Beginners Pre-Flop Strategy

One of the most important decisions you will make in Pot Limit Omaha is whether to enter the pot before the flop. There are numerous factors which influence this decision, the strength of your cards are only one of these. Others include your position at the table, whether there has been a raise (and / or re-raise), the tendencies of opponents still to act and with willingness (or otherwise) of players at your table to show down ‘non-nut’ hands.

This article will look at the various factors involved in a straightforward manner to help players new to Pot Limit Omaha better understand some of the key factors involved in decision making before the flop.

We will start with how the pot-limit betting structure influences your play, adding to this the inherent danger in ‘declaring your hand’ too early. Next we look at your cards, combined with your position at the table. The tendencies of the table as a whole, and of individual opponents who have already entered the pot, is then brought into the strategy discussion.

Pot-Limit Betting Considerations

The nature of pot-limit betting is that the bets are very small before the flop compared to the size of the pot by the end of the hand. This is particularly the case when two or more opponents have strong hands and enter a ‘raising war’. This means that the ‘implied-odds’ potential in Pot Limit Omaha is high – you can invest a small sum before the flop and have the chance to win a huge pot if the flop hits you hard enough.

Pot-limit betting carries a danger – if you call a small bet before the flop and someone raises the size of the pot behind you, then the initial raise can come back with a (much larger) re-raise. This could force you to throw away many hands that you would have been happy to see a flop with.

Balancing Your Raises

The real skill with Pot Limit Omaha is to avoid giving information about your hand while the bets are small. An extreme (yet very common) example will illustrate. Imagine a super-tight opponent, who will only ever raise (or re-raise) with aces. This player picks up an A-A-x-x hand and raises the size of the pot before the flop. The table is aware of what this bet ‘means’ and 4 of the 9 players flat-call the bet with a variety of holdings. These include pairs, straight draws and suited cards. Now the flop comes 2-8-10 with 2 suits. The player with the aces bets the full pot and is called in 2 places…. Will stop the story here – it should be obvious where this is going. The player made the critical error of declaring his hand while the bets were small – then compounded the mistake by building a pot with a hand that is now very unlikely to be the best at the river. Look out for these players, they are a great source of profit!

This brings us to some basic rules for beginning Pot-limit Omaha pre-flop strategy.

  • If you never raise you will give opponents with a variety of hands a cheap shot to out-flop you…
  • If you only ever raise high-pair hands your play will become very easy to exploit.

The key is to employ a balanced raising strategy. Your objective is to build a pot when you feel you have the ‘best of it’. In order to do this you will need to raise in such a way that your opponents can not ‘put you on aces’. Raising strong connected hands such as 7-8-9-10 or pair / draw combinations such as Q-Q-9-10 double suited will ensure you keep opponents guessing.

Position Counts

Position at the table is more important in PLO than in many other games. To understand why we need to refer back to the pot-limit betting. With smaller bets on early streets there is more time to gain information on your opponents hand than in a No-Limit game (where a big overbet can often end the hand immediately). Since position has longer to work in your favor, it becomes more valuable.
Since the majority of your profit in Pot-Limit Omaha will come when you are the last player to act after the flop, you should avoid raising too often from early position or from the blinds. Acting first is a big disadvantage due to the fact that there are no ‘big favorites’ pre-flop and the pot-limit betting structure. When first to act, especially against several opponents, you could spend many chips to get the information that your hand is beaten. Last to act you may see a pot sized bet and a re-raise ahead of you, your decision is now easy – either you commit to the hand or exit cheaply!
This means that the hands you can play from the button position can be (relatively) weaker than those from other positions. Do not get carried away with this – a junk hand is even more dangerous in Pot Limit Omaha than in other games!

Raises Ahead / Raisers Behind

Since pre-flop raises are small (compared to the potential pot size on later streets) you can call these with a variety of reasonably strong holdings. Again we need to consider the nature of pot-limit betting. If you suspect that the raiser has a high pair and you have a pair / straight combination hand then re-opening the betting would actually be very dangerous. The likelihood is that the initial raiser will re-raise the new pot size – making it too expensive to continue with a hand that had some real potential to flop a monster.

If there has been a raise and a re-raise ahead then you need a strong hand to play. Here the betting has already been re-opened and you can not be sure that your call will buy you a look at the flop.
The same situation may occur when there is a particularly aggressive (or just wild!) opponent to act behind you. You should be aware that the chance of the pot being re-opened and that the initial raiser may well come back over the top to isolate the wild player. In this situation folding marginally strong hands may be the safer option.

Re-raising a raised pot yourself should be reserved for the strongest of holdings. If you hold aces a good rule of thumb is to ensure that you can get half of your stack in before the flop before putting in a 3rd raise. If you have some backup with your aces then this may be relaxed a little. The reason is the same as in the ‘aces-only’ raiser scenario – that the big re-raise is so often aces that you do not want to risk declaring your hand to the table at the same time as giving them the ‘implied odds’ to out-draw you.


Some pot-limit Omaha tables feature many limpers before each flop. Where you are in later position it can sometimes be profitable to also limp into the pot (balancing with raises of course). Since multi-way Omaha pots will often hit a number of players in some way there is a real chance that betting could ‘explode’ on future rounds. Ensure that your pre-flop hand has some way of making the nuts ( a suited ace for example) before limping along – and never chase a non-nut draw after the flop in a multi-way pot.

Final Thoughts

Even the most basic pre-flop strategy in pot limit Omaha needs to take several factors into account. For those new to the game playing solid starting hands in good position is the basis on which the strategy is formed. The escalations in pot-limit betting means that you should consider whether the price you pay to see the flop is the ‘real price’ or whether there is a risk of further raises. The tendencies of the table and of individual opponents will help you to make this decision.

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