QuickFact #7: If you pot the flop and get called, you can bet 3x as much on the turn. If you pot the turn and get called, you can bet 9x the original pot on the river.
Stack-to-Pot Ratio (SPR)
Stack-to-pot ratio is a term that gets used a lot, but from my experience, almost everyone I talk PLO with thinks they know more about it than they really do. SPR is an easy way to describe effective stacks relative to the pot size. Familiarize yourself with it, because we’ll constantly be referring to it throughout QuickPro, and it’s crucial to your development as a player.
SPR is a useful tool in PLO (as well in all big-bet games), but more so in PLO because the maximum bet is the size of the pot. Before we talk about why SPR is important, let’s run through a few examples to eliminate any existing confusion about calculating SPR.
How is SPR calculated?
SPR = Effective Stacks / Pot Size
$100 effective stacks, and the pot size is $100, then SPR = 1
Observation: 1 bet will get stacks in.
$400 effective stacks, and the pot size is $100, then SPR = 4
Observation: Two pot-sized bets or one pot sized bet and a pot sized raise will get stacks in.
$1300 effective stacks, and the pot size is $100, then the SPR = 13
Observation: A pot sized bet, a pot sized raise, and a pot sized re-raise will get stacks in. Additionally, when heads-up with an SPR of 13, a pot-sized bet on each street will get stacks in by the river.
By now you’re probably thinking, “Well, calculating SPR seems easy enough, but what the hell do I do with it? Why do I care? How is it going to make me more money?” Allow me to explain. SPR is a reliable indicator for how the money will go into the pot post-flop. From these examples, the main observation is how the number of pot-sized bets required to get stacks in correlates with the SPR. The number of pot sized bets helps us determine what the best line to take is depending on the board texture, opponent types, and our image. It also has a big impact on our pre-flop hand selection.
One of the benefits of learning a new game is that it forces you to look at poker from a different perspective, which encourages the development of new skills, as well as improving the ones you already have. For example, something I’ve picked up on from doing a lot of coaching is that the two types of players that have the easiest time learning or transitioning to PLO are the mixed game and the heads-up players. It’s obvious why mixed-game players do transition well; they’re used to switching games, and they’ve probably already dabbled in PLO or some variation of it at one time or another. I don’t have any empirical data to back this up, but I think heads-up players transition well because they’re accustomed to thinking outside the box in search of ways to gain an edge on their opponents. Put more simply, in order to win, they must be constantly adapting to their opponents and the dynamic of the match.
Once you begin developing your skills and understanding how PLO works, you’ll feel more comfortable playing post-flop in other games too. In PLO, the maximum bet is the size of the pot. As a result, keeping track of the SPR and how many pot-sized bets remain is key to your success. A good piece of information to remember is that if you pot the flop and get called, you can bet three times as much on the turn. If you pot the turn and get called, you can bet nine times the original bet on the river.
A big mistake that NLHE players make is not having a pot big enough on the river to get stacks in when shipping for value. In PLO, the luxury of being able to over-bet all-in on the river doesn’t exist, so if you plan poorly, you can potentially lose value on big hands. The opposite side is betting too large on earlier streets with bluffs, in which case the opponent is getting too good of a price to fold his bluff-catcher on the river.
The Relationship Between SPR’s and Stack-Off Ranges
On the following page is a SPR table I made for you. It’s a variation of a table that’s found in Jeff Hwang’s book Advanced Pot Limit Omaha, which is definitely a solid read, so check it out if you haven’t already.
Now, it’s important to take in as much of table 2.1 as you can, because we will refer to these numbers repeatedly. Pay close attention to the correlation between pre-flop actions, equity percentage needed to break even, and SPR. We will cover the important points momentarily, so don’t hurt yourself trying to copy this into your memory.
Table 2.1. Stack-to-Pot Ratio and Equity Percentage Needed
Pot-Sized Bets (PSB)
The first and most obvious observation is that as the SPR gets higher, stack-off ranges become narrower. Looking at table 2.1, this makes much sense. Notice we need more than 47% equity to break even against a stack-off range when the SPR is 10 or higher. What this translates into is more maneuverability, and therefore more poker being played between opponents. Since more poker is being played (because there’s less money in the pot and more in the stacks), this equates to more leverage available to use on later streets.
An opponent facing a bet on the turn needs be concerned about the threat of future bets, but when the SPR is lower (in three-bet and four-bet pots), the money frequently goes in on the flop, because there are only 1 or 2 pot-sized bets left. These light stack-offs that PLO is famous for occur more frequently when the SPR is low. As was discussed a moment ago, stacks generally go in on the flop or the turn, which means there is significantly less bluffing, since far less equity is necessary for getting all the money in on the flop correctly.
Given our conclusions about SPR, what should our adjustments be in terms of hand selection pre-flop? Higher SPR situations tend to be single-raised pots, and the way to win stacks in single-raised pots is to “over-nut” someone by making set over set, or nut flush to second nut flush, or having an even bigger draw that dominates their big draw. Consequently, when the SPR is high, the situation to avoid the most is getting it in against a range when you are either flipping or way behind.
Moreover, this means when the SPR is higher, we need to tighten up our OOP calling ranges. Obviously the number and type of hands changes depending on the opponent type and stack sizes, but generally it is better to have more money in your stack when in position, and less money in your stack when OOP. The player in position gains most of his edge from having the ability to apply three streets of pressure, which is exactly what happens when the SPR is 10 or higher. Reflect back to earlier in the chapter when we established that the situation to avoid the most in PLO was check-calling multiple streets OOP with medium-strength draws or hands.
Contrastingly, things change quite a bit when the SPR is between one and five. In three-bet pots, the action is centered on combo draws, and the way to win stacks is by having pair plus draw hands that dominate other pair plus draw hands. Put more simply, when getting stacks in lighter and more often, the key is to choose hands that flop equity more often; or in other words, have a smooth equity distribution.