Equity Consideration in PLO

Sometimes in PLO, even if you are ahead in equity vs top set with a monster draw it may be better to wait until the turn...

Posted Apr 03, 2016


Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

Sometimes in PLO, even if you are ahead in equity vs top set with a monster draw it may be better to wait until the turn to get all of your money in and avoid the board pairing.

To preface this section of this article, I have probably played 20 times more hours of live no limit holdem than I have of PLO. However, it seems that mid-stakes PLO is actually starting to become more popular and there are times when even good NL players should game select and choose a good PLO table over a bad NL game. My biggest gripe with live PLO, however, is that the game moves too slow. Especially if the table allows running the board more than once it seems like you get anywhere between 30-50% less hands per hour in PLO vs NL. That means that your $$ per hand must be considerably higher in PLO versus NL when comparing hourly rates.

However, even in my limited experience, I still feel like I have a grasp over the game and overall the average recreational PLO player is much weaker than what is now the average NL recreational player. As a NL pro, I will certainly admit that PLO is much more complex than NL as you cannot just play a preflop starting chart at a certain number of big blinds from a given position to “break even”.

As you transition from NL to PLO one of the first things that is glaringly obvious is that the variance is way higher than its two card counterpart. Even when you have the nuts on the flop, usually in the form of top set, you can certainly be a dog, and in most other cases you are only a slight favorite over a monster draw.

One of the other things that is clear to an astute poker player is that most, non-advanced players in PLO, tend to play their hands “face up”, especially from out of position as new players quickly learn that it is basically suicide to slowplay and give away free cards. In PLO, the concept of denying your opponents the proper odds to call becomes paramount. This is much different than in NL.

However, even with a big draw certain situations can become tricky. I played a hand last week at the Commerce casino that really demonstrates this concept. The game plays $5-$5 with a $500-$1500 buy-in with a mandatory “rock” straddle to the winner of each hand. In this particular hand I was the straddle under the gun and the player to my immediate left opened to $40. Three people called in the field and the big blind, who is the villain in this hand also called. I completed the action and called with A 9 8 6 from the straddle. The flop game down T 7 3 giving me an absolute monster draw. The BB checked, and I bet $150 into the pre flop raiser as I new I was favored over basically every single hand. The pot got folded around to the villain the in the big blind who was a typical mid-stakes, face up, PLO player. We started the hand $2000 effective and he raised to $600. I immediately knew that he 100% hand pocket tens. At the time I did not know the exact equity but figured that I was a small favorite over top set. However, I knew that there was no way he would fold pocket tens so I decided just to call. Why?

If I am a professional poker player am I not supposed to take any edge that comes my way? The answer to that question is yes, I am supposed to take this small edge but I can vastly increase my overall EV for the hand if I call and see a non board pairing turn, and call off again. You see if the board pairs, my equity goes down from about 52% to 0%, so why not wait and see if that happens?

Again I am by no means an advanced PLO player, however, even if my opponent folds on a heart turn card to what amounts to a pot size all-in, (and we are not saying that he will always do this) the play here of waiting to increase your overall equity is more positive EV than the money lost from him check-folding. This is a concept I have read over many times in PLO books and here put to practice. The only time this would be the wrong play is if our opponent was capable of semi-bluffing worse draws and getting us off of the best hand on a board pairing turn or capable of raise-folding a hand for value on the flop, like middle or bottom set.

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