I played PLO very badly, in the sense that I wasnâ??t seeing one basic mathematical principle of the game. I canâ??t believe that I missed it all those years, but no one was coaching me on how to play the game.

After playing PLO for more than seven years, I finally learned something while watching â??Houston Sammyâ? play one day.

Sammy is considered the best PLO player in the world, and one day in a big game in Tunica, Mississippi, I watched him get involved in a big pot.

Sammy had 6-8-9-J in his hand, nothing suited, and the board came down 5-7-K. Sammy had flopped the nut wrap straight draw (all the straight cards that he could hit would make him the best possible hand). A car dealer from Dallas had been killing the big PLO game for a couple of weeks and had won more than $500,000. The car dealer bet out $2,000 and Sammy just called with his wrap straight draw. Now the third player in the game check-raised the pot to make it $8,000 to go. The car dealer hesitated and then called the bet. Now Sammy called the $6,000 raise as well. The next card was a jack, and the third player bet out $24,000 into the pot. The car dealer folded his hand, and Sammy called $18,000 of the bet all-in (Sammy had a right to call $18,000, if thatâ??s all he had left). Later, I asked Sammy why he hadnâ??t moved all-in on the flop, and he said, â??Well Phil, I didnâ??t want to have the board pair on fourth street and be drawing dead against my opponentâ??s full house. I knew that I would have to call a pot-size bet if the board didnâ??t pair, because I had a wrap draw. With my wrap draw I would have at least 13 wins, which meant I would have to call a pot-size bet on fourth street.â?Â 

Then it finally hit me why I hadnâ??t been doing better in PLO side games in the past. You see, I never understood that with 13 possible wins I had to call a pot-size bet! If I have 13 wins with one card to come, this means that my opponent has roughly 29 wins. In the hand that Sammy played, I say roughly 29 wins because I know that 13 cards will win for him, four more are on the board, two of his opponentâ??s four cards are probably pair cards (like K-7 or K-K or 7-7), and there are four more in my hand. Therefore, we add Sammyâ??s 13 wins to the eight cards that we can see (his hand and the four on the board) and the other two that we assume are in the opponentâ??s hand. This adds up to 23 cards out of 52 cards in the deck, so the other 29 cards win for the opponent. If youâ??re still confused about 29 versus 13 wins, note that an example is coming right up. This means that Iâ??m roughly a 2½-to-1 underdog to win the pot. When someone bets the size of the pot, then Iâ??m getting exactly 2-to-1 on my call (if the bet is $2,000 into a $2,000 pot, I can call $2,000 to win $4,000). And Iâ??ll get to bet out on the end if I make my hand and win still more money if Iâ??m called. The fact that I can bet out on the end after hitting my hand, and perhaps get called by my opponent, adds â??implied oddsâ? in favor of my calling here. It all suddenly made sense to me, but why hadnâ??t I seen this simple mathematical principle earlier in my career? Any pro reading this is probably saying, â??Duh, Phil, how could you not see that right away?â? One major reason that I had been losing at PLO was that I didnâ??t understand the basic math in the game! I wasnâ??t making the calls I was supposed to make.


As for what happened to Sammy in this pot, he and his opponent agreed to deal the last card twice. (Sometimes, players in big PLO pots choose to deal the final card twice â?? for half of the pot each time â?? in order to lower the luck factor in the hand.) Sammy hit an eight for the straight to win on the first card, and the other player won it on the second card when a ten came up. So they split the pot.


Author Bio: Phil Hellmuth, Jr. is a 13-time World Series of Poker Champion, leading all other poker players in the world. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers and his latest book, Deal Me In, is also widely popular. Visit phillhellmuth.com to check out his clothing line, blog and exclusive gaming tips.