The game of Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) or Omaha Hi often traps new players; simply because it looks a lot like Hold’em, but plays very differently. So just what types of mistakes do beginners make in PLO? Let's review three of the more common ones:
The first big mistake for many beginner PLO players occurs right after their cards are dealt to them. They overvalue the strength of certain types of hands – hands that are far stronger in Hold’em. For example a pair is a very powerful hand in Hold’em but, in Omaha Hi, pairs; even when they make a set, are easily beat on the river by better hands.
Why? Because in PLO there are so many more starting hand combinations, resulting in many more ways to make stronger winning hands.
In a 9-handed PLO game there are no fewer than 54 possible hand combinations compared to only 9 in Hold'em. So, if you have a hand like Kc-10d-3s-3h and the board is As-9c-3c, it is very likely that your set could already be the underdog to a set of aces or a set of nines.
If we change the board to 10s-9c-7d and you hold bottom set with Ks-Kc-7h-7s; there is a great possibility that someone has the jack-high straight with a hand like Qh-Js-10h-8s.
Misreading Your Hand
The second biggest mistake in PLO is misreading the board. In Omaha variations you must use two (and only two) cards from your hand and three from the board. This means that if your hand is: Jc-10c-6d-6h and the board is 5s-4h-3d-2c-Jd, you do not have a straight. The six in your hand counts for just one card and remember the iron-clad rule:
You must use TWO cards from your hand and THREE from the board.
In the aforementioned scenario you would be using one from your hand and four from the board – a big no-no in PLO. This is very different from Texas Hold’em where you can simply take one of the sixes to complete a six-high straight.
By changing your starting hand from Jc-10c-6d-6h to Jc-10c-7h-6h, then the straight is possible. Using the 7h and the 6h with the 5d, 4h and 3d from the board, you would make a seven-high straight.
Here's another example: On a board, 10h-10s-10d-4c you hold Ad-Ks-Jc-4h. In this scenario, you don't have a full house. You cannot use just the 4h to make tens-full-of-fours. However, in Hold’em, with a starting like Ad-4h on the same board, you could use the lone 4h to make a full house.
Overestimating a Draw/ Made Hand
The third big mistake that beginners make is overestimating a draw or made hand on the river.
If your starting hand in PLO is 10c-10s-3d-2h and the board is 7d-7h-Kc-2d-7; the chances of one of your opponents either holding the remaining seven for quads, or a bigger pair for a better full house, is much higher than in other poker genres. A lot of betting and/or raising on the river should give you cause for concern about the strength of your hand.
The number of hand combinations in PLO also means that draws are pursued more often and flush over flush or full house over full house happens a lot. Drawing to a ten-high flush can be costly. Even if you make the flush, it is often times beat by a better one in the same suit.