I guess we're all here bright and breezy in a new exciting year. And as promised, I am going to do a little PLOing for you old timers out there. Last year, BluffThis! a regular both here and on 2+2, did a very provocative post about tight play in PLO. As per usual, it didn't garner a whole heap of intelligent responses, however, I thought it might be useful to examine his thoughts and give my views here instead. You can find his post at :
(Quick disclaimer. Bluff has an almost psychopathic hatred of using tools like PokerTracker. I just don't understand it, but I do forgive him :) Is PT as useful for PLO players? Absolutely not. Does it have its uses? Absolutely does. It lets you build rough and ready profiles of players. Now if a guy is playing half his hands and raising with most of them, unlike in holdem, this doesn't *necessarily* mean he's a bad player. But it certainly means he's not a rock. So a raise on the flop is not always the nuts. Also, just for ease of use of reviewing significant hands. PT is a godsend. Diversionary rant over.)
This post of Bluff's is unusual and interesting. Most PLO players just play the preflop quite loosely and with little thought, and then focus from the flop onwards. It’s not unusual to have players with stats of VIP 40%+ and still be winning players. Having said this, there is a profile of winning players, playing circa low 30 preflop and raising with half of their hands they play, so clearly some players are being quite discerning about their standards, if not to Bluff's rigor.
I did feel, though, that there were several elements missing from Bluff's analysis.
1. It's Not the Full Story
If you are going to play as tight as this article advocates then you MUST be raising with the vast majority of the hands you are playing. One of the key raising strategies in PLO is to elevate the stakes when you have an advantage. Clearly, if you are playing this tight, the sheer quality of your hands will be an advantage over the field. So you have to be raising a lot, from all positions.
2. You Need to Link Preflop to Postflop
To my mind, a key element in expert PLO play is how do you link your preflop play to the play running through the streets. One of the reasons I never adopted the raising more strategy was just that I found myself banging it in on too weak values on the flop or the turn. I had a disconnect between my preflop play and the rest of my game. If you are going to be a TAG preflop you are going to need to have an excellent understanding of how you extend this approach against various opponents and situations. The overwhelming advantage and paradoxical disadvantage is that there is no published information on this style of play.
3. It Doesn't Always Win the Most Money
The TAG approach works best in the bigger games. Here, many pots are three way or headsup on the flop, and the game gets NLHE-esque characteristics at times. But certainly from 2-4 and thereabouts, the nature of the game is very different. Many pots are more multiway, regardless of raising, so the UberTAG approach doesn't necessarily have the same impact. Moreover, the pot doesn't need to already be inflated for some schmuck to charge his whole stack in into a poor situation. Bad flush draw, top pair can be a stacking off hand in an unraised pot at the 2-4 level; it may require an inflated, juicier prize in the middle to get people to play quite as loosely at the higher stakes. And of course because of this, it becomes less of a mistake.
These caveats to one side, interesting food for thought for PLO devotees.