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PLO Basics: Playing Pocket Aces, Part 1

11/09/2020 by Steve Blay
Hand Analysis

I’ve been doing a series of articles on PLO, looking at some of the basics for new players. PLO is a big jump from No-Limit Hold’em, but if your Hold’em skills are solid, it’s an amazing experience that will benefit you as an all-around poker player. And best of all, it will even take your No-Limit Hold’em game to the next level, because you’ll be forced to think so deeply about concepts like outs and blockers, they will almost seem trivial when you return to Hold’em.

In my last article we talked about crucial PLO concepts such as position, blockers, and pot control. Today, I’m going to be talking about playing pocket aces, a (seemingly) trivial topic in Hold’em. Just get your money in, right? In PLO, it’s not so simple…

Pocket Aces are NOT a huge favorite in PLO

So you’ve played enough Hold’em to know that your pocket aces are a big favorite pre-flop, usually somewhere between 80% to 90% depending on what your opponent is holding. The very worse scenario (if you get your money in pre-flop), is if your opponent is holding a suited connector like T9 . But even then, you’re a 77% favorite (you can use the Advanced Poker Training winning odds calculator to verify that).

In PLO, you still are going to be a favorite with pocket Aces pre-flop (with any two side cards). But you are not going to have that same huge edge that you have in Hold’em.

Let’s take a hand like AA82 , pocket aces with garbage to go with it.

If your opponent holds four random cards like Q862 , you’re still only a 65% favorite!

You’ll only be about a 60% favorite over most reasonable holdings. And if your opponent holds a rundown (basically a suited-connector, PLO style), for example JT98 , now you’re barely a favorite at all (51%).

It’s important to understand this, especially in PLO tournaments. Sure, get your money in pre-flop with pocket aces. But don’t expect the huge edges you’ve come to enjoy in Hold’em.

I should mention that of course it’s always possible your opponent is holding the other two aces, and you could be an underdog. For example, you hold the aforementioned AA82 but your opponent is holding something like AAJT . This is going to be a split pot the vast majority of the time, because hitting a single Jack or Ten doesn’t help your opponent (you didn’t forget they can only play two cards from their hand, right?) Yes, you are getting freerolled a little bit here, but in my experience it’s difficult to avoid this happening from time to time, especially in lower-stakes games and tournaments. You can end up costing yourself more money by second guessing yourself pre-flop. My advice is get your money in with Aces when you can. There are a lot of crazy PLO players out there, and generally you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I guess an analogous situation in Hold’em would be second-guessing yourself with pocket Kings pre-flop, because you’re afraid of running into Aces. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes you’ve just got to lose your money. Because everyone has been there before – you’re sure your opponent has pocket Aces, you reluctantly get your money in with Kings, and they flip over 69 because it’s their “favorite hand”. (And then of course they flop two-pair and you lose, but let’s move on…)

So, we should be happy to get our money in pre-flop with pocket Aces in PLO. What if we can’t get all the money in? This is where beginning PLO players really lose their shirt. Pocket Aces are so much easier to play on the flop in Hold’em than they are in PLO. I’m going to talk all about this in Part 2. Stay Tuned…

Steve Blay runs Omaha Poker Training. Practice your PLO poker game while playing up to 500 hands an hour against the smartest computerized players ever designed.