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Pot-Limit Omaha — Playing Blockers Part I

by Michael Piper |  Published: Oct 01, 2010


Bluffing people in pot-limit Omaha makes my heart pound. There’s nothing quite like dragging in a huge pot and tabling air; making the best hand and getting a call is cool, but bluffing makes me feel like a big man. In order to make that big bluff, you’ll need to know your opponent, but having blockers makes it easier. If I have the ace of hearts, I know you can’t make the nut flush, which makes your call much tougher; if I have two jacks on a T-9-8 board, it’s much harder for you to make the nut straight. Playing blockers is key to exploiting your opponents and their tendencies, but it’s easy to go overboard.

Nut-Flush Blocker

When the board is showing three to a flush, holding the nut card of that suit means your opponents can’t make the nuts. This means you can represent the nuts yourself, but be careful. With people value-betting lighter and lighter, your opponent might be playing the second nut-flush cautiously, with no intention of folding whatsoever, given you could be value-betting a worse flush. If you’re the type to make a big bluff, your opponent might not give you credit for having the goods, or he might read you for making a move, given the way you’ve played your hand. Before making a big play at the pot, make sure your opponent is capable of laying down a hand, and that your line is congruent with the nut-flush — otherwise you are throwing money away.

Having equity makes your play sexy. With a set or two pair, you can now make a full house, which will usually get paid off when you hit, given your line is supposed to look like a flush. Without equity, it’s rarely a profitable move. People make the move themselves, so they are aware of it and will make it difficult for you to pull off. Others are call stations, and expect you to be bluffing a lot, so will call you down. Just like other bluffs, this is about judging your opponent and his mindset, before you even consider what your line looks like. The most profitable variety of the bare ace bluff is building a big pot to take down on the river, but it’s rare to find an opponent who will allow you to get away with this. If you can find weak-tight opponents who have a modicum of hand-reading ability, you might be able to get away with this all night, but these guys are rare.

When checked to on the river, it’s hard to make your opponent fold. Tend to check it back, as wily opponents will notice that your range for betting huge in big pots is polarised to the bare ace or the nuts, and reason that you don’t have the nuts very often. It’s not usually profitable to throw lower flushes (other than the second nut-flush) into your range when you bet huge on the river, as your opponent likely folds all worse hands and at least calls all better; so you’re faced with the choice of making all your river value-bets relatively small, with the effect that your bluffs (sized the same) don’t have as much effectiveness, or betting different sizes on the river with different parts of your range, which makes you easy to read.

Instead, look for situations where either your opponent rates to have absolutely nothing, not even a “bluff-catcher”, or where you can raise or re-raise him — most people give river raisers credit for having the nuts, but if your opponent thinks you’re a “bluff-tard”, he might value-bet a lower flush with the intention of calling your raise, as he’s inducing your strong play.

Straight Blockers

You shouldn’t be playing many hands with trips in them, but there are lots of paired hands preflop that play very well post-flop — hands like T-T-J-9 or 8-8-6-6. With 8-8-6-6, if the flop comes 5-4-3, it is far less likely someone holds 7-6 or 6-2; as a result, you can play your hand very fast, to get people to fold all the hands that beat you, safe in the knowledge that you can always hit your gutshot if you’re wrong.

You should be more cautious with the straight blockers than the nut-flush blocker — they merely reduce the likelihood your opponent has those cards, and many people vastly overestimate that effect, playing their blockers to the death, even when it’s obvious their opponent has the goods or just doesn’t want to fold. Having the guts to follow through on your move is an admirable character trait, but if you combine that with the wisdom to know when to give up, both your bluffs and value-bets will become that much more powerful and effective.

When you have the goods, your toughest decision is working out how much your opponent will pay you. With air, your last decision is how much you think he’ll fold for — you need to consider what your line looks like, what he thinks about you, and how strong a hand he can possibly have, before you decide to bet, let alone how much. Sometimes you need to follow through, but it’s rarely a big mistake to give up. Spade Suit

Michael Piper has been playing pot-limit omaha online for a living for more than three years. He coaches at and posts online under the screenname wazz.