The Pros: Chance Kornuth, John Beauprez, and Fernando ‘JNandez87’ Habegger
Craig Tapscott: If someone could only study pot-limit Omaha for 20 to 30 minutes a day, which area or situation would you recommend they devote their time to? What worked best for you when you first made the transition from no-limit hold’em to PLO?
Chance Kornuth: I encourage students to simply play as much as possible, particularly when they’re feeling confident or winning. Most players don’t play enough when winning and play too long when losing. Nowadays there is so much training material available, which can feel overwhelming as a player because subconsciously it may feel that if you haven’t digested every piece of content, you may have a blind spot providing an edge to your opponent. But realistically, I’ve always learned more from simply putting in volume at a stake where the swings don’t bother me mentally, and following up with a session review with a coach or player whose game I respect.
John Beauprez: I spent too much time focusing on board textures, that from a frequency standpoint, occur rarely. For example, strategic adjustments for a flop of A-2-2 rainbow in a three-bet pot. In this situation, altering your approach doesn’t equate to a large profit increase over thousands of hands. The better approach is to focus on the situations that occur most frequently, such as button vs. big blind ranges in single-raised pots, nailing down your three-bet range facing a late-position opener, and a variety of the other most commonly-played scenarios. I advise players to first make an honest assessment about their game, then after identifying your biggest weakness, focus on turning that into a strength.
Fernando ‘JNandez87’ Habegger: You need to focus on preflop strategy first. When you’re new to PLO, it’s so easy to make massive mistakes based on preflop hand selection. It’s understandable, because you’re suddenly getting dealt four cards instead of two. All these hands look so playable and nice, and you want to get involved. What most players don’t realize is that the majority of these hands aren’t actually as great as they might look. So, you’re going to end up in a lot of problem spots preflop that can also compound post-flop if you don’t know the right ranges. You will end up getting dominated.
Preflop hand selection by far is the most important element of PLO when you’re new to the game. You want to create a plan and an outline of the game and then jump into each one of these study areas one by one. Spend a few days on raising first in, then a few days on three-betting, cold calling, defending the big blinds, facing a three-bet, etc. And all these choices play quite differently than no-limit hold’em. Different concepts are applied because of the pot-limit sizing, different ranges, and frequencies that are being used. Again, it’s very easy to make massive mistakes. So what you should do is seek out some hands-on tools that allow you to understand these ranges, and start getting an idea of how you should approach PLO preflop decisions.
Craig Tapscott: A-A and K-K are the holy grail of starting hands in hold’em, yet they can be much trickier to play in PLO. What’s the biggest mistake new PLO players make with these starting hands? Bonus question… is there a situation where you would ever fold aces preflop in PLO?
Chance Kornuth: I’ve seen many new players both underplay or overplay their aces combinations preflop. Of course, I’ve mostly been playing the Galfond Challenge and since ranges are wider and more aggressive dynamics exist, you want to three-bet almost all of your A-A-x-x combos since lighter four-bets are the norm. And getting all in preflop with A-A-x-x always yields a nice profit.
In terms of situations where folding aces preflop is best, I can think of only one, rare occurrence. In PLO tournaments on the bubble as a medium stack when other short stacks are likely to bust soon, you could consider folding aces. Our bust out frequency is too high with just A-A preflop (even the strongest combos are only 65+ percent against most ranges), so it’s better to just avoid the high variance spot and fold into the money. In cash games I would never fold A-A at any stack depth. Beyond the immediate equity A-A-x-x has, even at deeper stacks when it becomes obvious due to the action that at least one other player has aces, you can still disguise your hand by calling, and utilize the blocker effects of aces on many different textures.
John Beauprez: The classic mistake is ignoring stack sizes and lacking positional awareness when deciding whether to inflate the pot. As a rule of thumb, you can three-bet or four-bet preflop with any combo of aces as long as you can get the stack-to-pot-ratio (SPR) to ~1 on the flop; so, you can unexploitably go all-in on any board. As SPR’s become deeper, becoming more selective with which A-A combos to inflate the pot with gains importance. Generally, single-suited A-A combos that can make a straight are okay to three-bet (especially when in position and even more so against a weak opponent). With 100 big blinds against more advanced players, you can begin to mix in some flat calls facing a three-bet, especially with stronger A-A-x-x combinations like A-A-10-9 double suited.
Fernando ‘JNandez87’ Habegger: Let’s start off by making clear that aces are still by far the very best and strongest hands in PLO, and they are much stronger than kings. In a sense, that is very similar to no-limit hold’em.
In PLO, however, kings will have more equity than aces compared to the same hand matchup in hold’em. Single-suited disconnected Kings like K-K-9-4 will do far worse versus aces than a hand like K-K-10-9 double suited. With aces, you can’t go too wrong preflop, as long as you make sure that you just three-bet your opponent if you can. And you can four-bet whenever you want as well, aces are doing fine in most situations. On rare occasions, you do sometimes fold aces preflop in PLO. For example, if you face a tight, open raise from early position and you have trip rainbow aces like A-A-A-7, then you are supposed to fold. ♠
Chance Kornuth is the founder and lead instructor for Chip Leader Coaching. He has two WSOP bracelets, including the 2010 $5,000 pot-limit Omaha event and the 2018 $3,000 no-limit hold’em online event. He also won the 2016 AUD$25,000 Aussie Millions High Roller, and the 2014 Bellagio Cup. In total, he has amassed $8 million in live tournament earnings. Kornuth is currently battling Phil Galfond in a series of high-stakes online PLO matches as part of the Galfond Challenge.
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.
Fernando ‘JNandez87’ Habegger is a long-time established PLO poker specialist and coach, having started in 2005. In 2018, Habegger launched PLOMastermind.com, a pot-limit Omaha training platform. He is the author of Mastering Small Stakes Pot Limit Omaha for D&B Poker Publishing. Habegger also livestreams PLO cash games on his Twitch channel JNandez Poker.