Non-Nut Combo Draws in Omaha — Is Passive Play Preferable to Aggression?


I’m currently working on teaching myself Pot Limit Omaha online, multi-tabling the $1-2 stakes. Since I’m also working on increasing the number of tables I play at once (up to 20), I have also taken to “short-stacking” the games, which makes my decisions easier.  That’s not to say they are easy, by any means. PLO is an extraordinarily complex game, as the following hand I played recently illustrates:

$1/$2 Pot Limit Omaha Hi • 6 Players • PokerStars

Generated by

UTG $87.70
UTG+1 $117.95
CO $196.20
BTN $200
Hero (SB) $80
BB $244
  • Pre-Flop ($3, 6 players)Hero is SB
  • h3 h5 c4 c8
1 fold, UTG+1 calls $2, CO raises to $6, 1 fold, Hero calls $5, BB calls $4, UTG+1 calls $4
  • Flop ($24, 4 players)
  • dA h7 h6
Hero checks, BB bets $12, 2 folds, Hero calls $12
  • Turn ($48, 2 players)
  • cJ
Hero checks, BB bets $35, Hero calls $35
  • River ($118, 2 players)
  • h4
Hero bets $27, BB calls $27
  • Final Pot: $172
  • Hero shows
  • h3h5 c4 c8
  • BB shows
  • d3d6 h8 hA
  • Hero wins $169 (net +$89)
  • UTG+1 lost $6
  • CO lost $6
  • BB lost $80

It looks like I flopped a monster combo-draw in this hand.  Against a player with a set and no other draws, I can hit a heart for a flush, or any non-heart 3,4,5,8 or 9 for a straight. That amounts to 50% equity against a set.  Against a player with a similar wrap, but no flush draw, I would be in even better shape, at over 60% equity.  So I should be very happy getting my money in here, right?

I’m not so sure. There are four players in this pot, and one of them is very likely to have a higher flush draw than mine. And my experience playing PLO has made me very leery of getting my money in with dominated draws.  I decided to take a cautious line in this hand, checking this flop to see what happened.

This was my plan:  If the pot was checked around to the raiser in last position, and he bet, then I would check-raise all-in.  I am very willing to play this hand all-in against a player with a random Ace-high hand. And even if he has a set, I have 50% equity. My all-in check-raise would also serve to shut out the two players in the middle, who might have higher flush draws than myself.  I would want to make my flush-draw good against the raiser.

If, however, there was a bet and a raise before it got back to me, then I would consider folding! It would be very likely in that case that one of the bettors had pot-committed himself with a higher flush draw, and as noted, that would kill my equity.

But what actually happened was none of those things.  Instead, the player in the big blind lead out for half the pot, and the other players folded.  I think most players in my seat would automatically check-raise here, and seek to either pick the pot up by getting a fold, or get all-in.  Playing aggressively is generally the best strategy in Omaha, since getting opponents to fold is very valuable. (Particularly in spots where you have only 8 high, as I did!) And if you get called, you still have very good equity in the hand.

I decided not to check-raise, though, and instead played my hand very passively, by checking and calling.  My reason for this was that my opponent’s half-pot lead into the raiser made me strongly suspect that he had an Ace-high flush draw.  This bet looked to me like it was angling for multi-way action, which is what you’d want with a big draw.  Surely a player with a set or top two pair, and no draws, would much prefer a pot-sized bet, or even more probably, a check-raise of the original raiser, in order to limit the field and shut out the draws?

It turns out that my read was correct.  My opponent not only had the nut flush draw, but also top and bottom pair, and some blockers to my hand with the 8 and 3.  So how was my line against this player given his actual hand?

On the flop, I had only 34% equity against his hand.  So obviously, I would have been in a bad spot if I had check-raised and gotten all my money in on the flop. However, I did have more than enough odds to call. I was a 2-1 dog in the hand, but given his undersized bet, I was getting 3-1 to call, and far more than that if you consider my implied odds. Especially if you consider that I would fold if I made my flush and he bet, which I think I would have, given my read.

On the turn, my equity was only slightly diminished, at 33%.  So again, my call was correct.

On the river, I hit my “miracle card”, the 4 of hearts, giving me a straight flush. But given the fact that I only had $27 left and the pot was $118, I’m pretty sure I would have also gotten paid off if I had hit any of my straight cards.  And I don’t think I would have paid him off if another heart had hit. I played my hand “face-up” as a draw in this pot. If in spite of this he were still willing to bet a heart on the river after I checked to him, I think the odds of him having a higher flush would be far greater than the odds afforded me by the pot.  My plan was to check any other heart on the river, and fold if bet into.

This sort of check and call, passive play goes against my every instinct as poker player.  I’ve spent my entire career as a professional poker player playing Texas Hold’em, where it is absolute death to chase draws passively.  But I have studied this hand from every angle, and for the life of me can’t come up with a better line.

Perhaps in PLO passive play is sometimes preferable to aggression.


  1. Abbaby says:

    As you said your hand is to have players fold..your hand had no showdown value therefore you should have bet into the field forcing players to act on their hands…hands like 8 9 with no redraws might fold and any higher but not nut flush draws fold given your hand better value if you hit any dummy straight and any flush..that said if everyone checks the flop your hand is only good if you make the nut straight..PLO is a gambling game…bet bet bet

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