The timing for bluffs in Pot Limit Omaha is a difficult concept to grasp. Due to the large number of hand combinations in each hand, a player may assume that optimal bluffing conditions are every board and any situation. While there ARE many board textures that are fantastic for bluffing, there is much more to think about when deciding when or when not to bluff. This lesson will discuss some of the basic concepts and thought processes behind bluffing in PLO.
This lesson will also discuss bluffing concepts against general opponents. Opponent type is important when considering bluffing and this article will assume that the hero is not choosing to bluff against very weak players who will call a huge percentage of the time. All cash game examples will be 100bbs and 6max.
ALWAYS HAVE SOME EQUITY
This is a concept that also applies to NLHE- when bluffing in PLO, it is always best to have a chance to win the pot other than pure bluffing. This may mean a gut shot, backdoor flush draws, over cards, and others. This is much easier in PLO, where most all hands have some semblance of equity. Take for instance this short example:
Ad As Kc Kh vs. 8c 9c 2h Ts on a 5d 6d Jc board. The 89T2 has 34% equity despite not having a pair or draw.
So always have partial equity when deciding to make a bluff. Total suicide bluffs in PLO (where you have a hand that has little chance of improving, even by PLO standards), while rare, are unnecessary, and should only be attempted against very tight opponents (or excellent board textures).
STRENGTH OF YOUR DRAW
The strength of your draw should affect your actions. Since flush draws in NLHE have (relatively) the same implied odds (in that you won’t typically be scared of over flushes in many scenarios- obviously there are exceptions), one may consider playing them all the same in position in PLO. The quality of EVERY draw matters in Omaha. Take the following situation, and for simplicity’s sake, we will omit non-relevantt cards to make the hand easier to read)
MP raises PF and the BTN calls with Kd Qd x x. The flop is 2d 4d Th, MP bets, and the BTN calls with his K high flush draw. This hand is fine and standard. The BTN does not want to risk getting 3-bet with his hand and he also wants to use position to his advantage. He can call on a variety of turns and there are many ways to improve his hand.
What about weaker draws? Substitute the Kd Qd with something like 8d 7d instead (so the hand would be 8d 7d x x). With draws such as lower flush draws or bad wraps (something like 567x on an 89K board), the value is not as high as in the previous example (KQd). When a player has a weaker draw, he should consider playing his hand in a more aggressive manner. That is not to say that he cannot be aggressive with very strong, quality draws, but that with weaker draws, reverse implied odds are more likely.
With a hand such as 8d 7d x x, BTN may be more apt to raise the flop. He might get MP to fold a better flush draw, something like the naked Qd Jd x x or a hand of similar nature. If BTN were to flat call MP’s bet on the flop, he is unsure of the actual strength of his hand- he could very well be dominated by bigger draws. This is a short example of how the quality of one’s draw may affect his action.
BLUFFING WITH BLOCKERS
Due to a large number of hand combinations on each PLO board, players are oftentimes very wary of the nuts. When deciding whether or not to bluff, blockers are generally a part of that thought process. A ‘blocker’ is generally a key card in accordance to the board- If the board has 3 diamonds on it; the Ace of diamonds is a ‘blocker’. It does not matter if you have the actual nut flush or not- the blocker is all that matters. The basic logic is: If you have the key card (the Ace of diamonds in the above example), your opponent cannot have the nut flush.
Hand 2.0- UTG raises with Ac Ax 4x 5x and the BB calls. The flop is Kc 4c 7c and the BB checks, UTG bets, BB check-raises, and UTG shoves all in. This is an example of UTG using his Ac blocker to represent the flush even though he does not have it. BB may know that UTG would rarely shove all in without the nut flush in this instance and should be folding most of his range.
Blockers do not necessarily have to be just flush cards. A hand such as JJA8 might be a nice hand to bluff with on an 893Q board due to the two Jacks. Obviously, with two Jacks, the number of combinations possible is obviously lowered.
There are many instances in which blockers can be utilized for bluffs. The river is most often the best time to use them, where hand equities are static and there are no more draws to come. Players may also make aggressive bluffs or semi-bluffs on earlier streets when the draw hits to give more creditability with their hand. A short example of this may be a player raising the turn in position with Ad Kx Kx 5x on an Td 4d 2s 8d board.
REPPING BLUFFS WITH MADE HANDS
Due to the large amount of possible draws in PLO, players can represent all of them when deciding to semi-bluff. Here’s an example:
UTG opens PF, all fold to SB, who calls with 6d 5d 7s 8h. The flop is 4s 3s Kh and the SB checks, UTG bets, SB calls. The turn is the 8s and the SB leads out.
This is a nice example of using other draws to semi bluff. The SB flops a wrap and check/calls. On drier boards (if it were rainbow), the SB could potential check/raise. But since the flush draw is present, his draw strength is diminished greatly. The UTG player should be folding many of his hands that are not a flush.
These semi bluffs can also be used in conjunction with blockers as well. Even having a card in your hand that can be used to block some flushes (such as the Qs) can be beneficial when making these plays. Here’s another example:
MP raises with Ah Kh Kx 9x and only the BTN calls. The Flop is Ah Qs Js and MP bets, BTN calls. The turn is the 9x and MP bets again.
This is an example where MP may or may not have the best hand (BTN can certainly have a naked flush draw and some extras (maybe a gutter or pair)). BTN may also have a set in this instance as well, in which case MP is drawing slim. Regardless, MP has multiple options due to the two Kings in his hand (and the turned 2 pair) – he can turn his hand into a bluff on the river, he can check and induce a bluff, etc.
Another example is when all players fold to the BTN who raises with 9d Ts Js 7d. The SB folds and BB calls. The flop is 8s Ks 5c and BB checks, the BTN bets, BB calls. The turn is the 6s and the BB leads full pot into the BTN, who calls the bet with his turned flush. The river is the 6c (pairing the board) and the BB checks and the BTN bets.
This is an example hand that shows BTN turning his hand into his bluff. He very well could have the best hand at this point as well- it’s just hard to tell in a game like PLO. Checking can be fine under some circumstances, but betting is certainly an excellent option as well. This bet on the river by the BTN is not necessarily a value bet but more a bluff. He can get bigger flushes to fold.
POSITION IS POWER
Position in PLO is so powerful that raising in position as a bluff or semi-bluff is not as necessary. That is not to say that semi-bluff raising in position is a poor play; but that calling is generally much more +EV. Popular plays in PLO, such as check/calling flops and full pot leading turns when draws hit, are seen much more frequently in PLO than in NLHE. Floating the flop is a very strong play and players can represent a myriad of draws on certain flop textures.
As in NLHE, you should always try to have some semblance of equity when deciding to bluff in PLO. Blockers are very important and can always be used when bluffing. And when deciding to draw, use other draws to semi-bluff with in addition to the outs that ‘hit’ you.