Many players were first drawn to poker through No Limit Hold’em. Televised poker shows, home games or simply trying out the busier tables online all led players towards Hold’em.
Once players get a taste for a game it seems that many of them stick with it for years, without ever feeling motivated to learn a new variant. It’s worth giving consideration to an important fact though: almost all of the players who have become legends of the game have adapted to learn new games, and have had their longevity increased by it.
In the earliest beginnings of online poker, many players earned their money through Fixed Limit Hold’em poker, and those who never progressed to No Limit have long since been forgotten.
If you are a player who has only ever played No Limit Hold’em, here are some of the reasons why you should learn Pot Limit Omaha.
Reason #1: More fish and better game selection
You may hear that the average player is now stronger than ever in Hold’em, while fish can still be found readily in PLO games. Obviously these statements are dependent on your poker room among other things, but two important points should still be made.
PLO is certainly an attractive proposition for recreational players because they get to see more hands that look playable preflop, and so get more of the entertaining action postflop that they are seeking. Also, when exciting flops appear, players can feel more comfortable getting stacks in as it’s hard to be a long way behind in PLO.
The transition from Hold’em to PLO also opens up more doors in terms of game choice. Just because you take a couple of months to work on your PLO game, that doesn’t mean that the Holdem games will vanish. Once you are accomplished in both formats, you’ll have more cash tables and tournaments to choose from.
Reason #2: New challenge – motivation boost
We’ve all been in that situation where we feel like our ability has reached a plateau, and we are clicking buttons without really learning or particularly enjoying the experience. It’s common among even the best players, as grinding for days, weeks and months can be draining. If you want your enthusiasm to feel reinvigorated, and your mind to feel switched on, a new game can accomplish this by posing a fresh challenge. The new test in front of you will stimulate a tired mind and awaken your motivation.
Don’t feel concerned that by taking time away from Hold’em your abilities might fade, as the opposite is often true. The brain cannot commit learned concepts to the required level of long term memory so that they are instinctive, without concentration. So if your concentration has faded, you are already treading water when it comes to ability, and everything that already comes naturally in your game will still be the same when you return.
Furthermore, with your new found motivation for a new game, you will still learn new ideas which translate to Hold’em, helping to boost your overall poker learning. Concepts such as planning how to bet streets and considering stack to pot ratio, backdoor equities and the importance of blockers will all help your overall game.
Reason #3: Live PLO cash games are becoming more popular worldwide
It used to be the case that live casinos were always reluctant to offer PLO, mostly because it was more complicated and required different training for dealers. As the popularity of the game has slowly grown in recent years though, more and more casinos are offering regular PLO cash games. At first, the U.S and Europe became more accepting, and now Asia has followed suit. Currently in the Philippines and Manila, many of the biggest games running are now PLO. The game is also seeing popularity gains in Macau too.
Reason #4: PLO tournaments are becoming more popular
If your main focus is tournament poker, then this shouldn’t deter you from taking up PLO. Just this summer, the $565 PLO Event at the WSOP drew 2,483 runners, and all major festivals now include a PLO event, often with a PLO High Roller too. This has become normal in Asia, as with the rest of the world.
Reason #5: Staying ahead
It is undeniable that the game of poker has been forever changed by technology, and the software programs which have been developed in the last decade. Intensive use of software such as GTO Rangebuilder or PioSolver has helped players develop the GTO (Game Theory Optimal) aspect of their game to a near perfect level. With so many top players honing their craft to such a high level, it becomes almost impossible to find obvious mistakes which can be exploited at the very highest stakes. This has partly been the cause of NLH high stakes heads up action drying up.
Omaha is a little different. The fact that participants are using 4 hole cards makes calculating the optimal decision in every scenario far more complex. This is true in the case of computer programs and also humans, meaning that there is still enormous value in PLO.
So, by playing more PLO you are ensuring that you spend more time in games where you can exploit the numerous mistakes your opponents are making. The ability gap between you and the average player can also become very large once you become skilled at the game, and the high variance nature of PLO can do a lot to mask that fact.
We recommend that you give PLO a try, even if it is just for a couple of hours in between your normal Holdem games. If you are willing to apply yourself seriously to the game then you can really find some excellent games to sit in. As with everything relating to poker, how much you get out of PLO ultimately comes down to how much you are willing to put in.
Article by Craig Bradshaw