Pre-Flop Strategy

Domination is a familiar concept for Texas Holdem players – this occurs when one players hand is a 70% or more favorite before the flop, and usually involves hands with Aces and different strength kickers or a pair vs a higher pair.

This article looks at the subject of Domination in Omaha Poker – looking at whether we get similar situations involving domination either before or after the flop, and then asking whether we can make use of this knowledge in terms of the way we play hands. One of the key factors, especially at the lower to mid-limits is that assuming our premium hand is against another strong holding is often an incorrect assumption – opponents tending to play all sorts of semi-coordinated hands alongside their real monsters, the match-ups below can thus be considered ‘worst case’ at a lot of tables.

Premium Pair Hands

Everyone knows that Omaha Starting Hands are closer in value before the flop. However, this does not preclude dominating situations from occurring. Here is one of the most extreme examples of a dominated pre-flop PLO hand match-up.

Player #1: A-A-10-10 (2 suits) = 80.51%
Player #2: K-K-10-10 (4 suits) = 19.30% (plus a small chance of a tie with broadway straights)

Of course having the same kickers and dominating suits for the aces would be very unusual – yet making both hands 4-suited and choosing random low cards for kickers does not actually make a huge difference to the pre-flop equity.

Player #1: A-A-5-8 (4 suits) = 72.61%
Player #2: K-K-4-9 (4 suits) = 27.39%

In fact we can swing things into balance for the kings quite easily by making this into a ‘quality’ hand and giving the aces junk kickers. Imagine that the Kings had position in this last example – there are actually many more flops this hand would like than the aces, which would you rather have after the flop?

Player #1 – A-A-2-8 (4 suits) = 55.36%
Player #2 – K-K-10-J (2 suits) = 44.64%

Comparing those same junky aces to a medium rundown hand will highlight just how dangerous it is to assume that your hand is a large favorite:

Player #1 – A-A-2-8 (4 suits) = 51.34%
Player #2 – 8-9-10-J (2 suits) = 48.66%

And in a 3 way pot with both opponent’s holding quality hands:

Player #1 – A-A-2-8 (4 suits) = 28.66%
Player #2 – 8-9-10-J (2 suits) = 39.45%
Player #3 – K-K-A-Q (2 suits) = 31.88%

These percentages show that before the flop with premium pairs the quality of your hand is a major determinant of whether it is likely to dominate the holdings of your opponents. However, premium pairs are only a small part of a balanced PLO starting hands range, there are many other holdings you will play including pairs with help, rundowns and double suited hands with gaps. Next we will look at the pre-flop matchups for these hands against each other and against premium pairs.


The next question is whether one rundown can dominate another – depending on the highest cards and gaps. We exclude suits for the time being by making all of the hands 4 suited.

Player #1 – 5-6-7-8 (4 suits) = 22.51%
Player #2 – 6-7-8-9 (4 suits) = 62.71%
Tie = 14.79%

Even with the tie potential included in the calculation we can see that player #2 is in a dominating position here. Making this hand double suited increases this further to 68% favorite before the flop. Again, this is an extreme (though plausible) example, with most rundown vs rundown hands we will see a larger spread – for example:

Player #1 – 5-6-7-8 (4 suits) = 37.35%
Player #2 – 8-9-10-J (4 suits) = 62.43%

Here the difference in equity is narrowed and the potential ties made almost negligible. This highlights an important aspect of PLO poker – those small rundowns are very rarely in terrible shape against the range of hands your opponent could be holding. In the above example we only need to make player #1 hold a double-suited hand and the matchup comes 45% / 55% – a coin-flip in common poker parlance.

Coordinated Middle Pair Hands

We would all love our starting hands to be made up of quality premium pairs and rundown hands… however real life is more complicated. Often we will be playing those pair + help combinations which are the ‘bread and butter’ of PLO games – think J-J-10-8 single suited and you will not be too far off. Here we will look at whether these hands easily dominate each other – and then compare them to the premium pair hands (quality and not) and the rundowns.

Player #1 – J-J-10-8 (single suited) = 68.65%
Player #2 – 7-7-5-6 (4 suits) = 31.35%

While the answer is yes to the domination question for these bread and butter hands the information is only useful when we ‘know’ our opponents hand. The best way to illustrate this is to compare the same hand to a broadway rundown hand, a premium pair with help and a small rundown – then compare the results.
Against A Broadway Hand

Player #1 – J-J-10-8 (single suited) = 48.44%
Player #2 – 10-J-K-Q (single suited) = 45.55%

Against A Premium Pair With Kickers

Player #1 – J-J-10-8 (single suited) = 30.88%
Player #2 – A-A-Q-K (double suited) = 69.11%

Against A Small Double Suited Rundown

Player #1 – J-J-10-8 (single suited) = 61.17%
Player #2 – 5-6-7-8 (double suited) = 38.68%

Here we are dominated by the premiums and broadway rundowns, and a small favorite over the small rundown and smaller combo – looks like one of those way-ahead / way-behind situations.

This sums up the article nicely, domination is possible in PLO – however the types of hands and ranges that your opponents will play will often make it unclear whether you are the one dominated or dominating. We now need to take into account the most important aspect of Pot Limit Omaha – the flop – while bearing in mind that your opponents could well be raising a semi-coordinated holding that you are crushing. The great thing about raising premium hands in PLO is not necessarily that you will always have the best of it – it is knowing that you are very unlikely to have the worst of it!