Omaha is a variant of poker that plays very fast. With four cards in your hand you will often find reason to stay in a hand and keep the action going. With so many variations of Omaha Poker, it is a game that can take years to really get a good grasp on.
For a beginning player, Omaha can be one of the costliest games around. With so many possibilities coming at you in every hand, it is easy to make a few missteps. You’re going to have to really get used to being in certain situations in order to navigate them well.
That doesn’t mean that you have to donate money to the table every time you sit down, however. There are some good strategies for beginning Omaha players to take with them to the table when first starting out. In a game where a lot of players are sitting on draws, it is important to keep in mind that anything can, and will, happen.
Let’s start with some basic strategy as it relates to high hand only Omaha. The first place to start is with your hole cards. In Texas Hold’em we all know the best possible hands we could be dealt. In Omaha, while there are some similarities, there are also a number of hands that become far less valuable in Omaha.
Any four-card hand that has pocket Aces is always a must play.
Any four-card hand that has pocket Kings is usually a must play. If other players at the table are being very aggressive pre-flop by putting in a third or fourth bet, most times one of them is holding Aces and you’ll want to throw your hand away. Likewise, when holding two Kings and your opponent or opponents are playing an Ace high flop aggressively, it’s a safe bet that one of them paired the Ace at least and you should fold.
Pairs like Queens and Jacks, while good, are not nearly as strong a starting hand as in Hold ‘em.
A hand like K-Q has some decent value pre-flop in Hold ‘em, but a hand like K-Q-X-X in Omaha holds little to no value. Unless of course one of the other cards is an Ace or you are holding a hand like K-Q-J-10, which gives you a lot of potential possibilities on a lot of flops.
You can open up your starting hand range in late position because In Omaha, positions is paramount.
Hands with no semblance of connectivity should never be played.
Being dealt four of a kind is a terrible starting hand and should be thrown away. Being dealt three of a kind is also not optimal, but if it will cost you very little it may be ok to see a flop with A-A-A-X.
Position in Omaha is a very big deal. Given that you have four cards in your hand, you can be looking at numerous possibilities once the flop is fanned out. Because there will almost always be players on a draw, players will usually bet their hands when they hit in an attempt to keep their opponents from seeing a free card. If you are last to act and it checks around to you, you should almost always fire a bet no matter what you’re holding.
You should always play position very strongly, especially when your opponents are being weak or passive. Stealing late before the flop when either one or no players has entered before you is almost always encouraged.
One thing in Omaha that you will not find in other games are “wraps”. A wrap is a straight draw with 9 or more outs. It’s called a wrap because the player’s hole cards are said to wrap-around the board cards. In Hold ‘em, where players have 2-hole cards, the straightest outs possible is 8. But in Omaha, there are 4-hole cards and this results in straight draws that can have up to 20 outs.
For example, if the board is showing 9-8-2 and you are holding J-10-7-6, you can make a straight with any of the following cards:
The four 5’s in the deck
The remaining three 6’s in the deck
The remaining three 7’s in the deck
The remaining three 10’s in the deck
The remaining three Jacks in the deck
The four Queens in the deck
That is a total of twenty outs, giving you a massive, massive draw. You always want to play your wraps aggressively.
Another common aspect of Omaha Poker is that of “redraws”. A redraw is simply when you have made a hand, but still have live draws to make an even better hand.
For example, let’s say the board is showing Q-J-10 and you are holding A-K-Q-Q. Currently, you have straight form the 10 to the Ace. You also have a redraw to a full house if the board pairs since you’re also holding trip Queens, and also a redraw to four of a kind should another Queen hit. Additionally, depending on the suits you could also have a redraw to a flush.
Just like with any game, there are some common mistakes that beginning players tend to make when first starting out.
A Hold ‘em Mentality
One thing new Omaha players do a lot is play their hands with Hold ‘em theory in mind. In Hold ‘em, flopping an 8 out straight draw is usually good. In Omaha, however, not so much. When holding four cards there are times you will flop 13-out, 17-out, and even 20-out straight draws. It is best to wait until one of these types of draws before getting heavily invested in a hand.
Giving Free Card
With so many draws out there on the flop usually, players would love to see a free card if given the chance. If you flop a strong hand, put the pressure on. There should be no free cards given in Omaha.
Not Raising Pre-Flop
New players can be fairly timid in Omaha and not want to bet too heavy before the flop since post-flop play can be intimidating for beginners. The last thing you want to do is the flop with a lot of players, however. So if you like you’re starting hand, always bring it in for a raise.
Fixed Limit vs Pot Limit
The two main types of high hand only Omaha games you will see are Limit and Pot Limit, with Pot Limit being a widely popular game. The two games play very differently. Pot Limit can be pretty loose and wild where any fixed limit game will have a slower, methodical pace to it.
In Limit Omaha, your bankroll or chip stack is rarely in danger of disappearing given that there is a limit to how much you can bet, and you will almost always know when a player has made their draw. In Pot Limit Omaha, however, your chip stack is almost always vulnerable.
There are a few key things to keep in mind when playing Pot Limit Omaha.
Play Within Your Bankroll
Given that this variation of the game can be extremely swingy, it is important to not get in over your head, no matter how good you think you are. Pots get pretty heavy in Pot Limit Omaha and some draws are hard to give up. If you miss though, kiss that bankroll goodbye.
Don’t Overvalue Aces
While Aces are always a great starting hand, don’t get too married to them early on. Flops will always see a lot of action and those Aces can shrink very quickly, even if the board doesn’t look too scary.
Always Be Playing for the Nuts
In Omaha, if you are going for a flush, always make sure it is the Ace high flush. The second nut flush, or second nut full house can cost you a ton of money.
Stay in Control
Pot Limit Omaha Poker can be one of the most tilting games in all of poker. One minute you’re in control of the hand, the next you are way behind and watching your chips be stacked by another player. Keep your emotions in check and remember that the game will always have its ebbs and flows.
Omaha 8 Or Better
We cannot talk about Omaha strategy without discussing it’s split pot counterpart. The game plays so different from high hand Omaha that it is important to touch on it. The low element to the game really creates a world of difference.
Your starting hands in 8 or Better are going to be far different than in Omaha Hi. When deciding on starting hands keep the following in mind:
You should only play hands that include A-2, A-3, or 2-3 for low hand.
You should usually only play hands that have four cards (9 and higher) for high hand. In order to mix up your play, you should occasionally play A-4 suited and A-5 suited if the other two cards also work well with the hand.
Fold most hands that include a 7, 8 or 9. Most of these hands have a negative expected value. A starting hand like 6-7-8-9, while it may look good, has very little value going into the flop as you would look to be drawing to both a weak low and a weak straight.
The A-3 Trap
One of the biggest ways to lose a lot of money in Omaha 8 or Better is to be calling down with the second best low. Given that players will always see a flop with any A-2 holding, a hand that contains A-3 will become very costly. It looks great at first, but when a low hand is made and another player is playing it aggressively, you are now put in a very tough spot. Be very cautious with an A-3 holding when a low board is being aggressively played by an opponent.
Chasing a Low Heads-Up
One thing you want to avoid if you can help it is chasing a low hand when you are heads-up in a pot. If your low draw has straight and flush possibilities as well it is wise to continue. But if you are heads-up with a hand like A-2-K-J and the flop reads 7-8-Q and your opponent is playing it aggressively, you don’t want to chase just to chop the pot. Most likely you are either chopping, or losing, so it’s best to not continue considering that there will not always be a low.
Fixed Limit vs Pot Limit
The more popular variation of the game at the moment is Limit Omaha 8 or Better. The Pot Limit variant is gaining quickly in popularity, however. The fixed limit plays fairly straightforward as most low draws will be seeing flops. Pot Limit is a very different story.
Nut Low or No Low
In Pot Limit Omaha 8 or Better you will often see a player bet the pot pre-flop. This is indicative of one of two hands – pocket Aces or a hand containing A-2. Since this is the case, it can be extremely costly to enter into a pot with a low draw that doesn’t contain the nut low of A-2.
We mentioned that you want to avoid chasing lows when heads-up. This is never truer than when it comes to playing pot limit. If your opponent bets heavy on a flop and you are heads-up with only a low draw it is very unwise to continue. If there are multiple players in the pot, however, you have a chance of making some serious coin.
Omaha and Omaha 8 or Better can be a lot to unpack for new players, but this guide should serve as a good starting point to make sure you’re avoiding some of the more common mistakes made by beginners.
The more you come across certain situations in Omaha Poker the better you will be at noticing them and playing them optimally.