Should You Ever Cold Call in Pot Limit Omaha?

Jakub Szczotka
3 lis 2023
4 mins read

The debate over the legitimacy of cold calling has been going on in the poker world for a long time. Some players are convinced that cold calling is an integral part of a sound poker strategy, while others believe you should have a raise-fold-only approach.

Which group is right? The answer heavily depends on the format you play, as what works in Texas Hold'em tournaments often translates poorly to the cash game scenario, let alone to Omaha games.

That's why, we'd like to shed some light on cold-calling in  Pot Limit Omaha in this article.

What's cold calling?

Let's start with the basics - what qualifies as a cold call? That term refers to a situation when there is at least one raise in front of you, and you decide to call (instead of raise or fold). Usually, in such scenario, you do not close the action, so there is at least one player behind who can raise the previous bets.

So, should you cold call opens in PLO?

The short answer is yes. Unlike limping, which is generally a play we  advise against (following the solver's output), cold-calling makes sense in some scenarios.

Why is that? If you choose a hand to cold call with correctly:

  • you let yourself see a flop cheaply with hands that have the potential to win a big pot
  • you often end up as the in-position-player for the rest of the hand
  • you allow weaker players on the blinds to enter the pot with the hands they shouldn't (and wouldn't if you have raised)

Of course, there is another side of the coin, and cold calling includes some risks, namely:

  • even when your opponent enters the pot with terrible hole cards, community cards may still improve them
  • you'll sometimes be forced to fold when the opponent 3bet you after you cold-call
  • you won't win pot preflop, so you will be guaranteed to pay the rake

It's worth mentioning that the rake is a significant factor when we talk about an optimal poker strategy in Pot Limit Omaha. It influences it so much that every solution by our PLO solver - PLO Genius - can be prepared for three different rake structures.

How much should rake affect your range?

For PLO4 at 100BB depth, the ranges for the Button vs the UTG open look like this (for different rake structures):

As you can see, in PLO 5000 games, you can call almost 9% wider than when playing PLO 50

These discrepancies will differ in various spots, but that's not the point since the exact numbers are not crucial. The most important takeaway is that you need a rough idea of how things change when the rake is lower or higher.

Things to consider when you think about cold calling

As with many concepts in poker, the validity of choosing a cold call over a raise or a fold is highly contextual. Whenever you're weighing the pros and cons of available options, you have to consider a few things:

Who is behind you?

The more aggressive players sit behind you, the more likely they will 3bet, taking a betting lead and likely squeezing you out of the pot. In that scenario, you should lean more into the 3bet-or-fold approach.

Who sits on the Big Blind and the Small Blind?

The weaker the players on the blinds are, the more often you want to play against them. If they are likely to fold against a 3bet but will call a single raise happily, it's worth considering cold calling your hand to realize your edge against worse competition.

Generally speaking, if online poker is your regular environment, you should be more disciplined and cold call less, but in the live games, you can be more loose with your calls - as long as you are aware of why you are choosing to call over a 3bet or a fold.

The last important thing to mention

In Texas Hold'em, coming up with cold calling ranges is relatively easy. After all, there are only 1,326 hand combinations (169 if we disregard suits), and narrowing this number to those that perform okay as cold calls is relatively simple.

When it comes to Omaha and its 270,725 combos (16,432 not considering the suits), things get more complicated. Such big numbers are virtually impossible to visualize or comprehend, so you have to think more in terms of categories rather than exact hands.

That's where PLO Genius comes in handy - its input will allow you to easily browse through the hands which prefer certain actions, allowing you to understand which traits are crucial. See for yourself how big of an edge PLO Genius can give you now with free access to its basic functionalities.