as much. Out of position, though, we’ll almost always want to have a strong hand to begin with.

At the Top of the Range: 3-betting for Value

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Even though hand equities run closer in PLO, we’ve already talked about several major hand categories. Hands we define as premiums in Omaha usually represent good 3-betting material regardless of other factors. These hands have so much value and play so well across different flops that we can afford to 3-bet them almost always.

When talking about hands we can 3-bet for value, we’re thinking about hands that stand to do very well across all sorts of flops, meaning they contain all three important factors, i.e.:

  • High card value
  • Suitedness
  • Connectedness

These are types of hands that are just going to do well on so many boards that we can feel good 3-betting them against pretty much the entire range of the original raiser. We’re talking about hands like:

  • AAxx – with at least one nut flush option, broadways, or some straight potential
  • Broadway wraps with one or two flush draws, preferably containing an Ace
  • High pairs (KK – JJ) at least single suited and with straight options

In the below image, we can see equities for these various types of hands against random holdings. Of course, when we’re facing a raise in PLO, we usually won’t be up against a completely random hand, but we can clearly see how these high-value hands have a serious preflop advantage by PLO standards, which is exactly why we can afford to 3-bet them without giving it too much thought.

Three PLO Equity Sims

And here, we can see how a good, double-suited rundown is virtually flipping against weak pocket Aces.

PLO: Aces vs. Double-suited Rundown

And, while it may be a flip before the flop, you’ll have a much easier time playing a hand like a solid rundown after the flop as long as the stack-to-pot ratio is such that there is room to maneuver. Aces will need to hit some very specific flops to feel comfortable here, while the rundown will hit many favorable boards with immediate and backdoor outs, making the hand much more playable. It is yet another reason why these types of hands represent such good 3-betting candidates.

Solid But Non-premium Hands Out of Position

There are certain hands that are close to being premiums but don’t quite fit the bill. These are primarily hands like pocket Aces with one or even both suits but with very little else going on, e.g., AsAd7d2s. Although we have a big pocket pair and the potential for two nut flushes, there won’t be as many flops we’re going to like.

These hands are still more than worthy of a 3-bet when you’re in position or facing just a single opponent. However, in a multi-way pot and you seated in the blinds, you should probably prefer calling and seeing a flop over bloating the pot out of position.

The problem is that there will be so many boards where you’ll have difficulties navigating with these hands out of position. Given this fact, you’re better off calling and seeing the flop to try and realize your equity. If you’re in the small blind and the big blind wakes up with a 3-bet, once the action gets back to you, you can consider getting your chips in, but that’s a different topic for a different article.

3-bet Bluffs: 3-Betting with Speculative Hands

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3-betting as a bluff isn’t all that common in PLO. With many more hands going to the flop, there just isn’t that much incentive to try and bluff before the flop because this move isn’t as effective as in Hold’em and can actually lead to some very tricky situations.

That said, there are still situations where we can 3-bet some speculative hands. One of the first things to think about in these spots is position. With rare exceptions, 3-bets with speculative hands are best reserved for situations where we will have position on the original raiser. Playing speculative hands as 3-bets out of the blinds isn’t particularly effective unless you’re against a really weak opponent who only plays fit-or-fold and will give up a lot facing your continuation bet.

We’ve already covered speculative hands in earlier parts of this series so we won’t go into too much detail about what defines a speculative holding. Very briefly, these are hands that feature some of the most important aspects (suitedness, connectedness, high cards) but with individual cards that don’t work together well enough to classify them as premiums. For example:

  • We don’t have a nut flush possibility
  • There are gaps between the connectors

By 3-betting these hands in position, we’ll often isolate the original raiser, creating a scenario where we can either:

  • Win before the flop when they fold
  • Win by virtue of a c-bet when they check to us
  • Flop the best hand or draw and win at showdown

Speculative hands are best suited for combating opponents who tend to open wide. These players are often not bad players; they just prefer to take control of the betting, and they are often able to do so on weaker tables. When you 3-bet these players, they’ll often fold, not wanting to get involved with a weak hand out of position.

Another group of players are very tight openers who don’t play too well after the flop. These players are easy to play against as they will give up almost every time they don’t connect with the flop as solidly as they feel is required to continue (which is usually too tight). Even when they 4-bet you, you’ll often have a fairly simple decision on your hands as we’ll discuss in a moment.

PLO Resteal Spot

This is a prime example of a hand we can 3-bet from the dealer button once the cutoff opens. Although it isn’t strong enough to be categorized as a premium, this hand features more than enough playability when we’re called, and the fact that we have position and the betting lead will often give us the pot before the flop.

Post-flop Plan for 3-bet Pots

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When we 3-bet before the flop, it is usually because we believe that we have some steal equity, i.e., that at least some of the time, we will win the pot instantly and won’t have to see the flop at all. However, especially in Pot Limit Omaha, this doesn’t happen as often as we’d like. Sometimes, good players will call with a plan; sometimes bad players will call because they hate folding.

Either way, we’ll have to have some ideas about how to proceed in 3-bet pots from the flop onwards. The general approach is to be aggressive in these spots as pots are bigger and hence more valuable and more worth fighting for. Unlike limped or single raised pots, these ones tend to swell a lot, and a passive approach just isn’t the most +EV one.

Pot odds and SPR

In these big pots, your decision will often be based on fairly simple calculations about the pot odds you’re getting and how your hand stacks up against the opponent’s perceived range. The term “stack to pot ratio” (SPR) is also a very important one for this discussion. The smaller the SPR, the lighter you need to be willing to put the remaining chips in the middle.

There will be a lot to consider here as PLO games are often played with deep stacks, which means there will be plenty of play left. For example, if there is a standard 3.5 BB open and you make the standard pot-sized 3-bet, the pot will be 22.5 big blinds if your opponent calls.

  • If you started with 100 BBs, the flop SPR will be 88/22.5 = 3.5
  • In the same scenario but with 50 BBs effective, the SPR is 1.7
  • With 300 BBs to start, the SPR is 12.8

You need to look at SPR as a pretty safe way to help you make your decisions on the flop. For example, with an SPR of around 1 or lower, you’re basically never folding. At this ratio, you really don’t have to worry about anything as you’ll win often enough and improve often enough to merit continuing with the hand.

All of this should be considered heading into the 3-bet pot. You need to be aware of what the SPR will be like if you get called (or when you call a 3-bet) and select your hands accordingly. Not accounting for this important factor, you’ll often get yourself into tricky spots with weak holdings, which could cost you some money in the long run.

PLO Low SPR Situation

This is a perfect example of a hand where the SPR is such that we just don’t have much of a decision. While it is possible that our opponent has a 9, there are still enough hands we beat in their range to make this an easy call. We even have a gutshot straight draw and a backdoor flush draw, as well as two Aces, and all of these outs are likely to be good and make our hand a winner.

If we were in the same situation but with much deeper stacks, it would be an entirely different hand. If there is more action to come on the turn and/or the river, this hand might be much harder to play in a bloated pot. There are many turn cards that we aren’t going to like, and we’ll have a hard time continuing when we face more aggression from our opponent.

For example, it would be fine to call the flop bet of say $50 and re-evaluate on the turn if the opponent keeps betting and there is still plenty to play for. Trying to catch bluffs against someone whom you don’t have a compelling reason to believe is likely to pull a big bluff isn’t going to be a hugely profitable strategy. The bottom line is, don’t get married to hands in situations where the SPR is high, and be prepared to give up when you’re not likely to hold a winner.

The same concept applies if we’re on a short stack and thinking about 3-betting. For example, some of the hands that would belong to a speculative category, such as weak pocket Aces, are fine to play aggressively in heads-up pots as long as we can get around 1/3 of our stack in the middle before the flop. In this scenario, we have a hand that fares pretty well against the opponent's entire range, and we’ll have the SPR to make even this type of hand easy to play – we’re pretty much planning on getting the money in the middle on all flops.

Playing against 3-bets

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The majority of this part of the series was focused on what to do when you’re the one pushing the action. However, it is also important to know how to deal with 3-bets when we’re the original raiser. Many of the points discussed already in this article still apply, so we won’t go back to them too much – only as much as it is required to bring home certain truths.

To get the easy part out of the way, you can pretty much always 4-bet with your AAxx hands if you choose so. While this may be a strategy our opponents could easily recognize, there isn’t much they can do about it. The hand is still a statistical favorite against any other hand, so this approach is very hard to exploit, especially at normal blind depths (stacks around 100 BBs).

Problematic Hands You Should Fold

While it is tempting to almost auto-call and see the flop once you open a hand in PLO, certain hands are best folded. We’re talking mostly about weaker hands that don’t have too much going on for them, like:

  • Axxx with a single flush draw
  • Big pair hands with little else going on
  • Connected hands with gaps

Once you get 3-bet, you want to choose hands that have the ability to flop well. These hands just don’t have that potential. With big pairs, you’re just looking for sets and even then you won’t have any redraws because the other two cards aren’t cooperating. With single suited, disjointed Aces, you’re pretty much hoping for a flush draw and not much else.

We’ve been talking about PLO for some time now, and it is quite clear that these hands represent very, very little to be continuing with. When there are hands that can potentially flop so much more, like wraps and big made hands, you shouldn’t get involved with these weak holdings, and you should absolutely fold them 100% of the time when out of position.

Rely on the Player and the Position

Other than these very problematic hands, you can choose different types of hands to call 3-bets with, but you should always be more willing to do so in position and against players who don’t play well in 3-bet pots. If a player has a tendency to give up too easily in these spots, they’ll be easy to exploit, and we’ve already mentioned that such an approach isn’t the optimal one in 3-bet pots.

Players have different kinds of flaws that come out in 3-bet pots. Some of them will always fire a c-bet and then proceed to stack off light; some will continuation bet and then give up on any sign of aggression. You need to plan your play according to what you know about a particular player and, of course, the board texture and how it corresponds with your hand.

Rundown Flops Two Pair Against Aces

The above example is a good illustration of where we’ll want to push the action against an opponent we believe is likely to have an AAxx type of hand. We called with speculative hand in position and the flop came favorable for us. This is the point where we want to get the money in as we’re likely to be ahead by a decent margin.

In this scenario, aggression will work regardless of what our opponent does. If they call off behind, we’re getting chips in the middle with favorable odds. If they give up, we’re denying them equity, which is a good thing as our hand is vulnerable. The opponent has a few outs to improve – two Ace cards and three Queens as well as three more outs to pair the turn card unless it is a 9 or a 10. With all these factors in play, they have almost 40% equity in the pot, and getting them to give up on the flop will always be highly profitable.

If the board came 88Q instead and we were up against an opponent who tends to call and stack off with Aces, we’d have no incentive to continue. We could simply wait for favorable boards and let them make a mistake instead of trying to force things where we’re unlikely to win.

Conclusion: Go In with a Plan

Book and Glasses

As you can see, 3-betting in Pot Limit Omaha isn’t something you should take lightly. The game is mathematically more complex than No Limit Hold’em. Given the fact our 3-bets won’t get nearly as many folds before the flop, it is important to carefully plan our actions and stick to the hands that either have good playability after the flop or are statistical favorites before the flop and we can get a large percentage of our stack in the middle before the first three community cards hit the felt.

To a less experienced player, it may seem that hyper-aggression is a good thing in PLO, but this isn’t actually the case. A calculated and a more conservative approach usually works much better as it allows you to be in more favorable spots once the pot gets bloated by a 3-bet – whether you’re the one driving the action or defending against it.

In the next part of this series, we’ll talk some more about the importance of planning your hands ahead of time, focusing on the number of players involved in the hand and your relative and absolute position at the table. This is a very important lesson if you intend to play four card poker for real money since many PLO hands tend to go multi-way, so make sure to give it a read.

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Tadas Peckaitis is a professional poker player, author of the free book “Formula for Poker Success,” and founder of MyPokerCoaching.com. He may be a coach, but he wisely strives to improve his poker game every single day to not only better his results but to have a greater wealth of knowledge to share with his students, on his website, in his books, and in exhaustive guides such as the one you have just read - Pot Limit Omaha!

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