Basic Omaha Considerations

published on 06/26/08 at 12:18 pm

I’m not about to get into advanced Omaha strategy concepts in this article, I just want to analyze a few basic aspects of the game, but some of what I’m about to discuss might benefit advanced players as well.

Omaha Hi-Lo is the most popular Omaha version (although it is played Hi only too, and in PL variations) so all considerations below will be about Omaha Hi-Lo.

An Omaha showdown hand consists of three cards off the board and two from the player’s pocket. Players cannot use one card from their pocket and four off the board or any other combination but the above said one. They may use the same or different hands for their Highs and Lows but they always have to stick to the “two from the pocket tree off the board” rule.

This is extremely important when it comes to the way one’s pocket hand cooperates with the board. Omaha is a game in which a hand can never be viewed in isolation, and in which reading the board is even more important than in Texas Holdem.

One of the most difficult things about reading an Omaha board is reading the low hands. Everyone is used to high hands, so that shouldn’t pose a problem, low hands are different though.

In the “game of nuts as Omaha is often referred to, the very least you can do is to be capable of reading the nut low. The “nut low” means the lowest possible hand on the given board, by the way.

The lowest possible hand in Omaha is 5,4,3,2,A. If you read it as a number (54,321), the hand which read out similarly is closest to this number is the nut low.

Let’s see a few examples of tricky low hands: Let’s see a board of 4,6,7,A,K. While you do want to have A,2 in your pocket hand because they are the two lowest cards, and you would indeed make an excellent low hand with these cards on the board given above, you need to be aware that yours will not be the nut low hand. The low that you can make with your A,2 will be 7,6,4,2,A. The nut low belongs to the player with a 2,3 in the pocket, because his low hand will look like: 6,4,3,2,A. You didn’t see that coming, did you? Now, if you were to read the numbers out like I said above, you’d get 76,421 vs 64,321 out of which the latter is obviously the lower.

You need to know what the nut low is on every board regardless of whether you have it or not. The reason is, you need to assess the strength of your low in relation with the nut low. No other method will give you an accurate idea of how strong your low hand really is.

Why should you even begin thinking about playing Omaha Hi-Lo? Well, the idea is quite simple: if you manage to master the game, it’ll be an excellent way to build up your bankroll. It is no secret that most Omaha players are abysmal. Its nature gives skilled players a huge edge over unskilled opposition. Playing good starting hands in Omaha can alone turn you into a winner. Schooling, which is so irritating in Texas Holdem has no place in Omaha. Loose Omaha games can be beaten simply by waiting for the nuts, and in that respect, it is somewhat mathematically simplistic.

In Omaha, a much higher percentage of your eventual showdown hand becomes available much earlier than in Holdem. You get a plethora of information, and you won’t have to deal with uncertainty so much.

To sum things up, here are a few basic Omaha strategy recommendations:

  • Try to scoop the pot whenever possible, but remember, while taking down the entire pot is what you should really aim for, taking one half of it is still much better than nothing.
  • Play a starting hand which has A,2, A,3 or 2, 3 in it. These cards give you a much better shot at making the nut low. Avoid taking your 6,7,8,9s to the flop.
  • Be tight on the flop. Remember what I said above about the game giving you much more information on the flop than Holdem. Use that information wisely.
  • Play your 2 usable pocket cards depending on how the other two pocket cards relate to the hand you’re trying to make.
  • Play with rakeback. Whether you play Holdem or Omaha, rakeback will give you a huge additional edge.
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