How To Win A PLO Bracelet

May 3, 2016 By: Ken (Support)

Hey Guys,

I’m Tom Chambers and I really appreciate John letting me do this for you today. John has been a long time student of mine and I’m inspired by his approach to studying the game on a deep level, and his commitment to his students.

I was a professional poker player from 2006-2012, specializing primarily in online 6-max PLO from 2008 on.  In 2008 I began some deep research into PLO math and fundamentals and also began taking on students for a theory program.  From 2009-2011 I turned the coaching program and research into the 850-page, two-volume book sold here, Advanced PLO Theory.

During my years playing professionally, I played mostly online 1/2-5/10 PLO, 10/20-40/80 Mixed Games, and mid-high stakes tournaments. Over 6 WSOP’s, I played just under 100 WSOP events and made 5 final tables, including $2500 Stud8/Omaha8 and $1500 PLO8 in 2008, and $3000 PLO, $1500 NLHE, and $2500 10-game mix in 2012.

I made videos for both PokerSavvy and CardRunners under the handle “LearnedfromTV”, including a long theory series (10-12 parts) done for CardRunners in 2010-2011.

In July of 2012 I quit playing poker full-time to work in the financial industry, which I still do today.   I live in Chicago with my wife and our two children.  I still play PLO at the Horseshoe as time permits.

The following section on 30BB-50BB play is one of ten sections on different stacks sizes ranges in the first PLO MTT module:

As a general rule, the shallower we get, the more valuable high cards are. There is also additional value in near-nut suits. The reason for this is that even in single-raised pots stacks are shallow enough for all-ins with pair + draw versus pair + draw, and we want to aim to have a dominating pair + draw in those situations. We want the KJTx vs QJT9 on K9x or the AhKsTh4s vs 9s8s7d5h on Ts7h2s.

board: Kh9d2s


board: Ts7h2s


With stacks in the 40BB range, just a 2.5x open-raise and call creates an SPR of ~6. A second call creates an SPR close to 4. Most people will be raising smaller than pot at these stacks, though the whole spectrum from 2.2x to pot will usually be seen at a table. Remember also that effective SPR is the SPR of the smallest stack. There will be many pots between our 45BB stack and a 20BB stack where we are essentially playing one-street or one-and-a-half street poker.

Against a pot-sized raise where we can 3-bet pot to 12x and create an SPR of 1 if called, we should look to do exactly that with our AA**, good KK**, and really strong broadway, of course then shipping all flops with the AA**, all non-Axx, non-draw flops with the kings, and all flops we hit with the broadway. Note that with SPR 1 and the right opponent, even four overcards and some backdoors can be enough to shove – for example, AdQdJsTs on 9s6d3h, where even if called by a strong hand we are not in terrible shape.

board: 9s6d3h


board: 9s6d3h


Most of the time, however, the open-raise will be smaller and our three-bet will create an SPR closer to 1.5-2.5, depending on whether we decide to pot. Against the smaller raises, assuming an effective stack of 40BB+, we need to flat our weaker aces and kings and should be more inclined to three-bet near-nut high card hands like KsJdTs8d. With SPR of 1.5 we need a smoother flop strength distribution, which comes from suits and connectedness.

Whether to three-bet or flat those hands (KJT8ds and similar) is dependent on table dynamic, opponent, and image. We need fold equity on the flop to justify building a large pot with a hand that is likely even with the opener’s range in terms of raw equity. When we do miss and have an SPR of ~2, we should take advantage of the ability to make a small leveraged bet. For example, say we (CO) start with 20000 at 250/500, our opponent (MP) has 19000 and opens to 1400. We three-bet KsJdTs8d to 4000 and he calls.

There is 8750 in the pot and the opponent has 15000 behind, for an effective SPR of 1.7. If the flop is 6s5h4d, we have air – two backdoor flush draws with possibly dead over-cards. This is a good spot to bet 4500 when checked to, threatening the opponents stack without risking too much. If he hit the flop he is check-shoving regardless of bet size, and 4500 is large enough that there are almost no hands he will peel with that would have folded to a larger bet. If he calls he is too likely to be trapping for us to put another chip in unless we run out a flush.

Conversely, on a flop of 9s5h4d, we have a ton of backdoor potential and our pair outs are more live. We have a very polarized turn scenario distribution and it is better to check-behind and see that turn. If we hit a diamond, spade, K, J, T, 8, or 7, we are ready to stack off, either with a commitment bet if checked to or by shoving a lead by the opponent. The only times we call are with a pair-less draw and a large, clearly committing bet. If he bets 4500 on the 7d turn we shove; if he bets pot we call and draw.

With a good flop like Js9c2s, bet sizing should usually match our air bet sizing; 4500-5500. The important thing to recognize is that most of the time the opponent’s stack-off decision is made by his hand, but we do not want to bet larger when we have a hand and give a thinking opponent the opportunity to read our sizing for the future (any opponent, not just the one in the hand). Anyway, if he hit the flop, he’ll get it in, and we hope it is a dominating two pair or pair + draw over pair + draw scenario in our favor. We three-bet near-nut suits with broadway cards with the expectation that most of the time we get stacks in on this kind of flop we have that advantage.

If instead we (CO) choose to call the initial MP open to 1400 with KsJdTs8d and the SB (35000 stack) comes along too, we have a three-way 4700 chip pot with effective SPR just under 4. This is exactly pot-repot, or two street pot-pot SPR, and we should be aware of that when sizing. As the button, we want to have as wide a betting range as possible; when checked to our opponents are usually giving us the initiative and we should be betting light semi-bluffs, decent semi-bluffs, and strong hands.

Consider the flop where we are loaded with backdoors – 9s5h4d. With SPR 1.7 it was too likely our opponent would shove nearly his entire range of decent or better hands, and rarely call, so we checked – we had too much equity to bet-fold. With SPR 4 and a multi-way pot, both opponents will be less inclined to check-shove. The stack size risk and multi-way pot are two reasons. Also, the SB has to worry about the MP having a hand, and MP has to worry about having only one possible bettor if he decides to attempt the check-raise with a big hand. So we should bet.

Furthermore, on a fairly dry, light board and with opponents already thinking about risk-reward on a check-raise, we should bet on the smaller side. In general, in multi-way pots we should bet larger than heads-up pots, because our betting range is stronger. Here however, we want a wide range and cheap leverage, so a bet of 60-70% of pot is perfect – 3000. If we are called we have 15600 behind and a 10700 chip pot and will either turn a draw we want to pot or a blank we can make a read on and either make a highly leveraged air bluff or check and give up.

As discussed in Chapter 10 of Advanced PLO Theory, in a twisted way, there is not much juicier of a situation than being able to bet/fold air for half your stack. For example, we make the flop bet with KsJdTs8d and the turn is a board-pairing 4, or an ace, 2-7 that doesn’t give us a flush draw. If the opponent is willing to put us on an over-pair or on hitting the ace, he will fold a lot of the hands he 9xxx or QQ-TT hands he peeled with. If he happened to fill a straight draw, and shoves, so be it, but a 75% pot bet only needs to be folded to a 43% of the time to be profitable. One key here is that we have no equity and can snap fold to a shove getting 4-5:1. This is a closer decision between checking and betting when we have a pair and open-ender, or some similar hand that would have to stack off with the worst of it but can check behind and see a river for free.

Going back to the flop, our turn scenario distribution (a concept covered heavily in Chapters 10 and 11 of Advanced PLO Theory), was extremely polarized, and it led us to a polarized set of turn situations. Half the cards were bet/calls and half were bet/folds. We were able to make a bet that is clearly committing to the opponent, betting say 8000 into 10700 with 7600 more behind, while very realistically threatening the entire 15600. There is some measure of range balance here as well, especially on the bluffs, because our flop betting range will have A9**/etc on aces, or have made a straight on low cards, and be an over-pair that is ahead often enough that the whole-stack threat is real. Simply, no opponent is going to think we are bet-folding half our stack, the bet is credible given the action, and there are a lot of chips in the pot. It is a great opportunity to chip up.

The flop and turn sizing is notable. We bet 3000 into 4700 (65%), and were discussing turn bet of 8000 into 10700, or roughly 75%. In SPR 10+ scenarios, we generally want and need to bet relatively large (70%-100%, except on the driest boards) on the flop to build a pot so we have flexibility for turn and river bets. With lower flop SPRs, like the SPR 4 we have here or an SPR 8-9 near-three-street pot, the way to set up turn and river flexibility is by shading flop sizing downward, increasing turn and river SPRs, which then allows us to increase turn and river sizing. We generally will increase sizing as a percent of pot on the turn, and want the ability to bet between 60% and 100%, with those bets having maximum leverage depending on the texture, flop-turn texture shift (a major topic of Chapter 11 of Advanced PLO Theory), and opponent.

If SPR is in the 6-9 range, we want to create the SPR ~3 turn that allows two more streets of betting. Just like SPR=13 is the magic number for pot-pot-pot, 75%-75%-75% creates a magic number of SPR= ~7.5. 1000 chip pot, 7500 chip stack, we bet 750 and get called; pot is 2500 and our stack is 6750 (SPR 2.7). On the turn we bet 1875 and get called; pot is 6250 and our stack is 4875. 4875/6250 = 78% left for the river.
More effectively, given the additional power of turn and river bets, we can scale this with increasing sizing. A 60% flop bet leaves a 2200 pot and a 6900 chip stack (SPR 3.1). Follow this with an 80% turn bet of 1750 and a call leaves a 5700 pot and 5150 chip stack, enabling a 90% river shove if we choose. With each bet, especially if we establish a pattern of increasing sizing in this way, we maximize leverage because our opponents know our pattern and know that we still have room to threaten stacks over three streets even with a smaller flop bet. It also makes sense because as the streets progress our betting range should be tightening and our stack-off willingness if we bet increasing. The exact numbers will vary with the flop SPR, and the exact scaling is less important than the scaling pattern.

Throughout all of this we must remain cognizant of flop-turn-river texture shifts, bet a balanced range and hand read well enough to not dumbly barrel off into better hands. The plan is not to bet three streets every time we bet the flop, or to bet the river every time we bet the flop and turn. The plan is to size those bets so that we maximize both their power and the potential power of the later street bets if we choose to make them.

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