Capped Ranges in Pot-Limit Omaha

Capped Ranges in Pot-Limit Omaha

Monday, 14 July 2014

With Roy 'godlikeroy' Bhasin

Pot-limit Omaha, as with all forms of poker, is constantly evolving. There was once a time when nut-peddling was enough to rake in the money. Those days are long gone. Today even an average player in a mid-stakes cash game is adept at hand reading, and an advanced, varied strategy is required in order to beat the games. I’d like to discuss what it means to have a capped range in PLO – how you can exploit an opponent who has one, and how you can avoid being exploited yourself.

Let me first explain what a capped range is. When someone’s range is capped at a certain point (let’s call this point X), it means that given the action they have taken and the reads you have on this player, it is virtually impossible for them to have a hand better than X. If you can identify this point in your opponent’s range, then you are able to exploit him. You can do this either by value betting all hands better than X, or if X is relatively weak, by forcing your opponent out of the pot by bluffing.

Let’s look at an example. Take an aggressive $2/$4 6-max PLO game on PokerStars. Starting stacks are $400. A straightforward tight-aggressive (TAG) raises from UTG to $12 and we call from the BB. The flop is As-Qd-2c. We check and our opponent checks back. It might not seem like we have a lot of information about his hand yet, but his checking gives away a lot of information. We know that this player would bet if he had two pair or better, and because of this we can eliminate all A-A-x-x, Q-Q-x-x, 2-2-x-x, A-Q-x-x, A-2-x-x and Q-2-x-x combinations from his range. This means that when the turn brings the 6h the best possible hand that our opponent can have is 6-6 or A-6. That is point X in his range, and his range is capped at that point. Even those hands are unlikely, though, as there aren’t many combinations of 6-6-x-x in a TAG’s UTG raising range, and he would bet the flop with some percentage of his A-6-x-x combos (reducing the likelihood he has A-6).

On the flip side, let’s look at what our range looks like. All we’ve done so far is call a raise from the big blind and then check this flop to the pre-flop raiser. We can very realistically still have any set or two-pair combination that was going for a check-raise on the flop and, as such, can represent these hands if we choose to bluff. Our range is uncapped – we can have anything from pure air to the nuts. It’s almost always favourable to find yourself in a position with an uncapped range versus an opponent’s capped range. In the above example we can now comfortably value-bet our A-Q-x-x, and probably even A-6-x-x and A-2-x-x hands, knowing that it is very unlikely that our opponent has a better made hand than us. Had he bet the flop and kept his range uncapped, we would be in a much more precarious position with our two-pair hands and might find ourselves value-betting into a stronger hand, or even folding to a worse hand if he continued to bet large amounts.

I understand this example is slightly oversimplified, but it still illustrates the point I am trying to make, and the concept can be applied to a wide variety of situations. So, what can you do to protect yourself? Well, first you should establish whether your opponents are savvy enough to dissect and exploit your capped range. If they’re not then you can go ahead and cap your range and play in an exploitable manner, knowing that your opponents aren’t taking advantage of you. Against better players, though, you will need to start mixing things up and taking tricky lines to try to deceive them. Using the previous example this might mean checking back A-A-x-x or A-Q-x-x in the shoes of UTG. Even if you only do this 15% of the time it now means that when you check the flop and your opponent decides to bluff, he could be bluffing his stack away while you’re holding the nuts (or figuratively value-betting his A-Q-x-x to death).

Sometimes, however, it’s impossible to avoid capping your range. When this happens, make sure that you’re aware that you’re playing with a capped range. Against an opponent who is aware of this and that is trying to exploit you, you might need to start calling down with a much wider range. Yes, you might end up paying off a better hand sometimes, but that is still better than the alternative of allowing yourself to be habitually bluffed out of the pot.

Capped ranges can be a tricky beast to tackle in PLO due to the vast array of possible hands a player can have at any given point. Don’t let this discourage you from exploiting your opponents if you perceive them to have a capped range, though – if you perceive that weakness in their game, be sure to take action. Sometimes you will run into K-K-6-6 that turned a set on the A-Q-2-6 board, and lose a stack getting it in very bad. However, you’ll more than make up for it with all the smaller pots you steal when your opponent has K-K-7-7 – or any other hand that didn’t hit gin on the turn – and folds. Happy exploiting!

Tags: Roy Bhasin, strategy, PLO