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Omaha and Omaha 8/b - Learn how to play Omaha

Omaha 101

1- Why Omaha?

There are many reasons to consider learning/playing the wonderful game of Omaha. Here are a few...

More $$$!!!
Primo #1 reason = Higher Win Rates (more $$$!!!) A typical/good Holdem player makes 1-2 big blinds/hour. A good Omaha player can make 2-3 times that. If you’re a low/micro limit player, you should have no prob raking in 5-6 bb’s p/hr.

Easy to Learn
Many people think Omaha is a complex game… It’s not. Omaha is a simple game based on hand values and good draws. Reading opponents, bluffing and complex post-flop decisions (as often encountered in a game like Texas Holdem) are often inconsequential.

Less Variance = Smaller BR
Omaha games produce less variance (especially the Eight or Better split pot variant.) So, to be fully bankrolled in Omaha requires only about 40-50% of the funds for an equivalent Hold'em Game.

Bonus Whoring
If you’re into bonus whoring (taking advantage of the bonus offers made by online poker sites) you’ll definitely want to look into Omaha (because of the two aforementioned reasons; Less Variance & Smaller BR requirements.)

It’s Fun
Many poker players were drawn to the world of poker because of Texas Holdem. They’ve stuck with Holdem and never tried anything else. Well, I’m here to tell ya, if you’re one of those players, you’re missing out. Omaha is an action game that provides some tasty brain food and of some tasty profits (which = more fun!)

2- Introduction: Omaha 101

Omaha game play is similar to Holdem. There are small/big blinds and there are four betting rounds; preflop, on the flop, the turn and the river. The big difference between Omaha and Holdem is: you’re dealt four hole cards instead of two. You must use exactly two cards from your hand and exactly three cards from the (five card) board to construct your five-card poker hand.

Variations on a theme:
There are two versions of Omaha: Omaha High and Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better (a split pot game.) In Omaha High, the objective is to make the highest ranking five card poker hand. In the Eight or Better variant, you can win with the highest or lowest hand (and/or both!) An 8/b low hand must contain five cards with a rank of eight or lower. For example: A-2-3-5-6 would be a very good low hand (note: straights & flushes do not count against you when qualifying a low hand.)

Omaha can be played Limit, Pot Limit &/or No Limit (NL Omaha is not for the weak hearted!) FYI: My game of choice is Pot-limit Omaha Hi-Lo (also known PLO8.)

3- Starting Hands

Omaha a nuts game; you have to be nuts to play it and you need to be playing with the nuts to win. More often than not, you’ll need to showdown the best hand and most of the time that hand needs to be the stone cold nuts (especially in low/micro limit games.) If you’re gonna make the best hand, it helps if you start with the best hand. So, of all the decisions you’ll make when playing Omaha, the most important is what hands you play before the flop. Here’s the key to good starting hands: You’re looking for 4 cards that work together. Connecting cards, suited cards and double pocket pairs are all combinations that give you a good chance to pick up a pot.

Here’s an example of a good, coordinated Omaha hand: Jc-Tc-9h-8h. This hand has a myriad of combinations: The J-T, J-9, J-8, T-9, T-8, and 9-8 all complete a number of potential straights. If you flop two pair with this hand, you will either have a made straight or an open ended draw to one. The hand also contains two double suited combos which give you flush possibilities (though, you should always be careful when playing non-nut flushes.) This is the type of hand you really want: one that can hit a lot flops.

Danglers: If three of your four cards work together, the fourth / odd card is a dangler and that’s a bad thing. Example: if your hand is K-Q-J-2, the deuce is your dangler. Top Omaha players muck most hands containing a dangler…and you should too.

Top starting hands for Omaha and 08/b

Omaha High starting hands

A-A-J-10 double-suited is generally considered to be the best starting hand in Omaha high. A-A-K-K double-suited is another ‘big-un.’ Here’s a list of some more quality hands (all of which become more powerful when “suited”.) A-A-Q-Q, A-A-J-J, A-A-T-T, K-K-Q-Q, K-K-J-J, K-K-Q-J, J-J-T-T, Q-Q-K-T, Q-Q-J-J, 8-9-T-J, Q-Q-J-T, A-A-X-X, K-K-Q-T, K-K-J-T another good hand is the ‘middle run-down’ such as: 5-6-7-8, or 8-9-T-J

Omaha Hi-Lo 8/b Starting Hands
The best starting hands in Omaha high-low are A-A-2-3 double-suited followed by A-A-2-4 double-suited. These hands are strong because they can be played for both high and low (which gives you a good chance of scooping the whole pot.) Of course, being suited (or even better, double-suited) adds value to every hand. Here’s a list of some more good O8/b starting hands: A-A-2-x, A-A-3-x, A-A-4-5, A-2-3-x, A-2-K-K, A-2-Q-Q, A-2-J-J, A-3-4-5, A-2-K-Q, A-2-K-J, A-2-x-x (suited Ace) A-A-x-x, A-3-K-K, 2-3-4-5

4- AA

I originally had this “AA” section as a subset of “Starting Hands” but, I think the topic is important enough to warrant its own section. Bobby Baldwin said it best: “More money has been lost with a pair of Aces than has been won” (quote from Baldwin’s Omaha chapter in Super System 2.)

AA is a tricky hand in Omaha, especially when you’re playing it without backup (coordinated cards that help the hand.) Unlike Holdem, where Aces often hold up on their own, Aces generally need to improve to win in Omaha. So, ideally, you want at least one of the aces coordinated with another card. Either suited for a flush (As-4s-Ad-9d) and/or connected to other cards for a straight (A-A-K-Q) If your AA hand does not contain extra outs, you should be very cautious if you’re going to play them.

If you’re going to play A-A-X-X (an AA hand without ‘backup’) you should be looking to play pots heads-up, either via a pot raise in position or a pot re-raise out of position. If you can't manage one of these scenarios its best to limp before the flop, then check/folded if/when the flop misses (which, considering you’re drawing to two outs, will be most of the time.)

5- Position

As with most forms of poker, your position (in relation to the dealer/button) is very important. The advantage of position is an advantage of information; you get to see who bets and who checks (and who raises) before it is your turn to act. Good position also allows you to be more liberal with your starting hand selection as well as the hands you choose to draw with.

Omaha sucks you into playing more hands and the more hands you play from early position the more hands you are going to lose. In late position you have a lot more power and can play more hands, make more moves, get more value from your strong hands, etc. Many people will tell you position is less important in Omaha: I disagree. Position is very important, even more so in pot limit games.

6- Drawing

Omaha is a game of draws and those draws will make ya or break ya. Here’s the golden rule: If you’re gonna chase, chase the nuts or don’t chase at all. Bad draws can be VERY expensive… Here are a few guidelines:

Don't chase straights that are not the nuts - Even if you make them you could lose to higher straights.

Don't draw for straights or flushes when the board is paired.

If/when you flop a set, be aware, you’ll probably need to fill up (to a full house) to win the hand. Straights/Flushes and Boats are winning Omaha hands… 3 of a kind is low on the food chain.

Keep your eyes open for back-door draws: for example you have the straight and a backdoor flush draw as well (you could be free-rolling your opponent.)

7- Flop - Turn - River

The Flop is the defining moment in Omaha, when those three cards hit the felt, 7/9ths of your hand is revealed. After the flop, you should count/compare the pot to the number of outs you have and then determine if it is profitable to draw. When you hit the flop hard, play aggressive. Example; if you flop top pair with a flush draw and an inside straight draw. You should bet/raise to force your opponents out and give your hand a better chance to win (and win more $$$!)

The Turn often plays itself. You usually know whether you are winning or have a good draw to a winning hand and you can bet, call, raise or fold accordingly. Here are a few basic rules for turn play: *If you have a strong hand: BET IT! (Free cards are a no-no) *You should fold if there are three suited cards on the board and you do not have the flush. *It is best to fold if there is a pair on the board and you do not have trips or a full house. *You should fold if there is a potential straight on the board and you do not have a good draw for a better hand. *If you have the stone-cold-nuts, and are in a multiway pot with aggressive players, you should (usually) attempt a check-raise.

The River plays much like the turn; it should be fairly obvious if your hand is good (If you don’t have the nuts… it’s probably not good.) Here’s a good river rule: if you can’t raise, don’t call. This rule definitely applies to overcalls (calling a bet after someone else has called before you.)

8- Raising

Raising preflop: Before raising, the first thing to do is determine your objective. As in most poker games, there are a few reasons to raise preflop;

1) To get more money in the pot
2) To eliminate opponents
3) To be the aggressor
4) To gain information
5) To get position (by encouraging players behind you to fold)
6) To steal the blinds.

If you’re playing pot Limit, and wish to raise, a pot size bet is typically your best option (especially in the early stages of the hand; preflop/flop.) When you have the best hand, you want to thin the field and/or make your opponent pay the maximum price to make his draw.

Raising in early position with a premium hand is not always the best choice. It’s often best to limp and invite everyone into the hand – then, hopefully get a raise from another player, which allows you to reraise to thin the field and/or build a nice pot.

If you’re in late position and there are a couple of limpers in front of you, then you should raise your quality hands in order to build the pot.

9- Notes on O8/b

The following info deals with the unique qualities found in the Eight or better split pot version of Omaha (my favorite game of the all the Omaha varieties.)

Low hands
As mentioned earlier; half the pot goes to the person with the highest hand & the other half goes to the person with the lowest (qualifying) hand. I assume you understand the basic high hand rankings (a flush beats a straight, etc) but I want to take a sec and discuss the rankings of low hands (a confusing subject that often causes beginners to lose money.)

To discern the lowest hand, compare the highest card of each five-card hand first, then the second-highest card, and so on until one hand is lower than the other. So, 7-6-4-3-2 beats 8-5-3-2-A & 8-6-5-3-2 beats 8-7-3-2-A. Remember to count from the top down. Any 7-low beats any 8-low, even if it is 7-6-5-4-3 vs. 8-4-3-2-A. Note: Straights and flushes do not count against you when constructing low hands. So, 5-4-3-2-A (a wheel) is the best low hand possible. If all five cards are the same, the low hands split the low half of the pot (this is known as ‘getting quartered’… and it sucks.)

Your hand is said to be counterfeited if you had the nut low with an A-2, but then a 2 comes up ruining your nut low. Counterfeit protection comes from having additional low cards, such as a 3 or 4 with your A-2. This is very important property in a hand and allows you to play your lows aggressively (knowing there is no chance your hand will get destroyed by the river card.)

Play Tight
Because Omaha 8/b offers a variety of ways to drag a pot, many beginners make the mistake of thinking the game can be played quite loose. Don’t make that mistake. Omaha 8/b is plays as tight (if not tighter) than Omaha high. Choose your starting hands carefully.

Scooping, Freerolls and 3/4ing
O8b is mostly a game of homeruns (homeruns you’ll hit by playing quality cards.) You aren't looking to hit many PLO8 doubles. You don't want to mix it up in a lot of pots. You want to get out early, or be gladly shoving all your chips in by the end.

Scooping is your goal. Scooping means you win both the high and low hands (and thereby: the whole pot.) Straight wraps and suited aces are excellent scooping hands. High hands are also excellent scooping hands! Many people avoid high-only hands in Omaha-8 but this is a mistake. Sure, the flop will often bring 3 low cards you will have to muck, but when the final board consists of three or more high cards then there is no low possible and you have excellent chances of scooping the pot with a strong high hand. Beyond scooping, there are two situations that provide the majority of your profits: the freeroll and the 3/4.

Freerolling means you are getting a free shot at your opponent's money.
Some freeroll examples:
Flop – Qs Jd Tc; You – As Ks Qc Jc Opponent – Ac Kd 2h 3s
Flop - 3s 4d 5c; You – As 2s 7c 8c Opponent – Ac Kd 2h Qs;

In each of these hands, the best your opponent can do is tie. You can beat him (with flushes or full houses) but he cannot beat you no matter what cards come on the turn and river. You will get action from most opponents who hold these hands... especially from bad players who will often intentionally go for all their chips.

3/4ing is another ideal situation that usually occurs when two people both have the nut low and one (ideally you) also has the high; the player with high & low gets 3/4 of the pot (almost as good as scooping.)

10- Common Omaha Mistakes

For step #10, I’m gonna list 10 common mistakes. I’d suggest rereading this section until the info has a permanent home in your grey matter.

#1: Misreading the board: before you put a lot of money into a pot, check and double check the hand you think you have (especially when playing for low in O8/b.) Here’s a list of a few common beginner mistakes: #1) If there are four cards of a suit on board and you have one of that suit in your hand: You do not have a flush. However, if you have two cards of the suit in your hand, you do have a flush. #2) If there’s three of a kind on board, you only have a full house if you have a pair in your hand (remember, you must use exactly two cards from your hand) #3) Four cards to a straight on board: You only have the straight if you can use two cards from your hand to make it. #4) Beware of ‘counterfeited’ lows when playing 8/b: If you have A-3-K-Q and the flop is 2-4-7, then you have the nut low. If a 3 hits the turn (and/or river) you’ve been ‘counterfeited.’ Your low is no good and it’s time to muck

#2: Playing too many hands

#3: Drawing for 2nd best hands: Drawing for non-nut flushes, the bottom end of straights and drawing for straights and/or flushes when the board is paired are all good ways to lose money. Chase the nuts… or don’t chase.

#4: Overplaying A-A-X-X: Hands like A-A-8-9 rainbow should be played very carefully (especially in loose games.) If you’re going to play this hand, do it in late position… get in cheap (and be prepared to check/fold if/when you miss the flop.)

#5: Playing too many hands

#6: Being Greedy (O8b tip) Omaha 8/b often requires cooperative betting. Raising and re-raising just because ya have the nuts isn’t always the best course of action. If you have a multiway pot with an obvious loser stuck in between two winning hands, you should think about how you can use cooperative betting (between high and low hands) to extract bets from players in the middle.

#7 Going on tilt. You will get suckouts, and plenty of them (especially @ the low/micro levels) Emotional Control is very important

#8: Raising low hands when HU: in a heads-up pot, if all you have is the nut low, just flat call. Raising will not get your opponent out, and you have no chance to win more than half the pot (*this rule does not apply to multiway pots, where it is often correct to raise your nut low.)

#9: Playing too many hands

#10: Joining the wrong game: This is a tip for online players. There’s nothing worse than putting all your $$$ in on a nut low… only to find out you’re playing Omaha high (I’m speaking from experience… an experience I’ve had more than once!) When playing online, be sure to check and double check the type of game you’ve joined.

11- Location Location Location

The most important decision that affects how much money you can win (or how much you’re likely to lose) is table/game selection. As with most poker games, your profits come from opponents who make mistakes. So, you must find a table where the majority of the people make more mistakes than you do. If you find that table you will probably win and if you don't find it, you will probably lose (fortunately, mistake ridden Omaha games are plentiful)

Here are some common mistakes to look for:

*People who play junk hands
“ who play too many hands
“ who never fold (or always raise)
“ who draw to non-nut hands
*People who play well!

Best online sites for Omaha games
PokerStars has the best Omaha action. They offer a wide variety of well populated games/limits and they also offer a superb selection of Omaha tourneys. Many Omahalics play at Party Poker, but I can’t stand that place (I won’t play @ Party unless I’m working off a bonus) so, PokerStars gets my vote for the best place to play Omaha.

You’ll also find a decent selection of Omaha games at: Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet, Poker Room, Bo-Dog & Full Tilt (most of these sites also host a limited variety of Omaha tourneys.

12 – Further Learning

I’ve only scratched the surface of Omaha. If you’re really interested in bettering your game (and your bankroll) you’ll want check out some other resources. Here’s a list of some good books:

• Hi-Lo-Split Poker for Advanced Players by Ray Zee
• Super System 2 (2 chapters on Omaha) Berman and
• Championship Omaha by T. J. Cloutier and Tom McEvoy.
• Omaha Holdem Poker: The Action Game by Bob Ciaffone
• How to Win at Omaha High-Low Poker by Mike Cappelletti
• Winning Omaha 8 Poker by Mark Tenner & Lou Krieger

The Omahalic’s Prayer

“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference

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