Pre-flop play

So hopefully you have a good idea which hands to play and now you’ve been dealt one of those combinations. How should you play it?

If you are playing the game with fixed betting limits, there is very little room to be clever with the betting. You should raise and re-raise with solid hands, especially if you have position after the flop.

Pot limit poker is great because it combines large bets (often larger than would be made in a no limit game) with short odds to call (never more than 2/1). With that knowledge there are two trains of thought about how to play pre-flop for pot limit Omaha Eight or Better. One school suggests playing all hands aggressively (assuming you’re only playing premium hands) thus allowing you to make larger bets after the flop and punish people for trying to out-draw you. The other recommends prudence before the flop, still playing premium hands only, but calling and making decisions on the flop based on the betting patterns of others and thus offering a degree of what we call “pot control”.

I recommend a mixture of the two. One common mistake players make in Omaha Eight or Better is that they only raise the nuttiest of nut hands. This is a mistake as it makes you easy to read. At the same time, pot betting in early position can be expensive if you find a call and a re-pot behind you and you’re facing a frighteningly large bet with only a rough A-3-x-x.

Look at your position, your hand and what you want to achieve. Does your hand play better heads up, or is it a multi-way hand? Hands that suffer with lots of players in the pot are A-A or K-K based high hands. You ideally want to get these hands heads up, so that, even if you don’t make a set, there's a good chance you still hold the best high, or a draw to it. Your aim with these hands is getting a call from an A-2-x-x hand which you can push off a high flop.

Alternatively, if you found yourself on the button with a hand like A-3-Q-Q with four limpers, you should limp along and look to hit the flop with either a 2 (that would counterfeit players holding A-2-x-x) or a Queen. Again, with position, you’ll have a lot of information once the flop is dealt. These marginal hands or most high-only hands require you to be priced in before the flop.

How do you keep people from putting you on A-A-x-x or A-2-3-x for a pre-flop raise? Firstly, don’t always bet the pot. In pot limit poker, it is fairly standard to see players bet the pot whenever they want to raise, especially pre-flop. In brick and mortar card rooms players often get a nasty shock after announcing, “Pot!”, only to discover that their bet is twelve times the big blind! An opening raise in pot limit allows you to first call the big blind and then raise the blind, your bet and the small blind. That means three and a half bets. If there has already been a pot raise and you “re-pot” it, it’s going to be your call of those three and a half bets plus a raise of seven more. Stick a smooth call in between and you can quickly see how large the betting in pot limit becomes.

You should usually bet somewhere between the minimum raise and the pot bet at any point in any position pre-flop. This is whenever you have a raising hand. You should tend towards a pot bet, probably two thirds of the time. Try to use the Dan Harrington method of randomising your play, using the second hand on your watch and the section of the face it happens to be crossing to help keep these bets random but in proportion.

You will spot a lot of players who limp into every pot, regardless of their holdings. This, they believe keeps their hands a mystery and protects them from playing big pot poker (the pot control I mentioned before - we will come on to this topic later). This is possibly an okay strategy in fixed limit games, especially very “loose” ones, where lots of players are seeing each flop and most hands go to showdown. However, pot limit is no place for the fearful and the only thing that limping in achieves is an increase in the pot sized bet the player will be facing when someone in late position raises. You can exploit these players by raising in position knowing that, if they call, they have something, but if they fold, it just cost them that bet.

Pot control, therefore, is the skill of keeping the size of the total bets where you want them to be. The different factors to consider here include the odds of you hitting your own hand or redraw, if you have one, the odds of your opponent making the hand you put them on, and the overall stack sizes of the players involved. If a player has less bets left than the chips in the middle, they are potentially committed to the hand.

Aggressive players will aim to build big pots so that they can make large bets and put their opponents to difficult decisions where as more cautious layers may try to play small-ball poker so that they can not be exploited in this way. Pot control is easiest to attain when in position and is another strong reason for not playing hands when too far from the button.

One final word on pre-flop play; Omaha eight or better is a pretty game to play, you get lots of cards and will virtually always pick up some sort of draw on the flop with them. But don’t fall into the trap of playing lots of hands, let the people calling you do that. Play good hands and the occasional semi bluff/high-only with position. Other players will notice you playing tight but still won’t be able to resist playing their lesser hands. Solid pre-flop play can really ease your post-flop decisions which i will cover in the next section of this tutorial.
More Advices And Tutorial in Oamaha Coming Soon,