Poker Coverage:

Omaha Eight-Or-Better: Three Betting From The Big Blind

by Kevin Haney |  Published: Sep 21, 2022

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Equities run close in Omaha Eight-or-Better (O8) and position is valuable, thus players in steal positions will usually open-raise with a wide range of holdings. From the button, your average online opponent will come in for a raise with around 50% of their holdings and loose aggressive opponents will often play more than that.

Reasons To Reraise

Suppose we are in the big blind with a top 15% holding against a button opener playing at least 50% of their hands. What reasons do we have to three-bet as opposed to just calling with the entirety of our range?

While equities run closer in O8, the top 15% percentile of holdings still has an approximate 55% equity advantage over a 50% opening range. This is a decent edge, although, we should not ignore the fact that three-betting allows our opponent to put in a fourth bet when he has a premium hand.

For example, the times when our holding is in the 10-15% percentile and villain has a top 5% holding, four bets will often go in when he has on average a 58% equity advantage. However, when we have a top 15% hand, we generally hold blockers against our opponent having picked up a premium hand and overall we expect to reap some value preflop by reraising our better holdings.

However, “hot/cold” equities never tell the complete story, and a top 15% holding also has playing advantages over a wider 50% range in terms of more effectively realizing its equity, having implied odds, and scooping more often than it gets scooped.

Assuming both players go to showdown and one player scoops another, a top 15% hand will scoop the 50% opening range approximately 58% of the time which is a slightly greater edge than indicated by the equities. The button open range will generally face more reverse implied odd situations and thus may face more difficult decisions to effectively continue even though they hold position. And if your particular opponent is playing more than 50% of his hands, this effect will be more pronounced.

We are more incentivized to three-bet before the flop when our opponent has a well-balanced flop check-back range. If we just call with our entire range, it’s quite a luxury for him to take a shot at stealing the blinds and should that fail, often have the option to check the flop, see the turn for free, and ultimately 80% of his final hand at a relatively cheap price. If our strategy is to flat with our entire range and then check-raise many flops, we may end up whiffing twice in our attempt to get value from our hand.

We must also consider the impact that more frequent reraising has on future hands. Three-betting from the big blind may induce our opponent to fold slightly more hands from the button, which will gain us more heads-up pots versus the small blind or outright walks. Since our equity edge is relatively slim, this consideration is very important.

There are also arguments to be made for flatting our entire range. Having a three-betting range weakens our calling range, our opponent holds the positional advantage, and the value lost before the flop isn’t tremendous and can possibly be recouped post-flop. For example, if our opponent barrels at too great of a frequency on the flop and turn, we can get in more check-raises.

However, even if we do choose to three-bet before the flop, we can still get in a check-raise either on the flop or the turn. We shouldn’t feel obligated to bet every flop after we reraise, as there are certainly some boards where checking is probably the best play for both our specific hand and entire range.

So what’s the final verdict? The advantages of three-betting appear to slightly outweigh those of flatting our entire range and whenever your decisions in poker are close, it’s usually better to take the more aggressive action. It’s definitely more fun to do so.

Three-Betting Hands

Against a button or cutoff open we can reraise the top 10-15% of our hands depending on how wide our opponent is opening. If we three-bet more than the top 15% of our hands, our value is diminished and we also run the risk of severely weakening our calling range by taking out most of our A-A, A-2, and A-3 combinations.

Versus an early position open, flatting our entire range is probably best, especially if our opponent has shown a tendency to limp their weaker holdings. An early position open range is usually quite strong and will continuation bet at a very high frequency against a big blind defend.

So what does a top 10% or 15% reraising range look like? Obvious three-betting hands include those such as ASpade Suit 2Heart Suit 5Club Suit QHeart Suit and ADiamond Suit 3Diamond Suit 4Heart Suit JSpade Suit that have around 56% equity and also play very well against a button playing half of their hands. Even though it lacks a suit, AHeart Suit 2Club Suit 4Spade Suit KDiamond Suit is also strong enough with three prime low cards and the valuable A-K combination.

Any A-2 hand suited to the ace generally is good enough to reraise, however, the A-3 hands generally require a little extra. ADiamond Suit 3Diamond Suit 8Heart Suit 9Spade Suit is not a top 15% hand but make a simple substitution of a ten for the nine, e.g. ADiamond Suit 3Diamond Suit 8Heart Suit 10Spade Suit and it’s now close to a top 10% holding.

We don’t need a premium low draw in order to three-bet. For example, a double-suited holding such as ASpade Suit 5Spade Suit 8Heart Suit QHeart Suit makes its way into the top 10%, has around 56% equity against a 50% opening range, plays well on a lot of flops, and helps balance against having our range being too heavily weighted with the A-A/A-2/A-3 combinations.

We can also get aggressive with a hand such as QDiamond Suit 3Diamond Suit QHeart Suit 2Heart Suit as the pair of queens is reasonably strong and if an ace flops we may have nut low potential. However, with the holdings that lack a premium low draw or an ace, it’s very important to be suited at least once.

Many A-2 hands will be reraises, however, a somewhat surprising high number will not. For example, ASpade Suit 2Heart Suit 4Diamond Suit 7Club Suit is certainly better than your average holding yet it only has 47% equity against a 50% opening range. The ASpade Suit 2Heart Suit 4Diamond Suit 7Diamond Suit is slightly better in that it has a suit; however, it still only has 50% equity. Plus, it’s beneficial to have a good number of A-2 holdings in your flatting range.

Three-Betting Against The Small Blind

Since we have position, some players believe that we should reraise wider against the small blind then we would against a button opener; however, if we think through our reasons to three-bet and the range we may be up against, that may not be correct.

One reason we three-bet from the big blind against a button opener is because they have the option to check behind on either the flop or the turn with a well-balanced range, but this consideration does not apply when we act last. Having position allows us to effectively delay our raise to when our equity situation may be more advantageous to us and we can ensure that a street never gets checked through.

In addition, since they are out of position and believe that the big blind will defend the majority of their holdings, many players may open-raise fewer hands from the small blind than they would from the button.

For example, an opponent may open 50% or more of his holdings on the button, but implement a 40% raise/40% limp strategy from the small blind. Against a 40% open range, we are actually slightly value owning ourselves with the 15-25% percentile of our hands as we only have 49% equity and three-betting also opens us up to get four-bet.

Also, as previously mentioned if we increase our three-betting range from the top 15% to the top 25% it will now include almost all of our A-A, A-2, and A-3 holdings thus removing them from our range the times we just call. This weakening of our calling range will aid the small blind greatly in his post-flop decisions.

For these reasons, it seems best to just stick with re-raising the top 15% of our holdings against a small blind open. We are pushing an equity edge with these strong two-way hands and our calling range is still strong enough to be a danger on any board. ♠

Kevin Haney is a former actuary of MetLife but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. He is co-owner of Elite Fitness Club in Oceanport, NJ and is a certified personal trainer. With regards to poker he got his start way back in 2003 and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. If interested in learning more, playing mixed games online, or just saying hello he can be reached at haneyk612@gmail.com.