The PLO Bluffing Guide Part #1

In any form of poker the following is often true:

“Never bluff and your opponents will quickly realize that your bets indicate a strong hand. Always bluff and you will be trapped for a big pot pretty soon”

The key to bluffing is to ensure that this is balanced with value bets. You need to make sure your opponents can not accurately assess what any bet ‘means’ and so must maintain a balanced strategy of betting both strong and weak hands.

When bluffing in pot-limit omaha you must pay attention to several factors. In some ways the overall chance of a bluff succeeding are lower. However, spotting good circumstances for bluffs can be an extremely profitable endeavor – much of the intricacy of this game involves awareness of situations where your opponents can not take any heat! This article will look in detail at bluffing in pot-limit Omaha, to get your bluffs profitable from the start!

We start by looking at the key distinction between a ‘pure bluff’ and a ‘semi-bluff’ and explain why this is even more important in Pot-Limit Omaha. Next some of the factors that influence a bluff succeeding are listed – these include the number of opponents, characteristics of the flop and tendencies of players still in the hand. Part #2 in this series of articles will look at some more advanced Omaha bluffing techniques including the check-raise bluff and the ‘post-oak’ bluff.

Pure Bluffs And Semi-Bluffs

The distinction between a pure bluff and a semi-bluff is as follows: With a pure bluff you have no chance of winning the showdown when called, your only chance of winning the pot is to get your opponent to fold. When semi-bluffing you have ‘outs’ which may make you the best hand (for example a flush draw). You now have 2 ways of winning the hand, either you force your opponent to fold or, when called, you go on to make the best hand by hitting your outs. There is even a 3rd way a semi-bluff can work – a ‘scare card’ (such as a card that makes a straight possible) can fall on the turn, enabling you to take the pot away with a second semi-bluff later in the hand.

Expert players prefer the semi-bluff, the combination of ways to win the hand can make this move a profitable one – even when individually the components (your opponent folding or making the best hand by drawing out) may not be profitable.

With such a large number of combinations that can hit a players hand in Omaha the pure bluff can be a risky move. Statistically speaking someone will have hit a piece of almost every flop – and may well have hit a strong enough hand or draw to call a small bet, especially where the pot was not raised before the flop. If you feel your opponent would bet whether they hit the flop or not then a ‘call-bluff’ or ‘float’ may win a pot. This involves calling your opponent’s flop bet and then taking the pot away from them if they give up on the turn. The bluff of choice for Omaha playeris the semi-bluff, in fact with drawing hands often becoming favorites to win after the flop you may even find yourself “bluffing with the best hand!”

Factors That Influence Pot-Limit Omaha Bluffing Success Rates

Bluffing often depends on subtle factors such as whether your bet fits in with how you played on previous betting rounds in the hand – or even previous hands. While putting together a plausible ‘story’ with your bets is important, there are many other factors which will affect the success rates of your bluffs – these are listed below.

  1. Number Of Opponents: The ideal number of opponents to bluff in any form of poker is just one. In PLO each opponent has up to 6 ‘combinations’ of two cards, meaning your risk of being called increases dramatically with each additional player. Bluff into as few opponents as possible.
  2. Flop Texture: The key question is how many draws are available on the flop? If you miss a flop of 9-10-J with 2 suited cards do not even consider bluffing into more than a single opponent! There is just too great a risk that a made hand or a strong draw is out there against you. Ragged flops are better Q-2-7 of 3 suits does not contain any obvious draws. Here a bluff may get your opponents to fold.
  3. Scary Flops: These include flops which are all one suit and paired flops. In either case your opponents will either have hit a very strong hand, or very little. A bluff can find out quickly which one! Very few players are willing to call bets, particularly on paired boards without having hit – if you are flat called this is a danger signal, you should give up the bluff unless your opponent is known to be very weak.
  4. Aces On Board: These are very bad cards on the flop to bluff at. With so many players calling with even a single ace (for example if suited with another hole card) the chance of a 2-pair type hand calling you are fairly high. An ace and another picture card is doubly bad – since people like to play high cards there could easily be a combination of pairs and draws in opponent’s hands.
  5. The Threat Of Future Bets: Having a stack large enough to bet the size of the pot over several streets is another key factor in bluffing. If your stack is small then opponents are not under pressure after calling your bet. With the ‘hammer of future betting’ a reasonably small pot-size bet on the flop might well (in your opponent’s eyes) be followed by a much larger pot-sized bet on the turn, this alone can increase the chances of your bluff succeeding.
  6. Tendencies Of Opponents: Never Bluff a ‘Calling Station’ is the most obvious example here. Tight and timid opponents are the best for bluffs, beware of a wild player who (uncharacteristically) checks on a dangerous flop – they might well be planning to check-raise.
  7. Your Own ‘Image’: Are you considered a tight player? Or someone who will raise to try and take the pot every time you are checked to? Working out from your recent betting activity what the other players think about you can have a marked effect on your bluffing success rates.

To summarize, there are many factors involved in bluffing in PLO poker games. As you gain experience at the tables opportunities to bluff will become more and more obvious. For beginning players, semi-bluffs into a few tight opponents are optimal – especially on ragged flops. Part #2 of this series will continue to look in detail at effective bluffing in Pot-Limit Omaha, looking at specialized bluffs and how to ensure that your betting patterns ‘make sense’ in the context of the hand – information which can also be used for spotting bluffs!