The Issue of Raising Pre-Flop in Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo

The Issue of Raising Pre-Flop in Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo

More and more, I see a growing trend in online beginners playing Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) and Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo (PLO8) without understanding the importance of pre-flop play and hand selection. Some online players believe you should never raise pre-flop, but limp with about anything. Other online players believe you should raise with any four cards. While I don’t plan to discuss how and when people should raise pre-flop in this article, I do need to address the growing trend of online players believing people should never raise pre-flop.

You read that right, by the way – many online players believe it is dead wrong to ever raise pre-flop in PLO or PLO8. In fact, I’ve seen players get quite vocal about it when they see other players do it. These players are so resolute in their beliefs that they simply don’t see the gaping whole in their reasoning. They reason:
  • You never know what cards are coming on the flop, so why raise?

  • Anybody can push chips into a pot, that’s for No Limit play, not pot limit play.

  • You never have a significant pre-flop advantage, so raising is dumb.


  • All three of these points-of-view are easily addressed and debunked. Let’s address them one by one.

    The Unknown Is Not a Reason to Play Passively Pre-Flop


    If players played passively because “you never know what will come next”, there would rarely be a good reason to raise until fifth street. I think everybody can agree that is not a good plan. While poker is definitely multi-faceted, one of the key components has to be statistics and math. Players have to be able to determine if, statistically, they likely have an advantage at any point and all points during the game. Of course, in Hold’em it can be a little more obvious when you are holding AA pre-flop, but that just means you have to work harder in PLO or PLO8 to know when you may have an advantage.

    Of course, after the flop, 78% of your hand is revealed in PLO and PLO8. Maybe they mean to wait until after the flop? Well, that makes little sense, either. In Hold’em, 71% of your hand is revealed after the flop, but I think everybody agrees you can’t wait to raise in Hold’em. Why the difference in PLO and PLO8? Is it because the advantage is simply harder to see and slimmer in PLO and PLO8?

    Sizing Bets Is Important in PLO and PLO8


    Just because a player cannot usually “push all-in” at will in PLO and PLO8, it doesn’t mean you should play passively pre-flop and simply call or raise the minimum. Players are still tasked with the job of properly sizing their bets. Only one of a no-limit player’s weapons are taken away in pot-limit games, the overbet. This fact makes it no more or less important to identify advantages and push them. It simply makes it a little harder to push players around and move them off of hands.

    Smaller Pre-Flop Advantages Increases the Importance of Raising


    Now we get to the nuts and bolts of the argument. People believe the smaller pre-flop advantages makes it silly to raise, but game theory will show us that it actually makes it more important to raise when you should. This is best illustrated with a simple, game-thoery example. I like to use the 20-sided die examples in which a player rolls a 20-sided die and the result of the rolls determines the winner. In both examples, the following facts remain constant:
  • Both players agree to roll the 20-sided die 100 times.

  • There are two players

  • Player A must fold, call the $1 big blind, raise to a total of $2, or raise to a total of $10.

  • Player B must pay a $1 big blind and can only elect to fold or call.


  • Let’s call the first example the Hold’em Example. In Hold’em, a player holding a premium hand may have somewhere between a 2:1 to 4:1 advantage against a single player who is willing to call a raise. (Of course, this is dependent on a lot of factors and KK could even be a significant underdog to AA). So, for purposes of the die rolls, let’s say Player A has a 3:1 advantage and wins if the 20-sided die rolls a number between 1 and 15. Player B wins if the roll comes up between 16 and 20.

    So, Player A may elect to:
  • Fold – This would obviously be ridiculous with a 3:1 advantage.

  • Call – Does this make sense? Player A would win 75 out of 100 hands for a net gain of $50.

  • Raise to $2 – To properly evaluate Player A’s decision here, game theory dictates that we look at Player B’s decision. If Player A raises to $2, Player B may fold (thus, losing $100 automatically) or call (thus, losing a net total of $100 as well). In both cases, the gains made by Player A would be greater than simply calling. So, this is the best decision so far. (NOTE: Game theory would also call this the optimal strategy since Player A would be indifferent to Player B’s decision.)

  • Raise to $10 – Again, to properly evaluate Player A’s decision here, game theory dictates that we look at Player B’s decision. If Player A raises to $10, Player B may fold (thus, losing $100 automatically) or call (thus, losing a net total of $500). Therefore, Player B would definitely fold, losing $100. Again, this is better than a call, but no better than raising to $2.


  • So, to summarize, for the Hold’em example, Player A would probably raise $1 every hand and win $100 over the total of 100 rolls; however, let’s say Player A forgot to raise 20 times and only called. Now, Player A would only win $90, $10 less than had he played the optimal strategy at all times. This is an important concept to remember.

    Now, let’s call the second example the Omaha Example. Since advantage in Omaha are smaller, let’s say Player A wins with a roll of 1-11 and Player B wins with a roll of 12-20.

    Again, Player A may elect to:
  • Fold – This would obviously be ridiculous with a 55% advantage.

  • Call – Does this make sense? Player A would win 55 out of 100 hands for a net gain of $10.

  • Raise to $2 – To properly evaluate Player A’s decision here, game theory dictates that we look at Player B’s decision. If Player A raises to $2, Player B may fold (thus, losing $100 automatically) or call (thus, losing a net total of $20). In both cases, the gains made by Player A would be greater than simply calling. So, this is the best decision so far. (NOTE: Obviously, Player B would call every time.)

  • Raise to $10 – Again, to properly evaluate Player A’s decision here, game theory dictates that we look at Player B’s decision. If Player A raises to $10, Player B may fold (thus, losing $100 automatically) or call (thus, losing a net total of $100). Again, in both cases, the gains made by Player A would be greater than simply calling or only raising to $2. So, this is the best choice for Player A. (NOTE: Game theory would also call this the optimal strategy since Player A would be indifferent to Player B’s decision.)


  • So, to summarize, for the Omaha example, Player A would raise to $10 every hand and win $100 over the total of 100 rolls; however, let’s say Player A forgot to raise 20 times and only called. Now, Player A would only win $82, $18 less than had he played the optimal strategy at all times.

    Now, remember, by not playing the optimal strategy in the Hold’em Example, Player A only lost out on $10. By not playing the optimal strategy in the Omaha Example, Player A lost out on $18 – or $8 more than the Hold’em Example.

    While this is obviously a simplified Game Theory example, it can still be applied to real life. It illustrates how, when advantages are smaller, it is even more important to identify small edges and push every advantage. The failure to push advantages costs more money when playing an optimal strategy. To say pushing smaller advantages is less important, or even stupid, is simply, well, stupid.

    [thanks to kc via cc]