Pot Limit Omaha: Should You Go GTO or Exploitative?

Jakub Szczotka
27 cze 2024
5 mins read

Since the introduction of poker solvers to No-Limit Hold'em, Game Theory Optimal (GTO) has become the hottest buzzword in the poker community. Nowadays, almost every player either has some idea of how GTO looks (or thinks so) or has at least heard about it.

What is GTO (in poker)?

Whenever we talk about the game theory optimal strategy in the context of poker, we refer to an unexploitable strategy. A fully GTO strategy assumes all of your decisions are optimal, and the best result your opponent can achieve against such a strategy is to tie (considering an infinite number of hands). That being said, while GTO can’t lose, it is not the most profitable strategy either.

Simply put, playing GTO won’t let you achieve the highest possible win rate.

After all, if you’re almost sure your opponent never bluffs, there’s no point in bluff-catching.

While we’re getting better and better at understanding the GTO, poker is so complex that humans won’t ever be able to play optimally. The first solvers created were designed to help people learn No Limit Hold’em, and even that game is far too complex ever to be played perfectly by a human being. PLO not only include many more preflop combinations (which makes preflop much more challenging to master), but also flop spots often end up multiway, which adds another layer of complexity.

That might have been you when you started your PLO journey

What is an exploitative approach (in poker)?

The exploitative approach assumes that your opponents have inevitable leaks in their game, and you aim to identify them and take maximum advantage of their presence. That's a very traditional way to think about the game, which was a foundation for many prominent poker careers and fortunes. While it is a very effective strategy, today, we know there are better choices than playing entirely exploitatively (at least against skilled players).

So, what should you do if striving for GTO is not the most profitable strategy and an exploitative approach won’t work well against tough competition? You should learn how the optimal strategy works and adjust what you’ve learned to what your actual opponents do.

As we’ve hinted above, if you’re playing low stakes against opponents who hate folding, there’s no point in bluffing. For example, looking for the best combos with a nut flush blocker to bluff with won’t be the best idea against a person who won’t fold any flush on a river.

Don't have your head in the clouds; be thoughtful of how your opponents actually play

Common myths about poker optimal strategy

We can’t stress it enough: nobody, including the best poker players in the world, can fully replicate GTO strategies. Even PLO crushers deviate from the optimal strategy and, as a result, become exploitative. And you should never forget that whenever you think there's little to no edge to gain!

GTO is a term frequently used in the poker community nowadays, leading to many misconceptions. And it is very easy to fall prey to them.

One of the most common is that if you don’t play GTO, other players will exploit you, and it will be hard to become a winning player.

Poker (in any format) is a game of constant exploitation and counter-exploitation. And since nobody can play “perfectly”, you shouldn’t worry about being unable to do it yourself. You should focus on understanding how certain situations “should” play out, how players you play against daily deviate from the theory and how you should design your exploitative counter-strategy.

Another misconception is that if a play is not solver-approved, it is 100% bad. Unless we’re talking about opening the absolute worst hands, like quads, or stacking off with terrible preflop combos like J742, there’s some wiggle room for adjustments. Opening a little looser than you’re supposed to doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve made a mistake since you must consider what your opponent does. Do they defend appropriately against a raise? Do they 3-bet a lot? If not, you can sometimes open a little looser than GTO dictates and turn those open into profit.

The critical skill to have in such situations is to know how you can adjust and why you can do so.

The last common myth about GTO is that the games are super tough nowadays, and everybody studies GTO strategies day and night. While admittedly, the average level of a poker player is higher than a few years ago, there are still plenty of fish in the ocean, and the PLO games are usually the softest in the room.

Pot Limit Omaha is a game full of nuances which allow you to generate more significant edges than No Limit Hold’em.

To enable people to do so, we've created PLO Genius, which, up to date, is the only real-time PLO poker solver.

Understanding how GTO works will help you find the lines with the most considerable expected value. Be aware of how the spot is supposed to be played and adjust accordingly to what happens.

How should you translate the theory into practice?

How can you use your theoretical knowledge to exploit your opponent in Pot Limit Omaha cash games? If you have some experience playing against players of similar level, you’re very likely to observe certain tendencies over time.

A few trends that you’re likely to notice in micro-low stakes (both in online poker and live games) are:

  • players are very cold call-happy preflop
  • players do not 3-bet as wide as they should
  • 4-bet ranges are extremely AAxx heavy
  • there is not much leading going on

How can you adjust to exploit such tendencies?

Whenever you’re in a game with a lot of cold calling going on, there will be many multiway pots. As a result, you won’t have as much folding equity as you should, according to GTO, when you raise preflop. How can you adjust? You should play tighter preflop, as it’s the best way to set up “cooler” scenarios in your favor.

Subsequently, when it comes to 3-betting, most of the lower-stakes population will prefer calling pre rather than 3-bet, so their 3-bets will be much more value-heavy than they should be in theory. To exploit that, you can fold more than you would against balanced opponents without fearing that you overfold.

This trend is even more apparent regarding 4-bets, likely to be almost exclusively AAxx hands. When that’s the case, you can relatively easily choose hands to continue with, given the SPR in your exact situation, while folding hands that play very poorly against Aces.

Lastly, contrary to No Limit Hold’em, leading into the preflop raiser is a much more viable strategy in PLO. Since your average opponent won’t be up to date with that, you have to suspect their range is more robust than the solver would assume. How do you react to that? You must check back more often since you face a solid range of hands.

Outsmarting your opponent is the most fun aspect of poker

Not only is it a great feeling, but it’s also the foundation of your win rate. Remember, to outsmart anybody, you must know what they are doing wrong and what they should be doing. Right now, there’s no better poker tool to discover how to play Pot Limit Omaha than PLO Genius.

With many preflop scenarios and a constantly updated postflop database, PLO Genius is the way to hone your PLO skills.