Jack's PLO Transition Part 3

Just under a month has passed since I began the transition to PLO, and I’ll admit, I’m definitely taking my time. What can I say? Hold’em is still treating me well. Not that I was ever planning on completely moving on, but the game has been good to me and I don’t “need” to make the switch. Still, I really do think I can seriously, or at least marginally, up my win-rate given the game offerings in Cleveland.

So I said last post that I was going to read the sequel to Jeff Hwang’s Pot Limit Omaha Poker, Advanced Pot Limit Omaha, which focuses on short-handed play and smaller pots. I think the focus of this sequel is very good considering the strengths and weaknesses of the first book which I outlined in the previous post. While I still plan to read the book, I saw some of the same weaknesses just skimming the table of contents and reading the first chapter. Hwang is again taking a more play-based approach, outlining a more learn by rote strategy, rather than teach a comprehensive range-based approach. Rather than read more of the same author and approach, I wanted a change of pace. I decided to head into my Bluefire Poker archive and check out some Phil Galfond online PLO videos.

Now Bluefire Poker is excellent, but as a quick aside, I’ll just point out the value of what we do at Just Hands Poker. It is very difficult to find high level strategy for low-level games, live low-stakes being some of the lowest level games (much to our benefit). I look forward to a point where we can comfortably give live low-stakes PLO strategy at the same level we provide Hold’em strategy.

So if I can’t find a good live low-stakes resource to learn PLO, I might as well get high level strategy from Phil Galfond playing 6-max high-stakes online PLO, which I did! Phil is really an amazing player and does a good job of talking through his thought process. I think his videos are extremely valuable for a couple of reasons. The strategy he discusses is extremely sound and effective. In a more subtle way, the videos give insight into Phil’s in-game mindset. Part of what I like about these videos is that Phil doesn’t prepare to give his analysis. Zach and I also take this approach on the podcast. We do a little editing, but at least one of us has never heard of the hand until we are recording. Phil remembers the hands a little and definitely knows the villains, but he doesn’t always remember what he does and somewhat often disagrees with or is uncertain about his play in retrospect. To me, this indicates that the strategy and ranging he rattles off in the videos is something he could do in-game in a live setting. He makes mistakes online according to his own analysis, but this is probably due to the extreme time constraints on decision making. Since those constraints are not applicable to live poker, we can assume that the strategy he discusses is the type of thing that would come to him in-game live. I think that making this realization helps to set a benchmark for the level of analysis required in the moment to be a player of Phil’s magnitude.

So more specifically, Phil’s PLO playing really throws the Hwang book into the fire. This is to be expected, as the game Phil is beating plays extremely differently than the games to which Hwang seems to be referring. Still, based on Phil’s play in these games, I have to assume his strategy in weaker live games must involve a wider preflop range, especially in position, and much more aggressive bluffing. Part of what makes me think this is that he often refers to his play in the videos as a more standard, straight-forward version of his usual game. If opening 60% on the button is standard, I can only imagine what he is usually doing.

Therefore, I have to test my hypothesis that Phil Galfond would play a looser preflop and more aggressive post-flop strategy than Hwang and that Galfond would be correct in doing so. Part of this experiment may simply be scanning Bluefire videos and other sources for Phil talking about this himself. Also, and probably to much greater personal benefit, I will begin to try implementing this approach myself. I will try and find online games that seem to fit the model of live low-stakes PLO games. I both assume and require that these games are at the lower stakes. Once I find the right game, I will try and push myself to play this more LAGgy strategy and go back through hand histories and evaluate my play. Once I determine I am playing well, I can track my win-rate and compare that win-rate to a more straightforward strategy. It will take a lot of volume to get an accurate comparison, but I think that the volume and practice will be worth it. For this type of experimentation, I also won’t be tracking my actual win-rate but my all-in adjusted win-rate, or my win-rate if at each all-in showdown. I may decide to get more sophisticated about calculating trying to control for the extreme variance in PLO but for now, I think that should suffice.

While the Bluefire videos have comprised the bulk of my training, I have also been watching Poker After Dark PLO cash games for fun as a relaxing way to study. I think part of the value in watching these games is to just see a bunch of hands. Not just complete hands, but simply preflop starting hands. The biggest difference right now watching these hands compared to hold’em hands is the lag in determining whether the hand is playable preflop. I’m getting better, but I’m still somewhat surprised. Play in these games has tended to be very straightforward, so I think that there is a lot of strategy that can be extrapolated to live low-stakes games.

As always, your comments are welcomed, and feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions through the contact form on the site!