Jack's PLO Transition Part 2

So I’m two weeks and a book into my PLO studies. For those of you who want to read the first post of the series as I begin diving into PLO, click here. After reading Jeff Hwang’s Pot Limit Omaha Poker, a link to which can be found here, and playing online to try out what I had learned, I realized that my original priorities were perhaps correct but too simplistic.

To recap, I had figured that understanding preflop hand ranges and knowing post-flop equities would be the keys to my PLO success. Jeff Hwang really addresses these two areas in his book. For one, he breaks down preflop ranges into four categories: premium, speculative, marginal, and trash. He does so after a good amount of postflop equity discussion to support his claim, and I found these categories very helpful. Of course, using four categories for all possible PLO hands is far too simplistic, but it is a good start.

The Hwang book also does a nice job of presenting relative equities of the types of PLO hands people are likely to put all the money in with. For example, who is the favorite on the flop: the nut straight with no redraw, or a set with the nut flush draw? If you read into my wording or calculated the outs, you would see the set with the nut flush draw is ahead, but having Hwang list these things out in many permutations is very helpful. After reading the book, I feel much more prepared in terms of playing a big draw and choosing quality starting hands.

However, beyond these things, the book doesn’t give much help. The goal of the book is to teach beginning PLO players with a Hold’em background about winning the big pots in PLO. In truth, knowing what hands can win big pots preflop and knowing equities of these hands once the big draw has been flopped is more than half the battle. Still, the book doesn’t really get into playing hands that aren’t nut-draw type hands. The general advice is just to fold or bluff in position. Most post flop advice is highly prescribed and not supported in theory. It’s more a set of rules than a way to think about the game. For six chapters of PLO (the rest of the book focuses on hi/lo and limit Omaha), I learned a lot, but I still have a long way to go. I know that some of the books sequels focus on smaller pots and bluffing, but I’m not sure if range theory is ever brought into the picture. I do plan on reading some of these sequels though, so stay tuned.

Overall, I still recommend the book. It is very clear, gives good information, and has excellent quiz materials. I have not read the sections on other Omaha variants, but I’d imagine they are similarly helpful. I think there is a lot of value in reading this book, but I could imagine much more comprehensive and more theoretically-sound versions of this information. I will keep my eye out for now, but it is a quick read and likely worth the price if you ever plan on playing a PLO game for money.

So, what happened when I played online fresh off my readings? Well, for one, it should be known that I ended up playing short-handed, even heads up for a while, and those scenarios weren't discussed in the Hwang book. Still, I felt comfortable pre-flop and saw how I could take advantage of the starting hands my opponents were showing up with. When I flopped big hands, including big draws, I felt very comfortable. In just about all other situations, I felt very uncertain about what to do. This is an uncommon feeling for me. In Hold’em at the stakes I generally play, I feel like I may have 0-1 uncertain decisions in an hour. Having them so frequently showed me how far I have to come. That being said, I was lucky enough to book a nice win including a nice heads-up smackdown, so I think I am starting at a pretty good place. Looking forward to learning and sharing more soon. Stay tuned in every other weekend (I will shoot for Fridays) for the coming while, and of course, feel free to send me any questions, comments, or suggestions.