How to play - Introduction to Pot Limit Omaha (PLO)

Though No Limit Texas Holdem (NLHE) is the most popular poker variant, Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) is the second most popular and has recently seen a rapid increase in popularity. This section will take you through the basic rules of PLO.

As in NLHE, the aim is to win all of the chips in a tournament and as much as possible in a cash game. A pot can be won either at showdown or by inducing all players to fold their hands.

The hand rankings:

High Card

One Pair

Two Pair

Three of a Kind



Full House

Four of a Kind

Straight Flush

Royal Flush

Betting Rules:

PLO is a pot limit game. This means that a player can only bet or raise up to the value of the chips currently in the pot.

For example, if the blinds are 1 and 2, the maximum opening raise would be 7. This is worked out by first calculating the value of the blinds (1 + 2) plus the raise, which is 2 x the value of the big blind (4), so the maximum raise preflop = 7. After the flop, the maximum bet cannot be greater than the value of the chips in the pot.

4 Hole Cards:

Instead of being dealt two hole cards as in NLHE, players receive four in PLO. There is one additional rule that separates PLO from NLHE: players must use two of their four hole cards when making their best five card combination. Exactly two cards, not one, not three and not four. Here is an example:


No Limit Hold'em Hand

Pot Limit Omaha Hand

In NLHE a player would have the nut flush, as they are holding the A♥. In PLO the player is only holding pair of kings. This is because two cards must be used from the player's holding, which means that in order to have a flush a player must be holding two hearts. In this example, as the player only has one heart in their hand, they are forced to use a non-heart card as their second card.

This rule has the same impact on all hand values in PLO. Another example is a board that reads AAAK2. If a player holds K234, they would not have a full house as they would be playing K4, giving the player the hand AAAK4. In order to make a full house on this board, the player needs to be holding a pocket pair in their hand.

Blinds and Button

Before any cards are dealt or any betting takes place, the ‘dealer button' is placed in front of one of the players. The button signifies the order of play and moves left (clockwise) one seat at the start of every new hand.

The two players to the left of the button are each forced to make a compulsory bet, known as the ‘small blind' and the ‘big blind'. They are known as ‘the blinds' because the players have to make the bets prior to their cards being dealt.

The player sitting to the immediate left of the button is referred to as the ‘small blind' and the player sitting to his or her left is the ‘big blind'. The small blind is usually half the value of the big blind.

PLO Strategy Tips

  • The average winning hand in NLHE is two pair. Players can expect to see many more strong hands when playing PLO as there are twice as many cards in play. This greatly increases the strength of the average winning hand. 
  • It is commonly agreed that PLO is a nut based game. If a player doesn't have ‘the nuts' (the best possible five card combination) by the river there is a good chance they may not win the hand.
  • Players should try to be selective when playing hands both pre- and post-flop. It is best to avoid playing weak hands (such as those containing low cards) as a player will lose the hand the majority of the time.
  • In NLHE a player holding a straight or a flush will win the pot the majority of the time and losing to a higher flush in NLHE is a relatively rare occurrence. However, in PLO a low flush will lose to a higher flush far more often. This reinforces the need to carefully consider which hands to play.
  • High pocket pairs are good starting hands. This is because they have the chance to building a big full house though reassessing hand strength after the flop is still the most important consideration. Hands that are strong preflop in PLO can be rendered weak if they don't improve using the community cards. For example AsAhKsKh is the best starting hand in PLO but on a 7c2d7dQc8h board, the player is only holding two pair (AA77Q). This is unlikely to win at showdown. If a player does not hit three of a kind or better with a big pair then the pair is normally worthless.
  • Connecting cards are also an important factor. A hand like JT98 is a very good Pot-Limit Omaha hand because it provides the player with many straight opportunities. Holding JT98 is better than holding QJ56 because you can build many multi-way straight possibilities with JT98 which you cannot with QJ56.
  •  Suited cards should be treated with caution. Players should draw to an ace high (nut) flushes though drawing to non-nut flushes is not advisable. Having non-ace high suited cards is only helpful for redraws, multiple draws, or back-door flush draws. Be careful drawing to just a flush that is not the nut flush.
  • A common mistake in PLO is that players tend to overvalue small and middle pocket pairs. A hand like 5588 is not as strong as many players think. Even if you hit a set, you can easily lose to a higher set, straight, or flush.
  • Position is very important in PLO (as it is in NLHE) and later position is better. If a player is in early position and flops ‘the nuts' in a PLO game they will almost always have to bet their hand to protect it. People in early positions therefore tend to give away their hand strength and it is easier for players in late position to bluff and win the pot if the early positions are not showing strength. 

How to play