Mutual of Omaha

published on 04/29/08 at 9:31 am

Playing Omaha for the first time can stun a beginner into believing the game is absolutely crazy, takes no skill whatsoever, and seems like a crapshoot. Players are betting, calling (sometimes the entire table), raising, and raising on top of that, before a flop even occurs. How can anyone make a profit in this game? Just like Texas Hold’em, a player must understand the starting hands as well as table position to thrive. Patience is truly a virtue in this game!

Let’s run down some basics. You are dealt four cards, you can only use two of them in your final hand. There are still five community cards (flop, turn, river, like Texas Hold’em) and you must play with three of them. So… two in your hand and three on the board, no more and no less. After playing Texas Hold’em, you will need to mentally shift back into neutral and then put it back into forward and take the Omaha highway.

So we have the basics down…what are considered profitable starting hands? Paired hands are favorable in the game, with AAKK being the absolute best. Any hand with three of a kind is an automatic fold. You can only use 2 of those cards, so the third is a waste. The odds of hitting the last card are extremely low. A pair with suited connectors is also very valuable and can be profitable (i.e., KK with 10J suited). Low pairs should be left to a more advanced player, with mid pairs being played only when position dictates.

Remember, a pair pre flop rarely lasts post flop. Hardly ever does a pair win the pot, there is just too many hand combinations you with nine cards. A hand must improve dramatically to take down a pot. Three of kinds and higher are usually what I strive towards. Straights, flushes and even full houses are usually present after the turn and river, so a player must take that into consideration.

Omaha is the one poker variation where slow playing rarely helps. Most Omaha tables are pot limit, but in rare occasions you will see a no limit table. You need to maximize your strong hands and try to narrow the field by raising. You need to make those weak or so-so hands fold, giving you better odds to win the pot. A call with a high pair (or 2) is just asking for trouble post-flop, as a straight or flush draw will stay until the end.

If you keep these basic concepts in your head and try micro limit Omaha, it should be an enjoyable and educational experience. As I said before, patience is a virtue, play your hands selectively. There are a lot of inexperienced and call happy Omaha players online. You will notice the profitable players are very exclusive in their hand selection. As you gain an understanding, you can move up in blinds to try Omaha Hi Lo…but that game is for another day and article.

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