Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pot Limit Omaha Sit and Go Tournaments - Part #2 - Early Stages

Continuing with the PLO SNG Strategy theme today, wanted to make this series suitable for beginners as well as SNG regulars so going to start with some nuts and bolts on Omaha Starting Hand Selection in the early stages today.

Quick Aside: For those readers who also look at SNG Planet (logo top right of blog) just to let you know why there have not been any new articles for a week or so... we are currently in the process of a big re-design involving templates, style sheets (and other techy stuff I do not understand) along with a completely new interface. I was expecting this to be ready by now and the new articles (both mine and several guest ones) would be up on the new version - it now looks like it will take longer (maybe another week - bah!) so I plan to have a few new pieces put up on the current version over the next couple of days to keep the site 'alive' as it were!

Right, Back to PLO SNGs.

Starting hands... this is the subject of much debate in Omaha poker, there are so many combinations of starting hands that it is not really feasable to produce a list of them as you do in holdem poker. The key here is to understand the sheer number of combinations possible once the flop comes - and then look backwards to decide how best to select starting cards.

Your 4 card Omaha starting hand contains 6 possible combinations of the 2 cards you must use at showdown. If you are dealt A-B-C-D then you have the following 2 card combos:

A-B, A-C, A-D, B-C. B-D and C-D

If all of your cards work together you start the omaha hand with the equivalent of 6 holdem hands... that is a lot of ways to hit the flop! However just one 'bad card' reduces your strength considerably. If A-B and C work together but you get a 'bad' card D then your hand is reduced considerably.... for example K-Q-J-3 with the KQ suited. Here you have K-Q, K-J and Q-J, barring an unlikely 3-3-Q flop you only have 3 combinations to work with, this has effectively halved your chances pre flop compared to K-Q-J-10 for example.

Taking the high pair hands we can go from 6 combinations down to one. Think of a 4 suit hand with Q-Q-8-2... here you only really have Q-Q working for you, all good if you hit a set but not the kind of hand you want to be investing a lot of chips with before the flop (what is your plan if the flop comes A-K-9 with 2 of a suit?).

Cards that work together for straights and flushes are key, high pairs are great, nothing wrong with a pair of queens as long as it has some backup from the other cards. Lets look at A-Q-Q-10 for example with the ace suited with another card. Now you have several more ways of hitting the flop.

Smaller connected cards can also be played pre-flop, the principle is the same and the potential benefit is to win a big pot from someone playing high card hands. Lets take 6-7-8-9 for example, so many low straight possibilities here that you should gladly see a flop when you know that your opponent has aces. Be careful that you only draw to the high end of a straight in omaha, the number of hand combinations against you mean that you can only profitably draw to the nuts (more on post flop play in next week's post).

2 pair hands are also strong in PLO SNGs - A-A-K-K (2 suits) being a monster, there are no huge favourites pre-flop so you'll still need to fold on a 7-8-9 flop when you dont have a flush draw! You will hit a set approx once in 4.5 flops when you hold 2 pair, remember that you can not get too committed with bottom or middle set - or on draw heavy boards - so make sure that at least one pair is reasonably high.

A note on suitedness - this is a great benefit to your hand, flush draws adding considerable strength. However unless one of the suited cards is high in rank they will not look so good after the flop... for example 5-6-8-9 double suited has some nice straight possibilities, but you are not going to feel too comfortable committing chips with a 9-high flush (again it is the combinations of cards that opponents hold which make being out-drawn a big possibility). Suited cards have a hidden advantage - they take away outs from opponents drawing to higher flushes. If the board give you a straight and someone has the nut flush draw the fact that you hold 2 of their suit reduces the number of outs they have from 9 to 7... these are known as 'blockers'.

To summarise - Omaha starting hands need as many of the factors below as possible:

- Cards that work together (close in rank, try to play 6 combinations not 3 or 1!)
- High Pairs (especially with 'help' from other cards)
- Suitedness (or ideally double-suitedness)

Thats it for today, next week will look at position and flop texture.

GL at the PLO SNGs!

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