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PLO From Square One: Part VI - C-Betting & Related Topics

PLO Poker

In this part of our guide to Pot Limit Omaha, we’ll continue looking at postflop play. In the previous part, we talked about the importance of planning ahead and deciding on how to play your hand based on the number of opponents involved in the pot and your position at the table. In this article, we’ll focus on a very specific but very important and quite extensive area of the game, which is continuation betting in single raised pots (SRPs).

Throughout this guide, we’ve mentioned several times that a c-bet isn’t as powerful in PLO as it is in Hold’em. It isn’t hard to understand why this would be the case.

With four cards to start with, a greater number of hands have much more playability across different boards, meaning players are far more likely to continue facing a single bet on the flop. With all the direct and backdoor draws possible, often combined with a bit of a showdown value, folding on the flop to a c-bet isn’t as common as it is in Hold’em.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be continuation betting in PLO of course. You’ll still win more than your fair share of pots by being aggressive and barreling on the flop after taking initiative before the flop, but you’ll need to pay more attention to board textures and your own ranges.

Simply put, continuation betting in PLO requires more strategic planning because you’ll have a much harder time putting your opponents on ranges, and even representing a strong hand on the flop may not be enough to get them to give up given the number of possible cards they’ll sometimes have to outdraw the hand you’re representing.

C-betting, Floating, and Similar PLO Topics

Playing Against Weak Opposition

Multicolored Crowd

Let us first get the simplest case out of the way. Some people tend to play a very fit-or-fold style in PLO. If you can pick out these opponents based on their stats or your knowledge of their game, you should c-bet almost 100% of the time against them. Since they won’t give you a hard time, you can expect to win instantly about two-thirds of all hands you play against them when you continuation bet in a SRP.

The one-third of the time they do connect, you’ll still win some of the time because your hand may improve to a winner on the turn and river. So overall, against weak and passive players, continuing your preflop aggression across all boards is the right way to go.

Unfortunately, you won’t find very many opponents like this, especially as you move up through the stakes, which is why you’ll need to do more planning.

C-Betting vs. Checking Back

Blue Thinking Man

In the rest of this article, we’ll presume you're playing against fairly competent opponents who have some idea about what they’re doing and will be capable of making some plays themselves without flopping the nuts or close to it. After all, these are the kinds of opponents that you need a sophisticated strategy to outplay since everyone can find a way to beat a bad player with only a very basic knowledge of the game.

We’ve already talked about how your fold equity in PLO is simply not as good as it is in Hold’em because players have more playability across different boards. This has to be a major factor in deciding when to continuation bet or check back and see a free turn. We’ll now look at some examples to bring this point home.

Bad PLO Board for CbettingIt's Best to Check Behind These Kinds of Flops in Position When You Miss

Let’s say you’ve opened with KsKhThJc from the cutoff and the big blind is the only caller. For the sake of simplicity, we’ve put in that they defend with about 50% of their hands. This is probably too high, but players love to defend their big blind in PLO, and you’ll be seeing many more flops in single raised pots, so it’s probably not that much out of line.

The board comes 5s9d7c, and the opponent checks to you. As you can see, you’re quite likely to be behind already as their defending range just hits this board much better. Furthermore, even if you’re ahead at the moment, they have so many combos they’ll continue with here that c-betting just won’t get you enough folds. In fact, your continuation bet will often be met by a check-raise on these types of textures.

In this spot, it is much better to check behind and take the free card. Not only are we controlling the size of the pot, but we’re also looking to hit a good card on the turn that could bring our hand to life and potentially give us an opportunity to fire a delayed continuation bet if our opponent checks to us once again.

PLO Equity Sim on the TurnThe Turn Has Altered the Situation, and Now We Can Bet

The Qh is one of the best turn cards we could hit, and you can see how our equity increases significantly even though there is just one card remaining. If the opponent checks to us, we can easily bet here, and even stand a check-raise, given that we’re drawing to the nuts.

If we get called, we can decide what we want to do depending on the river card, but that’s a topic for a different article. The main point here is that we want to avoid c-betting textures that favor our opponent’s range, and we should be inclined to take a free card in these spots instead.

Utilizing Our Range Advantage in SRPs

Hammer

Like in Hold’em, the original raiser will have a range advantage on certain board textures in PLO. While this does take a bit more calculating and strategizing, some of the same concepts still apply. Boards with high cards tend to favor the raiser, and these are the type of boards that you should be looking to c-bet on more often and expect to get a fair percentage of folds.

PLO Board That Favors the RaiserOn This Type of Flop, Expect Your C-Bet to Get a Lot of Respect

Let’s say you open 25% from the button and get called by a similar range as before by the big blind (around 50%). On a board texture containing high cards, such as Aces and Kings, you should be much more inclined to continuation bet. Overall, there won’t be enough combinations in your opponent’s range to allow him or her to continue in these spots.

Even when they do make a call, they might be doing it with a hand that’s very vulnerable, such as bottom two pair. Depending on your holding, the turn card can give you enough reason to fire again even if you don’t have a made hand, and your opponent will pretty much be forced to fold.

On these types of board textures, you should carefully consider your opponent’s range. For example, if you bet and get called when there is a flush draw on the board, they’re much more likely to be chasing a flush than to have a made hand like a set or top two pair. If the turn card doesn’t complete the likely draw, you should bet most of the time when they check to you, and make your bet sizable enough to price them out.

The Value of Blockers

Stack of Dollars

Blockers are a big thing in Pot Limit Omaha, and we’ve mentioned them quite a few times so far. Once again, these are cards that you have in your hand that make it impossible or less likely for your opponent to have the nuts. Blockers give you an opportunity to put a lot of pressure on your opponent, and they play a huge role in deciding when to c-bet.

PLO Hand Demonstrating Value of BlockersWith the Ace of Spades in Hand, We Block Many Flush Combos

We can see that the opponent has the best hand at the moment as well as the best draws. However, they’ll struggle to continue as we hold the key card here – the As. Without it, they can’t really chase the flush out of position. Even if they peel one off on the flop and a spade hits, we can comfortably continue to fire on the turn and even the river, representing the nuts if the board doesn’t pair.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you should just barrel away 100% of the time when you hold the blocker for the nut flush, but it is a very important card in constructing our continuation bet ranges. When we’re the one holding the key card, we’ll just get more folds on flops with the flush draw of that particular suit.

Furthermore, players are keener on defending when they have a suited Ace. Since they can’t have any of the combos containing the highest spade, they’re less likely to have a flush draw in general, which means that our continuation bet in these situations will simply be more effective and will win us more pots.

While nut flush blockers are the most common and typical example, there are other situations where we can rely on the power of blockers to increase our c-bet frequency. For example, on a board of 6 8 10, if we have a pair of 9s with two random cards, we’re blocking 50% of the possible straight combinations. That means that our opponent is half as likely to have the nuts and, consequentially, much more likely to give up facing a c-bet.

Adjusting to Player Tendencies: Dealing with Habitual Floaters

Floating Cards

We did say that our consideration of c-bets in single raised pots will focus on playing against at least somewhat competent players. However, even decent players have certain tendencies that you can exploit. When it comes to constructing your c-bet range on the flop, you should be aware of these tendencies and adjust accordingly.

There are players who will float a lot on the flop, wanting to get to the next card and see if it improves their hand. This means they’ll get involved with a weak hand that has the potential to turn nutty draws especially nut flush draws or nut straight draws on boards with no flush draw.

Getting this kind of information will take some time as you’ll need to gather a decent sample size to figure out if someone is a habitual floater. When you do, however, there are adjustments you can add to your game to make more money against these types of players.

Even though you know that your c-bet won’t get many folds on the flop, you shouldn’t be afraid to bet out regardless and look to play some turns. Since these players will float with a fairly wide range of hands, look for turn cards that don’t change the board too much. For example, a middle or top card pairing probably won’t improve their hand. Furthermore, if there are two high hearts on the board and the turn comes a small diamond, it is a card that isn’t likely to hit their range.

Look for these non-events, and use them to fire a turn barrel. Against this specific type of opponent, you’ll have a very high success rate with a turn bet, which is great news. You’ll win bigger pots off of them whenever they fail to improve, which more than makes up for those pots you lose when they do turn equity and fail to get much money out of you as you’ve adjusted to their game.

Properly Sizing Your Continuation Bets

Up + Down Arrows

The matter of sizing your bets is a big one in PLO in general, but it is especially important when figuring out your continuation betting strategy. As with all forms of poker, the idea is to risk the minimum amount of money required to win the pot but doing it in a way where you don’t become easy to exploit.

Some players will just smash the pot button 100% of the time. While this does help avoid any sizing tells, it is a fairly unsophisticated approach and one that definitely doesn’t yield the biggest return when all the relevant numbers are added together.

The fact of the matter is: Most people are equally as likely to fold to a half-pot or two thirds-pot bet as they are to a pot-sized bet. This may not be the case in some very specific situations, but in general, all no-equity hands will give up to any reasonably sized bet. On the other hand, in those situations where you do face resistance, you’ll be risking a smaller amount of money, which does influence your win rate quite significantly.

With this approach, you may be giving slightly better odds for players to try and out-draw you, which does mean that you’ll have to play some more turns and rivers. However, this is something you should get comfortable with as PLO is the kind of game where you’ll need to develop these skills if you want to succeed in the long run.

Of course, you can always mix things up by firing big continuation bets with certain parts of your range. For example, mixing in some really strong made hands with pure bluffs that have the potential to turn nut draws would be one approach. This will make it hard for your opponents to take advantage of your play, and you’ll be able to apply a ton of pressure depending on the various run-outs.

Tackling Aggression: Dealing with Check-raises

Crossed Swords

Things don’t always go as smoothly as we’d like them to in PLO. Even if we pay attention to board textures and ranges, we’ll often have to deal with the opponent taking a check-raise line against our flop continuation bet. These can be very difficult spots as the pot bloats quickly, and we could be putting stacks on the line by the river.

The first – and very important – piece of advice about these spots is not to get stubborn. Even against a very aggressive player, trying to catch bluffs with weak hands will often backfire. Their bluff can end up being the best hand, and we stack off for 100 big blinds+ in a spot where a simple fold would be the best and most profitable approach.

PLO Checkraise HandFolding to a Check-Raise Is the Play Here

Let’s look at this spot for an example. Looking at the numbers, we’re clearly way ahead, and if we could, we’d run our hand a million times over and rake in the money. However, we can’t see our opponent’s hand, which makes the situation a tad more complicated.

Let’s assume that we raise from the button, and the big blind – a fairly competent player –defends. They check to us on the flop, we fire a continuation bet, and they go for a check-raise. While they have top pair at the moment, they’re probably doing it more as a bluff on the value of their As blocker.

Getting stubborn in this kind of a situation can be very tricky. There really aren’t that many good turn cards for our hand. Even the last remaining Ace doesn’t give us the nuts, and that’s probably the best card we can hope for. We don’t have any healthy backdoor draws either.

In PLO, you’ll simply get so many better spots that there is absolutely no reason to put yourself in these high-variance situations and try to soul read your opponent. Even if they’re a total maniac, they could easily turn two pair and run down your pocket Aces. When they keep barreling on the turn, it is impossible, save for seeing their cards, to say where you’re at in the hand and if you’re already drawing dead.

PLO Hand That Can Stand a Check-RaiseHere We Can Continue With Nut Outs and Backdoor Draws

If you do have a reason to believe your opponent is getting out of line, this would be a much better situation to continue. You can call their raise on the flop and look to play some turns.

There are many good cards that will give you the nuts or a big draw where you can play aggressively and raise their turn bet. If they’re just bluffing, they’ll likely have to give up, and even if they have a big hand that’s not the nuts, they’ll have a hard time continuing. Even if worst comes to worst and you end up all in, you’ll have outs to the nuts.

Continuation Betting in Multi-way Pots

Caution Sign

In the previous part of this series, we talked at length about how important it is to plan your play according to the number of opponents in the hand. When it comes to c-betting in single raised pots where you’re up against multiple opponents, you should be very careful. With more players in the mix and more potential combos, you just won’t get that many folds.

Betting your air into multiple opponents is not something you’ll want to do. In pots with two or three callers, it will be very hard to construct their ranges properly, which means that running a big, multi-street bluff isn’t really an option. At the same time, your c-bet just won’t take it down often enough to be profitable.

One exception here would be in pots where you raise in position to try to squeeze out limpers and end up playing against multiple opponents. If you’re last to act, you can try to fire out a smaller c-bet on dry boards containing big cards or paired boards.

This will often give you all the information you need. You’ll either win the pot or you’ll face resistance, in which case you can look to fold or check the hand down unless you hit a miracle card to turn your bluff into a value hand (like QQxx on a 99x board – you bet, get called, and turn a Queen).

Conclusion

Question Page

Pot Limit Omaha is a very complex game, and it is hard to cover all the various aspects of any particular segment. However, this article should give you some solid foundations to understand the benefits and downsides of the continuation bet in single raised pots.

Some of the most important points to take home from this discussion are:

  • A c-bet doesn’t win you the pot nearly as often in PLO as it does in Hold’em
  • You can still use your range advantage when constructing your c-bet ranges
  • Checking back flops that favor the caller’s range is the most sensible approach
  • Be very selective about c-betting in multi-way pots

While this doesn’t answer all the questions you might have about c-betting in PLO, it should provide you with some basic ideas to continue building your knowledge on. If you’re passionate about the game and keen to get better at playing PLO, this knowledge will definitely help you move along quicker.

Photo of Tadas Peckaitis

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!

If you want to find great poker training materials, master different game formats, or read interesting articles - visit his website and also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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