PLO Starting Hands Part #1 – Combinations vs High Pairs In PLO

Players who win at Pot-Limit Omaha do not think of their hands in terms of ‘premium pairs’. While these hands have their place, in PLO starting hands which contain ‘combinations’ are the key to winning. This guide looks into the concept of PLO starting hand combinations and explains the importance of this in a simple manner. The second article in this series will look at the various individual Pot-Limit Omaha starting hands in more detail.

So, what do we mean when referring to PLO starting hand ‘combinations’? There are 2 factors to think about here. Firstly you can only use 2 of your 4 hole cards (together with 3 cards from the board) at showdown. Secondly, to win a hand in Pot-Limit Omaha you will need a very strong hand – the nuts or something close to it.

Relating back to Holdem hands is a clear way to explain, since with 4 hole cards you can make up 6 combinations of the familiar 2-card starting hands.

To picture this imagine 4 cards marked A, B, C and D. Your 6 combos of 2 cards are as follows:

A+B, A+C, A+D

B+C. B+D


Now we can look at some real PLO starting hands and compare the number of ‘live’ combinations that they contain. Let us compare K-K-8-3 of 4 different suits with 9-10-J-Q with just 2 suits.

The K-K-8-3 hand contains only one combination that can effectively hit the flop, K-K. In fact the rest of the hand mean (barring a miracle flop) that unless you hit a 3rd King you will probably have to throw your hand away. In fact even if a King does flop the presence of 2 suited cards, or another high card could easily mean an opponent has a monster draw against you – caution would be advised!

The 9-10-J-Q hand has many more combinations that could hit a strong hand on a number of flops. All 6 of the 2 card hands work together in some way to make straights and the 2 suits mean there are (non-nut) flush possibilities as well. Imagine a flop of A-K-8, with 2 of your suit – the number of combinations in your hand make you a huge favorite to make the best hand by the river.

That is not to say that high-pair hands are not valuable – they certainly will have a place in your balanced Pot Limit Omaha Strategy. The real point is that you need to have several combinations working for you to hit flops in many ways – playing such hands will also provide you the benefit of being difficult to read when you bet out on seemingly ragged flops.

High-pair hands that also have different combinations working for them are much stronger than ‘bare pairs’ hands. Take for example A-A-8-7 ‘Double Suited’ (that is 2 suits both to the ace). Here you have a powerful combination hand, the A-A may make top set, 2 nut flushes are possible and the 7-8 may make you a straight. On the flop you will be in a position to quickly assess whether you have outs to a nut hand – a powerful combination in any Pot-Limit Omaha starting hand.

Part #2 of our PLO Starting Hands Guide looks at the various hand types you will be dealt playing pot-limit Omaha and assesses their relative pre-flop strengths.