The Pros: Patrik Antonius, John Beauprez, and ‘Suited Superman’
Craig Tapscott: What are some flops where you may consider folding the nuts in pot-limit Omaha? Can you share some examples and explain why?
Patrik Antonius: It is true that sometimes the right play is to throw your hand away, even if you are currently holding the nuts. It is a basic situation where you have flopped the nut straight and you have no redraw with it. One requirement I consider to fold the nut straight on the flop is that the stacks are deep enough and there is action which strongly indicates that at least one of the players is holding the same nut straight.
Let me go over an example to explain. You have called a raise with a hand like A-10-9-5 from the button and the flop comes 6-7-8 with two hearts. You don’t have a heart draw or the A. Four players are seeing the flop and the player from the big blind bets and the preflop aggressor raises the pot. Let’s say there is $1,000 in the middle and BB bets $500 and the preflop aggressor raises the full pot and makes it $3,000. If you are playing with less than $10,000 it will be difficult to let this go. But what if you and your opponents all have $20,000 or more?
You need to understand a few things in this situation. If you have the same nut straight with your opponent, then chopping the pot is the best you can do. That’s because you can’t improve your hand. The profit will be extremely small if you are splitting the pot. And if your opponent has a draw with his hand, then he/she is freerolling you for scooping the full pot. Risking for example 100 big blinds to chop the pot while making two to three big blinds profit is definitely not worth it. Your opponents can have a bigger straight draw with his straight if he has 9-10-J-X , or he/she can have a flush draw with his straight, or a set with his straight.
Even if you are leading now, you can still be a pretty big underdog if your opponent has a set and a flush draw with it. Going all-in on the flop here would be a poor decision if you are a 40-60 dog putting your full stack in when you have almost nothing invested in the pot.
If you don’t agree on the fold on the flop, then you should only call the raise on the flop. The best-case scenario is you can bluff this pot yourself with a flush card or if the board pairs, and make your opponent lay down the same straight as you. This play works well from position, and you don’t need any key blockers to make this kind of bluff.
John Beauprez: Folding the nuts correctly on the flop occurs most frequently when:
1. The nut hand is a straight
2. The board is two-tone
3. The pot is multi-way
4. The SPR (stack to pot ratio) is >10
5. There is heavy betting-action
Imagine the following scenario: At a nine-handed table, you open under-the-gun with A A 8 7 and receive a call from the middle position, the cutoff, the button, and the big blind. The flop comes 10 9 6. In no-limit hold’em, flopping the nuts on this board texture is very strong, and even in a multi-way pot we are happy to shove as much into the pot as we can, but in PLO there are many reasons to proceed with caution and under the right circumstances consider folding:
A. If we continuation bet and get called, our hand will have low visibility on later streets. There are few runouts where 8-7 will still be the nuts, so our ability to continue aggression on later streets is diminished.
B. If we continuation bet and get raised, our opponent is repping a range of hands that is either freerolling us (8-7 with a flush draw or move-ups to a better straight, such as Q-J-8-7) or is actually a favorite against our hand even though we hold the current nuts. For example, hands such as a set plus flush draw, or K-Q-J-x with a flush draw are both favorites against our current holding.
Of course, if we were in a tournament situation where we only had 20 bb or less we could never fold, but in a cash game where stacks are typically deeper, it’s normal to pot control on very dynamic board textures with the nuts, particularly when out of position.
Suited Superman: In PLO, with four cards, you’re going to flop the nuts way more often than in no-limit hold’em. You will often be facing a situation where two or more players flop the nut straight. If the stacks are shallow compared to the pot, it is never wrong to put the money in. However, big mistakes I often see PLO beginners do is to stack off many big blinds in a pot where they flop a straight without redraw versus multiple opponents.
For example, if you are holding A A 10 9 on 8 7 6 flop, facing a bet and a raise, you can just fold the hand deep stacked with not a lot of money invested in the pot. The reason being is that your opponents can have a straight already with flush draw or a set to redraw to a better hand. Against those hands, you are drawing dead to chopping the pot.
A hand that I played recently online: I open with A 10 J J from early position to $100 in $5-$10-$20 ($10 ante) game and got three callers to a flop of K Q J. I checked, the player on the button bet $300, and everyone else folded. I check raised to $1,100, he three-bet to $4,000, and I jammed all in for $11,000.
He made the call and had A 10 7 7 for a naked flopped nuts. In this instance, he could only chop the pot, and could lose if the flush came or the board paired. Sure enough, I river a queen to make jacks full and took down a big pot thanks to my opponent’s mistake.
(Editor’s Note: It’s interesting that all three players came up with nearly identical scenarios.)
Craig Tapscott: If someone could only study PLO for 20 minutes a day, which area or situation would you recommend they devote their time to?
Patrik Antonius: If someone who is not very experienced with PLO wants to have the best improvement to his game with only 20 minutes a day, I would recommend studying the preflop hand values to get a better understanding how to play more optimally.
If your preflop game has lots of leaks, it’s much more difficult to overcome those leaks after the flop in PLO compared to no-limit where you need more blockers in order to execute profitable bluffs. Playing poor starting hands will get you in many tough situations where you are more likely to make poor decisions.
John Beauprez: For beginning players, dedicating your study time to mastering preflop strategy will pay the largest dividends. Preflop is unique because it’s the only street you’re forced to play each hand. Moreover, preflop mistakes compound on later streets, so even small adjustments preflop can dramatically increase your winrate.
In terms of specific preflop areas to focus on, I suggest focusing on the most common scenarios, such as defending the BB when facing opening ranges from each position, or which ranges are profitable to open on the button facing a variety of stack depths in the blinds.
A runner-up area is post-flop bet sizing. A player with sound bet sizing fundamentals is naturally keen on how different ranges interact with various board textures, as well as multi-street planning and polarity advantages. In other words, if you understand the why behind the EV of different bet sizes, then you will have an easier time adjusting quickly to whatever scenario the PLO gods throw your way.
Suited Superman: I think preflop ranges should be every beginner player’s most important area to study. Because in PLO, there are many more combinations of starting hands: 270,725 compared to 1,326 in hold’em. Knowing which hands to VPIP (voluntarily put chips in pot) from which position is crucial to applying correct strategies post flop down the game tree.
Often times, I see players enter a pot with a loose range, thinking that they will hit the flop in many ways with four cards. Although it is true, when playing in a full ring game, they will often hit the board, but not strong enough to commit more chips compared to someone who plays tighter ranges with bigger cards, bigger suits, and more connectivity.
My tips for beginners in PLO would be, try a flash card or an online random hand generator, or simply get a deck of cards and deal yourself four random cards to determine if the hand is a raise, call, or fold preflop. Once you master this area, post-flop Omaha will be easier to study. There are some training sites that provide a matrix solution for how preflop ranges should be in PLO to make you feel more confident on entering the pot. Remember, tight is always right.
(Editor’s Note: Again, all three players deliver similar advice!) ♠
Patrik Antonius is one of the most successful and respected professional players in the world. He has career live tournament cashes totaling more than $12 million and is one of the winningest cash game players ever both live and online. Antonius is the founder of the innovative GTO and social media application – First Land of Poker (FLOP) found on Google Play and Apple Store. He is also the creator of the Patrik Antonius Poker Challenge (PAPC) live events.
John Beauprez is a WSOP bracelet winner, having won the 2013 $1,500 six-max no-limit hold’em event for $324,764. He has been playing PLO professionally since 2008, and has personally coached more than 400 players ranging from small-stakes grinders to high-stakes crushers. He is also the author of the best-selling PLO QuickPro Manual, and is the founder and lead instructor at PLOQuickPro.com.
‘Suited Superman’ has been an avid poker player for ten years and prefers to be anonymous. He plays with his trademark Clark Kent card protector at games in Las Vegas, the Hustler Casino, and on the Live At The Bike stream. He started posting pictures and videos from the game on his popular Instagram account @suitedsuperman. He hopes more players will dip their feet in the water and give PLO a shot, as you might never want to see just two cards again.
*Photo credits: Rene Velli, Suited Superman, WSOP