Blockers In PLO

When there are ‘obvious’ draws on the community card board in PLO – and you have the key cards required to complete them – there is the potential for a profitable bluffing opportunity. However, the loose and wild nature of online Omaha games can make this a potentially dangerous strategy. Here we look at the concept of ‘Blockers’ in PLO and assess whether these can be profitably played in online PLO poker games.

Firstly and example to ensure we understand what is meant by PLO Blockers. You are in the big blind and holding 10-10-10-6 single suited. There is no raise before the flop and 4 players see the flop come as 9-J-3 with 3 suits. There is a half pot bet which thins the field to you and a single opponent – the turn comes a dangerous looking Queen. Here you have 3 of the key cards required for the straight – sure, it is possible that your opponent has the 4th 10 in hand, but (at least from a statistical viewpoint) this is unlikely. Here you could win the pot with a bet either now – or on the river, by representing the straight which your opponent is likely drawing to. Your ‘blockers’ meaning you can be fairly certain that your opponent does not have the hand you are representing.

One thing to mention is that there is usually no reason to play a hand with 3 cards! The situation in which such strong blocker play will arise are rare. A hand such as 10-10-8-8 might have been played in an unraised pot – however you can not be so certain that your opponent does not have the cards you hold, and may be drawing to a higher straight than you – all in all a potentially bad situation.

Whether, and how strongly to make blocker plays in pot-limit Omaha will depend on several factors. The two key considerations are stack sizes and the tendencies of your opponent(s). We will look at each in turn.

In the scenario described above we will give your opponent 2 possible holdings – then look at how stack sizes potentially affect play. Your opponent either holds 9-9-A-6 for bottom set on the flop or J-Q-K-A for the pair / gutshot straight draw / overcards combination.

If either player has a short stack here then raising with your blockers on the turn may commit both players to seeing a showdown. For example if one player started the hand with only 10 blinds, and the pot reached 6 blinds by the turn, then a short-stacked opponent calling a half-pot bet on the turn would see a pot of 9 times the initial blind and have only 4left in their stack… calling off the rest on the river would be a formality now (in fact the real danger is that your opponent will realize this and push the rest of their stack into the pot on the turn – believing they have outs when called). In a short stacked situation blocker play has become less effective, however if a potential straight becomes possible only on the river, then a big bet here may win the pot.

With deep stacked play things are different. The key point here is to ensure that an opponent with a made hand / draw combination can not re-raise to commit themselves to the stack on the turn – possibly forcing you to fold even though you have the outs which your opponent requires. In the above example with 100 BB effective stacks you could represent the straight on the turn with a smaller bet – meaning that if your opponent chose to re-raise this would only be for 15% of their stack… a bigger bet might allow them to put in 40% (for example) making folding on the river less of a formality. With deep stacks after you have represented the straight on the turn (from out of position) you can pot any ‘safe’ (non-pairing) river card, increasing your chances of getting a fold.

The tendencies of opponents need to be taken into account when playing PLO Blockers. Sticking with the same example, there are many opponents – especially in the lower buy-in online PLO games – who would not fold middle set on the river! Hopefully you have made notes on which opponents will call big bets with such hands, and can adjust your play accordingly. Your own table image also needs to be taken into account here – are you the type who will represent any possible draw on a regular basis? If so then you need to mix up your play enough to ensure that opponents are not calling to ‘keep you honest’.

To summarize, blockers in PLO certainly have a role, however this will only arise on rare occasions. The key factors in how you play Omaha blockers is the effective stack size (the smallest stack in play). You also need to take into account the tendencies of your opponents.