While the "Texas" version is by far the most popular form of Holdem these days, Omaha Holdem continues to be popular at both the higher and lower limits. While that may seem strange at first glance -- that the game is attractive to players at both ends of the spectrum while being less of a draw to players in the middle limits -- there are actually quite a few reasons for this, which the various articles touch on in several ways. Omaha is similar to Holdem in using a three-card flop on the board, a fourth boardcard, and then a fifth boardcard. Each player is dealt four holecards (instead of two) at the start. In order to make a hand a player must use precisely two holecards with three boardcards. The betting is the same as in Hold'em. At the showdown, the entire four-card hand should be shown to receive the pot. Rules of Omaha 1. All the rules of holdem apply to Omaha except the rule on playing the board, which is not possible in Omaha (you must use two cards from your hand and three cards from the board). Omaha High Low Omaha is often played high-low split, 8-or-better. The player may use any combination of two holecards and three boardcards for the high hand and another (or the same) combination of two holecards and three boardcards for the low hand. The rules governing kill pots are listed in "Section 13 - Kill Pots." Rules of Omaha High Low 1. All the rules of Omaha apply to Omaha high-low split except as below. 2. A qualifier of 8-or-better for low applies to all highlow split games, unless a posting to the contrary is displayed. If there is no qualifying hand for low, the best high hand wins the whole pot. - Bob Ciaffone People often ask me what book I'd recommend to a novice Omaha player. There are other useful books, but my normal reply is: the Bible. Omaha does have the tendency to drive beginning players to prayer, but it really need not be so. I am also often asked about writing my own book on Omaha. This is not a book. Neither is it meant to deal with the more advanced, complex and difficult skills that the strongest Omaha players master. This is an introduction to the key strategies behind the game. While it's not meant to deal with the most advanced concepts, it does deal with concepts that should benefit many experienced players too, not just novices. What I mean by "Omaha" here is the most common variation of Omaha Holdem: Limit Omaha HiLo Split, Omaha8, Omaha/8, Omaha High-Low, Omaha Split, Omaha Eight-or-Better. Omaha is also played Limit High Only, Pot Limit High, and Pot Limit HiLo Split. While concepts here are sometimes applicable to the other variations, sometimes they are not. Check out the above links for strategy ideas on the other variations. Some readers may want to begin with the How to Play Poker page and the Omaha Rules page to go over game basics, then return here. Also check out Omaha Myths, which deals with common misconceptions. Two cards, always two cards... Omaha hands consist of three of the five community board cards, plus two cards from each player's hand -- always three off the board, always two out of the hand. You can use the same or different card combinations to make your high hand and your low hand (if any), but you always use two from your hand, three from the board. This is important not just from the perspective that it is a rule and you have to do it, but also in thinking about how your hand must integrate with the board. Your hand must cooperate with the board. (Cooperation is a recurrent Omaha principle.) You should never think of your hand in isolation. It needs three cards from the board for high, and needs three cards for low. (Some new players find it helpful to focus more on "three from the board" rather than "two from the hand.") Nut low means best possible low... Reading low hands often confuses newbie players -- experienced ones too -but there actually is a pretty easy way to do it. First, you must remember the two cards from your hand, three from the board rule. A board like 87532 might make 2367 somewhat hard to read but you read your low hand simply by taking the lowest card combination to be found using three cards from the board and two from your hand. But what is the lowest? What about when your cards are paired (counterfeited) on the board? Think of it this way: the lowest/best possible hand is a wheel, a 54321 -- or 54,321. The highest/worst possible qualifying low hand is 87654 -- or 87,654. Read your low hand as a number, starting with the highest card and working down. The player with the hand/number closest to 54,321 wins (or ties if someone else has the same hand/number). Omaha players often speak of "the nut low." This is the best possible low in this particular hand. While A2 combined with an 876KQ board creates the best low possible, 54 combined with a board of A23KQ makes the nut low in another case. And, 23 combined with a 764KA board makes the nut low (64,321), not an A2, which only can make a 76,421. If you get confused by how your cards are paired or counterfeited by the board, at the showdown, show your hand and ask the dealer to read exactly what your low hand is. Omaha is a game of nut hands, so as hands unfold, practice reading what the nut low hand is. Then start thinking of your low hand in relation to the nut low. It's not important to know how low your low is, what matters is how low your low is in comparison to the nut low. Why play Omaha?... This website is called Play Winning Poker. While some newbies reading this Introduction will be hard pressed to do it right away, the aim is to win at Omaha -- not have fun, or even to irritate yourself. Frankly, at lower limits, winning at Omaha is easy, if you really are trying to win because most Omaha players play terribly, much worse than they play Holdem (which is not so good to start with). In many ways, Omaha is mathematically simplistic. If you play only good starting hands and your opponents see fit to play almost every hand, and don't care whether they play for one bet or for four, soon the math of that will work in your favor. Omaha is the best game to make money, especially when you have a small bankroll. $3/6 Omaha requires only about half the bankroll of $3/6 Holdem, but your hourly win rate should be higher. Bad players have virtually no chance to beat Omaha over any meaningful period of time, but they can win big pots, and have really good sessions. This is true of Holdem too but to a much smaller degree, because Holdem edges are generally small in loose games. Weak Holdem players can "school" together and get pot odds on their poor draws and therefore not be playing all that bad. On the other hand, there is no parallel schooling phenomenon in Omaha where very often five players draw stone cold dead while two players have all the outs between them (for example, on the turn the nut flush and the top set are the only live hands, and five other players with two pairs and baby flushes are drawing dead). Omaha is a game of massive edges; Holdem is a game of smallish edges. Low limit Omaha games are the easiest poker games to beat -- if you play properly. Most players do not have the ability, or more important, the desire to play properly in low limit Omaha games. If you are playing to win, generally Omaha games are the place to play because they are cheaper (less bankroll), more profitable (higher hourly win rates) and have weaker players playing much more poorly. It's deadly dull tho. What winning loose-game Omaha is not is a barrel of laughs. So, for less experienced players, there are some contradictions at work here. Omaha is a great game for good players... but most inexperienced players are not good... but it is very easy to teach a player to play wayabove-average Omaha... but the basic advice is to play with great discipline... but having discipline is an advanced skill... and is boring as paste. Omaha is a game of non-random accuracy... One thing to understand about Omaha is that since you get a higher percentage of your final hand sooner, your hands are generally much more defined than in Holdem or Stud. After all, 7/9ths of your hand is known on the flop. Then, when it comes to the betting, the likely outcome of an Omaha hand is often precisely known. A player with twenty, or twelve, or four outs has that many outs. In Holdem random outcomes are common. Facing several opponents, they can win by hitting oddball kickers or spiking their underpair. On the other hand, Omaha is far more concrete. You know your outs -- how many cards make you the nut hand. In loose games there is very little mystery. In tighter games you often don't need to make nut hands to win, since you face fewer opponents, but in common lower limit situations (where most Omaha is played), there is little randomness to the game. Unlike Holdem, before the river card is dealt, usually you should know exactly how many possible cards make you the winner, and how many don't. Omaha is a game of information. Holdem is a game of uncertainty. That's how they were designed! Loose game Omaha is about ending up with the nuts. Loose game Holdem is far more shadowy and difficult. Many players seem to draw the wrong conclusions from the greater certainty that is part of Omaha. They think because their nut flush on the turn gets beaten on the river when the board pairs that Omaha has some mystical randomness to it. The opposite is true. There are a precise number of cards that pair the board, and make you lose. There are a precise number that do not pair the board, and make you win. On the turn, if you have the nut flush, with no cards in your hand paired on the board, and your opponent has a set, with no other cards paired on the board, there are exactly forty possible river cards. Exactly ten pair the board to make you a loser. Exactly thirty do not pair the board and make you the winner. That's it -- pure, simplistic math. In the long run, you win three out of four. This is known. This is Omaha. Do not let yourself be confused by irrelevant concepts. What matters in any form of poker, but particularly in Omaha, is the probability of winning -- not who is temporarily in the lead. Whether you flop a made hand or a draw or a backdoor draw is irrelevant, what matters are your prospects, your probabilities, of having the winning hand on the river. What counts is how many cards, in what combinations, make you the winning hand. Know how many cards make your hand, and then know that in the long run you will win pots in the mathematically appropriate percentage: if you have x% chance of making the winning hand, you better be getting at least the correspondingly appropriate pot odds. Omaha is a game of accuracy, clarity and concrete information. Sure, sometimes you will get unlucky, and since Omaha edges are so huge, when you get unlucky it can be pretty hard to swallow, but since the edges are usually so big, if you play good starting hands in Omaha, and get unlucky, you can still win. You just have to keep your discipline. Starting hands... Unlike Holdem, where post-flop play is far more critical, winning Omaha fundamentally begins with starting hands. Starting hands exist before the flop, which is where you get enormous edges in Omaha against a field. On the turn you will often have times where some players are even drawing dead, and that is clearly the juiciest money in the game, but the simplest, most direct, most necessary way to beat these games is to not play crap hands and to get more money in the pot when you have A255 and several of your opponents have hands like K965. Getting garbage hands with a low winning expectation to pay before the flop when they are enormous dogs is a big part of winning Omaha. Not counting AA and perhaps KK, in looser, multiway games Holdem hands run much closer in value than Omaha hands do -- urban myths not to the contrary. If you don't know and appreciate this basic concept, you are going to be in trouble in Omaha. Omaha has a fairly large group of hands that will win at double the rate of randomish hands. Few Holdem hands can say the same. Only playing good starting hands, and raising before the flop with many of them, is the basics of winning in loosegame, low to middle limit Omaha. Schooling in Omaha... "Schooling" is a common phenomenon in loose-game Holdem. When several players play badly by calling with weak draws, like gutshot straights or backdoor flushes, these players partially protect each other by making the "price" on each of their calls better. If only one player calls with a gutshot draw, usually that is a significant mistake, but if several players make similar calls, now the pot is big enough to make the calls profitable, or at least much less bad. Properly understanding the strategy involved in schooling is a key skill in loose-game Holdem. There is no parallel schooling phenomenon in Omaha -quite the contrary. In Omaha, schooling benefits the favorites, not the underdogs. This reverse schooling phenomenon is what makes Omaha often mindlessly profitable. Players with four outs or less call bets from players with twenty outs, and no matter how many people call, the twenty outs player continues to have twenty outs. Despite the definite reverse profitability of "schooling" in Omaha, poor players engage in it all the time. They look at a big pot and call bets hoping to get lucky, even though they may be drawing totally dead. Suppose you flop a top set of three kings against seven opponents. The true enemies of your KKK (or any strong Omaha hand) are the first two callers (meaning the two opponents with the most outs). On a flop of KsQd7c for example, we are afraid of AJTx wrap-straight draws. That's the first caller or two. Then we have open-end straight draws. We are the favorite over those (and all the rest of the draws). Next are backdoor flush draws. Then we worry about the lame backdoor straight draws around the seven. Naturally, many of these longshot draws overlap each other. For instance, if the Ace-high spade flush draw calls us, we certainly love the five-high spade flush draw to call, drawing dead. Yes, they may win sometimes, but we love these sixth, seventh, and eighth callers! With the KKK, if we assume we won't win unless we fill up, and we don't fill up on the turn, we will have ten outs of the forty-four possible cards, meaning we will fill up 23% of the time. Even if we lose to quads the 3% part of that, that's still a one out of five win percentage, for a scoop, while getting six, seven or eight way action. Additionally, we'll normally have our own backdoor draws. If we have two backdoor King-high flush draws, this will further destroy what little power the sixth, seventh and eight callers have, as their backdoor baby flush draws in our suits are contributing totally dead money on that aspect of their hands. So, building a pot with a raise before the flop in Omaha does not benefit schooling opponents, it benefits players with the good hands. The flip side of this phenomenon exposes another key difference between Omaha and Holdem. In loose Holdem games, there are a lot of hands you can profitably add to your arsenal, most obviously Ace-rag suited and suited connectors. This is not true in Omaha. Again, the difference in value of hands multiway in Omaha is much more dramatic than in Holdem. The majority of hands simply are never playable (outside the blinds). If you are on the button and everybody limps in, 3456 is still a worthless piece of garbage. It does not matter if you have three opponents or seven, the hand stinks. You can play a small number of additional hands, but for the most part, no matter how loose or weak your opponents are, you can't add too many more hands to your playable repertoire. The thing to "loosen up" in such a game is to want to play for a raise most hands you play. In tight games, calling when someone limps in front of you is often the right play. In a loose game, raising is usually the correct play because you are playing a hand with way the best of it. You want dead money in the pot, and you want dead hands hopelessly chasing it! And they will. A "river" game?... Some players like to call Omaha a "river game" because the final card often determines the winning hand. While that is true, the thinking behind this "river game" idea is very flawed. Poor Omaha players wait to the river to bet -- when they know they are going to win (or lose). That's just not sensible or profitable. Omaha is not a "river game"; it is a game of preparation. Before the flop: you should play hands that have a high expectation; you should manipulate the pot size; you should try to manipulate your opponents so that when you have a hand that plays well against fewer opponents you are playing against fewer opponents and when you have a hand that plays well against a full field you are playing against a full field. After the flop: the flop is critical. Here you should begin to roughly calculate the probabilities and deduce how favorable your chances are to win. Again, here a player should be manipulating the pot -- get more chips in when the odds favor you, try to minimize when you have a longer shot. The turn card is the least important aspect of Omaha but it's the end of the main math part of the game. In loose games, you can pretty much calculate precisely your chances of winning some or all of the pot. Whether a player then makes or doesn't make their hand on the river really doesn't matter. You do everything right mathematically up to this point, and lose to a one outer, that is fine -- just do the same things again and again the next times. Omaha (and all the other games) is about having the best of it in the longrun. There is no "leader money" in poker. The "best" hand is the one with the highest winning potential (including the understanding that some hands will win more bets than others). Don't think what just happened was an aspect of a "river game". I can't emphasize this strongly enough: All the truly important actions in this hand occurred before that river card happened to bring you bad luck. Another thing to consider is that only a tiny percentage of money action is on the river in Omaha. Poker is about money. Omaha is not about the river. That's naive. Omaha is about getting money in the pot in a mathematically advantageous way before the river. Limit Omaha High Low is an anti-river game! Put another way, if you play a coin flip game against a guy, and he says he'll give you $5 for every time it comes up heads, but you have to give him $1 for every time it comes up tails, it would be wrong to refer to this situation as "a flip game"! The key part of the game was in the pre-negotiation, not in the flip itself. Driving the pot... Loose game Omaha is mostly about nut hands. If there is a flush, you sure want the nut flush. If there is a low, you sure want the nut low. The obvious reason, of course, is because you have the winning hand rather than the second or third best hand. But that's not the only value to playing nut hands. Again, winning Omaha requires pot manipulation -- get more money in when you have clearly the best of it; play for cheap when you don't. Nut hands and nut draws using quality cards can "drive the betting" where nonnut hands cannot. For instance, let's look at the enormous difference between KK and JJ -- not in terms of how much more often KK makes the winning hand, but in terms of the difference in the pot sizes. KK is a much more valuable holding in part because KK can drive the betting in many pots that JJ can't -- like on a turn board of KQQ7 versus a board of JQQ7. The difference between those two situations is enormous. There are other reasons why KK is a major holding while JJ is a minor one, but the difference in how each can drive the betting (or not) offers an excellent illustration of what situations you want to be in when playing Omaha. Likewise, there is a very large difference between A23x and A2xx on a 87K flop. The latter hand should win less money, not just because it will be counterfeited sometimes and not make the winning hand, but because it cannot drive the betting nearly as much (if at all) as the A23x can. A256, A247, A269, all these hands should win extra money not just because you make winners more often, but because you should be driving the betting with them far stronger than with the onedimensional A2. Cooperation... Greedy players make lousy Omaha players. Foolish greed often costs players bets because they simply don't recognize that the game frequently requires cooperative betting. Suppose there are three people in a pot. On an 8s7s5c flop, Player A bets and is called. The 9h comes on the turn. Player A bets again, Player B calls, Player C raises, Player A reraises, B calls, C caps, A and B call. Now the river card pairs the board with a flush card, the 9s. What now? Often Player A will bet, with no high hand, and Player B will raise, with no low hand. This will drive Player C with a straight and a weak low out of the pot. Translation: stupid Player A and Player B. Instead of cooperating to get at least one bet from Player C, they got none. If Player A stupidly bets, Player B should call, and hope to get one bet from Player C, or perhaps an idiotic raise. The better play though would be for Player A to check, have Player B bet, get Player C to call, then have Player A checkraise, and have Player B now call. This way you get at least one bet from Player C, and perhaps two. Think about how you can use cooperative betting between high and low hands to extract bets from players in the middle. Don't be greedy and cost yourself money. Luck... While the emphasis on the non-random mathematical nature of the game above makes the point, I'll mention a few things about luck as it applies to Omaha. All poker has luck involved. Omaha is the most mathematically straightforward poker game -- very little randomness, very much known information. So, when someone makes a miracle one-outer on the river, some people will mistakenly think of Omaha as having a high degree of luck, when the opposite is plainly true. Omaha is a bit like a roulette wheel. If you have bets on all the numbers except one, when it happens to come up that other number that is really bad luck. But, now suppose the person who bet on that one number also put up as much money as you did. You had thirty-six chances to win, he had one, playing for the same prize. The longrun outcome of this game is surely not going to be determined by luck! You will crush your opponent, either very soon, or a little while later. When he gets lucky, he gets super-lucky, but that's just fine, as long as he is willing to keep making the same bet over and over. Holdem has far more random luck than Omaha (or Stud). That's why it's the most popular game. Poor players can do better, longer. Somewhat bizarrely, Holdem also has more long-term skill. Winning Holdem is a game of exploiting tiny edges often. Winning Omaha is a game of exploiting huge edges less often. In most ways, Omaha is a far simpler game. When played by good players, Omaha games are horrible -unless the blinds are huge, forcing players to gamble. This is why Omaha is often played with a kill, to generate action in a game that should have very little. This is also why Omaha will never be "the game of the future." Poor players have no chance. Good players eat them alive. In many localities, Omaha games burn brightly for a while, and then burn out as the bad players go back to Holdem games where random luck gives them a fighting chance. Quartered... In loose games you should hardly ever think about being quartered (when you have the same low hand as another player). It's almost never very costly to be quartered in limit Omaha. In loose games, one of the principal plays you should always have on your mind is how you can get three-quarters of a pot with hands like nut low and one pair. Too many weaker players obsessively fixate on being quartered with this sort of hand instead of focusing on getting three-quarters of the pot occasionally. The quickest way to get over a pathological fear of being quartered is to just do the math on various situations where you get one-quarter. It's hardly ever much of a loss. Now compare that to similar hands where you manage to get three-quarters of different size pots. You'll quickly see that many tiny losses getting quartered are more than compensated for by a few occasions where you can snatch three-quarters. Scooping... High-Low Split poker is about scooping the pot -- winning it all, not splitting. Many weak and beginning players think they are playing decently because they focus on hands with A2 or A3 that make the nut low. These hands are playable obviously, and getting half a loaf is better than none, but this is most definitely not why you should be showing up to play Omaha (or Stud HiLo for that matter). Once again, just doing some simple math is very illuminating. Scooping a pot is not merely twice as good as splitting. Suppose you play a five-way pot. Everyone puts in $80. If you split the $400 pot, you get back $200, a profit of $120. But if you scoop, you get $400, for a profit of $320. That's not twice as good, it is 2.67 times as good. In a three-way pot where you all invest $80, if you split you get $120 for a profit of $40. If you scoop, you get $240 for a profit of $160 -- four times as good as splitting. The real reason to play A2 hands is not for the benefit of making the nut low and splitting a pot. The reason to play this hand is because while it is splitting the pot some of the time, it allows other parts of your hand to be aiming to scoop the pot. When you play A2, you actually want to be using some other aspect of your hand, something that will scoop. A2 just makes it safe for you to play, including often giving you the chance to make backdoor straights and flushes that you otherwise would not have stayed in the pot to make. This again goes back to "driving the pot". A2 allows you to drive the pot in situations like where you have A2JT with the nut flush draw and the board is 4678. Your A2 allows you to stick around for the gutshot straight draw, and allows you to aggressively bet your nut flush draw. That is where the money is, not in splitting the pot with the nut low. Four card units... The above illustration also should help make the point that Omaha hands are four-card units. Despite the "must play two" aspect of the game, Omaha hands should not be looked at as six two-card holdings. Doing so is to fundamentally misunderstand the game. The RGP Posts section of this website addresses several fallacies involving Omaha point count systems, and starting hand charts in general. There are a lot of reasons these systems are a bad idea but one basic flaw is they view Omaha hands as several two-card units. It should be easy enough to see though that while 3d3h is a basically useless Omaha holding on its own, when combined with an As2s it now becomes a powerful aspect of a coordinated hand! Viewing the 33 out of the context of the A2 is a serious error. Beyond the simplistic thinking about starting hands, it is critical to think of Omaha hands as four card units after the flop. You may play As2s3dQd, but end up with a flop of Qs9c2c. Before the flop no point-count system would assign the Qd2s aspect of your hand any value, but now here on the flop it is part of your whole hand, and you must think in terms of how you have two pair, a backdoor flush draw, a back door nut low draw, a backdoor wheel draw, etc. Omaha hands are multifaceted and multi-dimensional. They should be viewed and analyzed as integrated wholes, not separate parts. An Omaha hand can be greater than the sum of its parts, sometimes even less, but Omaha hands are always four cards. Situational analysis & starting hands... All winning poker requires situational judgments. Some folks just hate that. They want easy, cookie-cutter answers. Sometimes difficult problems do have easy answers, but more often they don't. Holdem is a more situational game than Omaha, but because of that, when situational judgments are needed in Omaha, they are usually very critical -inspirational even. For example, bluffing is not something that you should do much of in loose game Omaha, but there still is a lot of profit to be made from bluffing, precisely because nobody thinks it is a big part of the game! Most players play a lot of hands in Omaha, more hands than they play in Holdem. The proper play is the reverse. However many hands you play in Holdem, you should play less in Omaha. (Again, Holdem is a post-flop game where playing junk before the flop can often be situationally correct.) If you are in an Omaha game with people violating this concept, as most Omaha players do, then you should only be focusing on playing strong hands and, in the correct situations, a few highly speculative hands that make for big scoops. The latter group boils down to KKxx, and QQ with two decent other cards. All other hands should either contain A2, A3, Ax suited, or be highly coordinated (KQJT, QJJT, 2345). The weakest of these are also more speculative (like the three examples). They aren't very good, and don't hit that often, so you want to try and play for only one bet, but when they do hit, they pay off nicely, so in weak, loose games they should be played. In tougher games they should normally be mucked. A very good, but not spectacular, hand like A23K with a suit on the King will scoop somewhere between 20 and 50% more than a random hand, depending on number of players and positional factors (and will split far more than random hands). If you are on the button and don't raise with this hand when everybody limps in, you are playing lousy poker. On the other hand you normally don't want to raise under the gun with hands like A234 because you want players. You want to play your very good hands for a raise, you want to try to put in an extra bet when you can, but sometimes you can't. A very general starting point for loose-ish games is: AAxx, A2xx, Ax suited, A3xx, four cards ten or bigger (except trips), KK with two decent cards. That's mostly it, but there are definite exceptions like AKsQs4. Don't look at these as rigid rules. AK54 is a far superior hand to A397 offsuit. Solid "one-way" hands are okay. You want to win the whole pot. Big cards win big pots, but they have bigger fluctuations. The end of the beginning... Advanced Omaha strategy goes quite a bit beyond the above, but most Omaha players go nowhere near as far as we go here. Once you think correctly about your approach to the game, like correctly viewing how much better scooping is than splitting for instance, advanced strategy concepts become more readily apparent, and your play will evolve and adapt. One big reason good players beat bad players at Omaha is because good players are thinking about the right game. Don't be concerned about losing pots. That's defeatist tunnel vision. Instead, be concerned with getting money in with the best of it time and time and time again, and then letting the math take care of things in the longrun. That is Omaha. The introduction to it anyway... This companion to the Introduction to Omaha Poker Strategy is needed because something about Omaha HiLo seems to lead to the true nature of the game being concealed beneath a shroud of fantasies. New myths pop up every day. This is surprising since Omaha is mostly a straightforward game. In fact, this is first Omaha myth to expose: Myth: "Omaha is a complicated game." Obviously all poker games have levels of complexity, but the contrasts between Omaha and its closest cousin, Texas Holdem, reveal Omaha to be much simpler. Holdem decisions are full of uncertainty, randomness, and the complexity born of one simple fact -- in many hands, all players involved have basically nothing. Suppose AcTs raises before the flop from one in front of the button, QhJh calls on the button, and 7d6d calls in the big blind. Suppose a flop comes down of 9d8h8c. The winner of this pot will often be determined by who plays the craftiest from the flop on. Situations like this occur all the time in Holdem. In contrast, in most Omaha games you seldom play hands head-up on the flop, and anytime there are three or more players in a pot either: one player will have a clearly better hand than the others, or more than one player will have a solid hand, or any bet from any player will be able to win the pot on a bluff (because no one has anything at all). Each Omaha hand has many more ways to connect with a flop. Twelve cards in three hands don’t just have double the ways to hit a three card flop, if only because Omaha8 offers players the chance to “win” by either making a high hand or a low hand. Very often Omaha hands come down to simply calculating your chances of winning all or part of a pot. The principle variable becomes how you manipulate the size of the pot via the betting. True, situations do occur that are similar to the one facing the QJ in the Holdem example above, where getting the AT to fold greatly increases the value of the hand (even if the player doesn’t know it). Correctly playing in these situations does separate great players from average ones, and a significant chunk of Omaha profit comes here, but these situations are rare. They don’t occur every hand, or maybe even every nine hands. Most Omaha situations come down to calculating your "outs" -- counting the number of cards that make your hand and translating that into a percentage. The rare, complicated situations are very important, but the common situations are quite uncomplicated. Omaha is usually a simple game: play hands before the flop that can easily make a straightforward nut hand, and play hands after the flop where you are getting correct odds on making the nut hand. (And again, manipulate the betting as favorably as you can.) Handling the complex aspects of the game can only come after understanding the basic simplicity of most of the game. The problem that most Omaha players run into is screwing up (and unnecessarily complicating) the simple aspects of the game. If you play QJT4, and get a flop of KJ4, you’ll likely spend a lot of time thinking about how "complicated" Omaha is. You throw that garbage in the muck before the flop, and the game is much simpler. Again, there are complicated aspects to the game, but most players don’t ever even get to the point of seeing the real complexities because they get themselves involved in situations that are only complicated in the same way as: “if I throw my car keys into the ocean, how will I ever find them?” Or, “if I throw a handful of quarters out the front door, how will I ever find them all?” Both of those are incredibly difficult problems to solve -- except the solution is to simply never throw your car keys in the ocean or your quarters out the front door. Myth: "Omaha Starting Hands Run Close Together in Value" This is the silliest myth of all, especially when it comes to real game conditions. The root of this myth comes from the fact that head-up Omaha hands seldom have a dominating relationship in the same way that AA dominates A7 in Holdem. The head-up phenomenon means that you should liberally defend your big blind against a single raiser when you have any sort of reasonable hand. You will be getting correct pot equity to do so. This head-up concept though has transmuted into the bizarre myth that Omaha starting hands run close together in value. It’s complete nonsense. Readers can run simulations, observe games or do whatever other study they want to "prove" this, but A23K is just a helluva lot better than J965. It will scoop more often, get a share of the pot much more often, it will be more “bettable” and win bigger pots because it makes the nuts more often and easier, etc. The mass of Omaha hands are like J965 -- random crap. The good and great Omaha hands stand head-andshoulders above the random crap. They scoop more, split more, are more bettable, and make less “second best” losers. In Holdem, AA stands way above the other hands. KK, QQ and AK are not in AA’s league, but they also aren’t in the league of the rest of the hands either. Omaha has no equivalent of AA but there is a larger group of hands similar to KK-QQ-AK. And then there are also more hands in the same league with AQ-JJ-TT-AJ. Then there is a big drop off, because Omaha does not have the equivalent of 99 or KJ. There are excellent Omaha hands, good ones, a few speculative ones, and then there is garbage that is greatly inferior to the good hands. Myth: "Don’t raise before the flop" In most Omaha games a critical and basic concept is to get more money in before the flop when you have way the best of it. The most obvious profit in Omaha comes from opponents calling on the turn when drawing dead. This happens reasonably often but the profit that occurs every single hand, the most common way to create a profitable edge is to exploit the dramatically different pre-flop value of Omaha starting hands. Most Omaha games feature players who play too many garbage hands 789T, 23QJ and even J965. In many games, these mistakes occur before the flop all the time. This is where the money is to be made. Since the opportunities arise almost every hand, this is where you increase your profits hugely in Omaha. Interestingly, many mediocre players who do understand Omaha is about starting hands don't "get" that starting hands only exist before the flop. They passively limp and “wait to see the flop.” If a huge part of Omaha is starting hands, then aggressively betting your hands before the flop should be an obvious conclusion. Of course, raising with a hand you want to raise with is not always the best choice. A234 first to act is just about the worst hand to raise with. You certainly wish you could raise a bunch of people playing random junk, but you can’t. You are first. The best choice available is to limp and invite everybody you can possibly get into the hand -- and hopefully get a raise from another player. The principle here is that you want to raise, but often you are unable to. You want to play A234 for two (or more) bets against 789T, 23QJ and J965, but if raising causes all of them to muck and have you end up playing head-up against AQ65, you screwed up badly. Myth: "Never raise with low" This bit of gibberish is almost too good to expose. A very common sight in online Omaha games is to see terrible players raising on a flop of AJ8 with their naked 23 draws, and then freezing up like a deer in the headlights when they make their hand on the turn or river. Now, when they HAVE something they shut down and become callers. In the case of a 23 shutting down is a good idea (the come-betting and raising is insane), but very often “the never raise with low” myth will cause players to lose money because they are absolutely mortified of getting quartered. In Limit Omaha HiLo getting quartered is seldom a big deal, except head-up. (Pot Limit is a different story.) Playing $10/20, if betting is capped on all streets three ways, a player will put $240 into a pot (playing with a bet and three raises). This will make a total pot of $720. One quarter of that is $180. So, the absolute worst case when getting quartered is to lose three big bets. Of course, more often the betting will not be capped on every single street, and there will be dead money in the pot from other players or from the blinds. You should be aware of situations where you are likely to get quartered, and bet accordingly, but the obsession most players have with being quartered is a very big hole in their game. You should not be thinking about getting quartered. You should be thinking: “Can I get three-quarters, and if I can, how can I?” You should be raising often when you have the nut low hand and any sort of high, including as little as AK. Getting quartered on river raises in three way pots will often cost you one chip. But when you win three-quarters of a pot by making the better high hand lay down because of your raise, you will win many chips. For instance, again playing $10/20, suppose a pot is $200 on the turn. A player you believe has nut low bets into a K7487 board. You raise with your A24J. Both players call and you lose to a high hand with Kings up (but you do have the other low hand beat for high). Your raise will have cost you $5. But now if the player with Kings up folds, the pot will be $280 and you will get $210 of it (instead of $80 when you get a quarter of a $320 pot). You risked $5 to win much more than that. Even if the play works one out of ten times, you make money. More likely it will work about half the time. "Never raise with low" is a nonsense statement. When the words pass through someone's lips, it marks them as a poor player. Omaha hands are always four cards. Your hand always has more to it than just "low". Sometimes you won’t have any high hand value yourself, or you will face an obvious high hand that will not fold, but anytime you have ANYTHING at all for high, you should be thinking about how might manipulate the betting (usually by raising) so that you get threequarters and not one-quarter. Myth: "You play more Omaha hands than Holdem ones" This is true of bad players but not good ones. Winning Omaha causes much smaller bankroll fluctuations than Holdem because that marginal group of hands that exists in Holdem is largely absent from Omaha. If you only played AA, KK, QQ, AK, AQ and JJ you would not have huge fluctuations if only because you would fall into a coma between hands. This would be an awful way to play Holdem because you would be eaten alive by the blinds, but you sure wouldn’t fluctuate a lot. The playable Omaha hands are on par with the weakest of these Holdem hands, but there are more of the Omaha hands. You don’t go into a coma (well, maybe you get close to a coma), and more important, you don’t lose to the blinds. To beat Holdem you have to play many of second and third tier hands and situations. These mostly do not exist in Omaha. There are more good or better Omaha hands, but less playable Omaha hands in total. Holdem is a game where inspired post-flop play will win a lot of pots without a showdown. Great players can play more hands profitably than average players because they can extract profit from inspired play. Opportunities for inspired play do exist in Omaha, let’s be clear about that, but they are fewer -- and very rare in "normal" loose games. A sensible betting strategy can greatly increase your Omaha profit. For instance if on the river you have nut low and one pair, but when another nut low (who has no pair) bets, you raise and knock out a player who has you beat for high. There is a lot to Omaha post-flop play, but it pales in comparison to Holdem. Outplaying opponents is a cornerstone of Texas Holdem. Showing down the winning hand is a cornerstone of Omaha Holdem. Great players will often be able to identify exploitable situations where the actual cards they hold mean very little. This can happen on rare occasions in Omaha, but for the most part you simply can’t make silk out of a sow’s ear. Crappy Omaha hands are crappy Omaha hands. Before the flop, if your hand is one that normally does not have a solid positive expectation, you will seldom face situations where that hand is transformed into a positive expectation one. In contrast, KTo on the button in Holdem becomes a fine hand if everyone folds to you. Weak Omaha hands very seldom suddenly become similarly “fine.” Of course, in thinking about this topic, we need to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. In a very weak, loose, passive Omaha game you should play more hands than a Holdem game with tight, aggressive, excellent opponents. The idea here is to compare parallel/similar type games. The principal point however is not about how many starting hands to play comparing one game to another. In itself, that is a nothingism. What you should consider is that Holdem is a game of situational post-flop play, while Omaha is a game of making showdownable, nut hands. Choose your starting hands accordingly. Myth: "You can’t bluff in Omaha" Translation: "Bad players can’t bluff in Omaha." Bluffing and semi-bluffing are very important parts of winning Omaha, even if rare. Suppose you play in a game where the average pot is six big bets, $120 in a $10/20 game. Now suppose you successfully bluff one of these pots a week. That is $6240 for a year. Suppose you even win only one out of three of your bluff attempts. A successful bluff one-third of the time once a week would earn you $4160 in a year. That’s 208 big bets. For players attempting to win one big bet an hour, that is profit for four hours a week for a year. The actual numbers aren’t important, but this should illustrate that even rare successful bluffs can earn you a significant amount of money. Average Omaha players are trained to assume that bluffing in Omaha isn’t possible (even if they do occasionally try). People who think bluffing is impossible make good bluffing targets, but the more critical thing to keep in mind is the nature of Omaha itself. Bluffing is difficult because complete, nut hands happen easily. However, when a complete nut hand is difficult to make, bluffing becomes easier against non-savvy opponents. Flops of QcQsJh or KcQc9c are prime candidates for bluffing. Your opponent(s) may have something, but it is easy for them to have very little -- very little, but still better than what you hold. Small pots with coordinated flops are extremely bluffable from early position. (The terrible players like to bluff from last position in Omaha.) Flop bluffing won’t yield six big bets, but the ratios should be similar. One small bet that earns four small bets is a very nice small bet. Myth: "You can't win with a set" Translation: "I misplay flopped sets so I usually lose with them, and lose the maximum when I do lose." Flopping a set (for example, you hold KQQJ and the flop is QJ3) in Omaha is flopping a draw. That’s it. A draw. One reason pocket pairs are weak in Omaha is because not only do you have to spike your set card, you have to also pair the board -- unless of course you drive enough opponents out of the pot so that you also pick up some of the “blank” cards. Still, you continue to only be drawing, to either a full house or to catch a blank. A draw is a draw. To put it mildly, there is no guarantee you will make your draws. When you flop a set, you will often lose, but when you win you will often scoop. Scooping the whole pot is the aim of the game. However, there is a world of difference between flopping three Kings and flopping three jacks... and a universe of difference between three Kings and three fives. QQQ on the QJ3 flop should normally be played aggressively and viewed as a great hand. 555 on an 875 flop should normally be folded without a second thought. Checking and calling when you flop a set is usually suicide. Either bet aggressively (or if you check, do it from strength, intending to raise the turn, etc.) or probably fold. Sure, there will be some times checking and calling will make sense, but those should be exceptions. Passively allowing everybody and their brother to draw to every draw under the sun will lead to flopped sets being shoveled into the muck as the pots are being pushed to gutshot straights and backdoor flushes -- as well as half pots being pushed to garbage low hands. Myth: "Aces never win" Here’s a companion to the above myth. Some players cuss that they can’t win with pocket aces, as if aces should have some mystical powers. Pocket aces are a two-card hand in a game where five card hands win. Other folks think aces are nothing special, often not even part of a playable hand. Similar to flopping a set, playing aces passively is the road to their doom. Aces tend to dominate good Omaha hands, meaning Omaha hands with one ace in them. But aces have a harder time dealing with situations where one or more random crapola hands are added to the mix. In these cases it is easy for aces to take the worst of it in the post-flop betting. While it is silly to generalize the same behavior for AAJ9 with no suit and AA35 double-suited, aces are the prime pre-flop raising hand in Omaha HiLo. If everybody plays or everybody folds, that’s fine, but generally you would like to play against hands that are normally very good hands (hands that call raises), but that happen to play relatively poorly against aces. Raising before the flop (and reraising especially) will make it more likely that you will face a single opponent or opponents that is profitable for you to face. (Check out the Pot Limit Omaha High link at the top of the page for a bit on playing aces in that game.) Many of these myths are interrelated and selfperpetuating. Passive, weak play leads to multi-way situations where most Omaha players end up befuddled. They only have themselves to blame. If you don’t stick your tongue against a frozen lamppost, it is unlikely your tongue will ever get stuck against a frozen lamppost. Omaha players who invite trouble situations end up in trouble situations, and then draw the wrong conclusions about the trouble. The "why" of why they are in trouble is simply that they put themselves into the trouble. It’s not that aces don’t win, or that sets don’t hold up, or that Omaha is a complicated game. Playing poorly gets you in difficult trouble. Approach the game properly and the myths soon evaporate. Embracing the fundamentals of solid Omaha play leads to an uncomplicated, clear horizon, not one shrouded in myths. Few Omaha players ever reach this point. Once you do, then you can focus on the more subtle challenges of advanced play. Pot Limit Omaha8 (PLO8) is a different animal from its two closest relatives, Limit Omaha HiLo and Pot Limit Omaha High. The key Limit Omaha8 concept is playing appropriate starting hands. The key Pot Limit Omaha High concept is position, position, position. Of course, all games value many concepts, but the key PLO8 concept is the betability of hands on the later streets, when the pots (and thus the bet sizes) are bigger. One reason PLO8 isn't played much in casinos is because skill wins. Bad play and bad players are annihilated, and fast too. PLO8 games peopled only with good players are hideously bad. The game becomes pointless and tedious. It comes down to exploiting extremely rare flukes (like top full house losing to quads). While there aren't that many available, some good PLO8 games are available at a few online cardrooms. One reason that PLO8 continues to exist online is simply because online games have the whole world to draw on in terms of players. Another reason is that online PLO8 games have a cap on the amount players can buy-in for. This leveling the playing field mitigates, a lot, against the standard pot limit phenomenon of good players buying lots of chips and poor players buying tiny stacks. Money goes to money in big bet poker. However, the most important reason PLO8 games exist as much as they do online is: a high percentage of online poker players drastically overestimate their skill level. While this is true of all games online, this overestimation is more concentrated in big bet games. Mediocre players suddenly think they are God's gift to poker, the second coming of Bret Maverick, when confronted with the pseudo-complexities of PLO8 -- lots of cards, variable/ progressive betting. It's one thing to be a mediocre juggler. It's another thing indeed to be a mediocre juggler who insists on juggling seven flaming machetes. (The other place online where mediocre players drastically overate themselves is at head-up games.) So, the first thing to understand about online PLO8 games is many of your opponents have poor judgment in terms of true value. People with poor value skills are good people to play against in big bet poker. That understanding should underlie everything you do in the game. You should be playing more hands in most PLO8 games than you do in limit Omaha8 or PLO High (unless a game has an unusual amount of pre-flop raising). Speculative hands that are garbage in Limit can be nicely profitable in PLO8. The most obvious one is 23xx. In Limit this is the #1 sucker hand. In pot limit the hand can be played, if you play well, because of the implied action you will get. Compare having A2xx on a flop of 873 to having 23xx on a flop of A87. You WILL get more action from players holding aces and eights or aces and sevens than you will from players holding eights and sevens or eights and threes. I've seen a player go for all his chips, putting in the fourth raise on a flop like this where he had AAA. Suicide. He put in all his money just to get it back. Aces have the magical ability to make people play worse. Most players greatly over-fixate on winning pots. If they put a nickel into a pot, you darn near need a crowbar to pry them away from pouring millions in to chase that nickel. Proper PLO8 play is directly counter to this, which is why most players are not suited for the game. You should easily fold most of the hands you play. PLO8 is mostly a game of homeruns. Big pots. Big edges. Big betting. 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. The only way you want to hit singles in PLO8 is by making bets on the flop that nobody calls. This can occur two ways. The first is obvious, you bet a hand that should be bet and nobody calls. You can't put a gun to people's heads and make them call, so just take the pot and wait for the next time. The other small pot/singles to look for are "orphan" pots, pots nobody seems to want. These are pots you can make one bet at, and then you are done. If you win the pot, great, if you get called you back off and very seldom continue to try to win the pot. A simple example, the flops is QsJs9s. You have Ad2d5hKs. You have two opponents. The first opponent checks. You bet. You should win this pot right here more than half the time. If you get called or raised, you just give up. You are bluffing these pots, but you are bluffing when your opponents have very little. Their very little just happens to beat your very little. Betting and taking orphans should keep you hovering around playing breakeven poker. The key pots are where you look to get your profit. Also, you need to bet at orphan pots because you don't want to always and only be betting when you have an enormous hand. While betability is the overriding concept at work in PLO8, there are two specific situations that you should look for: the freeroll and the 3/4. Getting in situations where you can do one or the other of these is the reason to play the game. The Freeroll. While 3/4ing is important, freerolling is much more so. Freerolls come in a variety of types, but the common theme is you are getting a free shot at your opponent's money. (For practical purposes, the idea of a freeroll should also include "near freerolls" like on a flop of QJT and you have AKQQ while your opponent has AK22. He can beat you by making four deuces, but despite that ability to make a 1000-to-1 shot, we will still consider that near freeroll to be a "freeroll".) Some freeroll examples: Flop - QsJdTc; Opponent - AcKd2h3s; You - AsKsQcJc Flop - 3s4d5c; Opponent - AcKd2hQs; You - As2s7c8c Flop - As8h7h; Opponent - AhAdKhQs; You - 2s3s5d6c In each of these examples, your opponent is drawing 100% dead. He cannot beat you no matter what cards come on the turn and river. AND, you will get action from most opponents who hold these hands... especially from bad players who will often intentionally go for all their chips, particularly with the first hand. The Ace-high Broadway straight is similar to how 23xx is in Limit Omaha8. Weak players lose more money with this hand than any other. Good players win their money when freerolling these hands. AK on a QJT flop, AQ on a KJT one, AJ on a KQT one, AT on a KQJ one... these are the hands that separate the adults from the kiddies. Weak players not only commit suicide on these hands, but also can't even comprehend that they should often be folding the current-nut-hands like they were poison. All forms of Omaha are about making the best hand, not what is currently best. There is no leader money in poker. The ability to fold the current nut hand is absolutely critical in PLO8... and fortunately, most players are simply incapable of it. When you flop one of these Broadway straights, you should ask yourself "what am I trying to make?" If the answer is "I want to make only the same straight as I have now", in other words, you are drawing to a blank on the turn and a blank on the river, you don't have much of a hand. Another type of freeroll is the "freeroll to a bluff": Flop - 6s7s8d; Opponent - 9sTdJcJh; You - As2h3d4c In this hand, neither one of you has any chance at all of making a hand that beats the other one. Big, fat zero. But you have a freeroll to a river bet where you should be making significant money. No matter what the action is on the flop and turn, if the river card comes a board pair, or a flush card (especially if it is a flush card that pairs the board), a pot-size bet by you will force your opponent to fold -- and even if he calls, that is fine because that means he will call you when you happen to have the flush or full house. Notice in this example how important pot manipulation is. If you have intentionally bet yourself all-in before the river card, you are an idiot. Your chance to win money here is by betting the river (or turn) card and getting a fold. You can't get a fold if either you or he is all-in! On the other hand, you want the pot big enough so that you can make a large enough bet to get him to fold. There is a definite science to getting pots the right size when you are on a freeroll to a bluff. Also notice, it is much better to error on the side of not building the pot big enough, and thus not being able to make a big enough bet to get a fold. That error is much less bad than the error of getting one or the other of you all-in. You can never win when somebody is all-in. When you can make a river bet of any size, you will win sometimes. Even if a pot is $400 and you can only bet $100 on the river, you will still win some percentage of the time greater than the 0% of the time you win when one of you is all-in. A final freeroll example is the most obvious: Flop - 6s7s8d; Opponent - 9cTdJsJd; You - As2s3d4c Here, opposite of the freeroll to a bluff, you want to get all the money into the pot as soon as you can. Your opponent can never beat you, but you will scoop him once in awhile. Notice in the above example I've contrived the hands to where your opponent would make a backdoor flush if it came, which would make your ability to bluff a river card that didn't make you a winner much tougher. Suppose he didn't have those diamonds. Now, by betting him all-in and winning when you make your spade flush, you are GIVING UP your chance to win the pot via a freeroll bluff on the river if it comes a diamond or board pair. What you have is TWO freeroll opportunities that work against each other! This game is starting to get complicated... :) You have two betability issues here that you have to balance given your opponent, his betting habits, how deep the stack sizes are, how poorly your opponent plays (a terrible opponent could easily go broke the very next hand, so I would lean to putting him all-in and hope I make my flush and get all his chips, rather than look to make a smaller amount of chips via occasional river bluffs when I miss but it comes a card he doesn't like), etc. Of course, not all freerolls are this obvious. In the previous example you are vulnerable to being 3/4ed by hands like A238. You can't see your opponent's cards, so you seldom get super-obvious freerolls. However, not only do fairly clear freerolls present themselves, you need to be thinking how sometimes you ARE freerolling when you don't know it. The freeroll should be the concept in the front of your mind... which also means: DON'T GET FREEROLLED! On a 678 flop, you should fold 9TJJ to almost any bet. It may be the nuts, but you are probably drawing dead. You may have to put in many chips to split a puny amount already in play. You may be freerolled and 3/4ed at the same time by A29T. Folding the nuts is something you should do fairly often in PLO8, and it doesn't have to be high-type hands like the JJT9. On a flop of 8s7s6s you should usually toss Ad2dKhQh into the muck when faced with any bet. Don't get freerolled. 3/4ing a pot. Though dwarfed in significance by freerolls, 3/4ing is more common. 3/4ing usually occurs when two people both have the nut low, but it also happens sometimes when both players have the same high and one makes some kind of low. A much longer discussion than we have space for here, clearly it is a huge skill in being able to correctly discern when you are getting 3/4s as opposed to when you are getting 3/4ed. Some situations are obvious, like when you make the nut flush to go with a nut low, but most of the time your hand won't be nearly so defined. When you have A238 and the board is 348QK, are you getting 3/4s or getting 3/4ed? How about 348Q4? Do you bet the pot? Do you make a smaller bet? Check? Raise if an opponent makes a small bet? There is a bottomless pit of situations and subtleties to be considered, but a player who makes bets when 3/4ing and who checks when being 3/4ed will do a helluva lot better than a person who does it the other way around! Just like when you have the nut Broadway straight you should ask yourself what you are drawing to, when you have the nut low the first thing you should ask yourself is: what is my high hand? And then, what is the high hand I am trying to make? The nut low aspect of the hand is relatively unimportant (even if most players fixate on low). The key word in PLO8 is "and". When you show down you want to be saying, "I have low AND..." If there is no "and", you usually don't have much. "And" is what to focus on when you have nut low. If you have no "and", checking and even check/folding will often be your correct action. Don't get me wrong though, before the showdown "and" can include the fact that you are drawing to a bluff. A naked nut low plays just fine against people who don't have nut low! Correctly value-betting hands like two pair, like when you hold A24Q and the board is 478KQ, or even one pair like when you have A237 and a board is 457KQ, is a challenge you have to strive to accomplish. Reading opponents, especially when you are out of hand, is a task you should always be working on when playing PLO8. "Better betting" when doing the 3/4ing and when getting 3/4ed should be the result of a never-ending study of your PLO8 opponents. It is the ongoing challenge that every player can do better and better. One thing that should be clear from both the discussion of freerolling and 3/4ing is the dramatically more important role suited cards play in PLO8 compared to Limit. You want "and". Flushes are just another way to make a bettable "and". And flushes are never 3/4ed. They are either good or they aren't. Besides their 3/4ing value, flushes can turn splits into scoops. Suppose you make the nut flush on the river against an opponent who only has the nut low: Board 4s5c8dKsQs; Opponent - Ac2c3dJh; You - As3s6d7c In this case the river card changed things not at all, but you now can safely make a pot size bet. Say the pot is $1000, and you bet that. The best your opponent can do is get half. If he calls, he gets $500. But he has to consider that if he calls and gets 3/4ed, he gets back $750, so calling the $1000 bet costs him $250. You will get your opponents to fold some amount of time over 0% in situations like this. Pure profit. Similarly, suppose instead you hold As2s4dTc. In this case the river card again didn't change things. You had your opponent 3/4ed already with a pair of fours. But how often are you going to be able to value bet a pair of fours? How often should you TRY to value bet a pair of fours? By making a much more bettable flush than your measly pair of fours you now can bet the $1000 pot. When you do, if your opponent calls, you make that extra $250. And, if he doesn't call, making the flush won you the $250 that was already in the pot (his 1/4 share of the pre-bet $1000 pot). Suitedness makes hands more bettable, and it makes another way you can make an "and". As2s3d4d is a much more profitable hand than As2c3d4h. If you could just wish it and have it be so, you would want your cards to always be suited and your opponent's cards to never be suited. Don't fall into the trap some inexperienced players do when they see "action-killing flops" of three of the same suit. They wrongly conclude suits won't bring you much. That is silly. Pots on the flop are relatively small. We don't much care about on-the-flop pots. We care about being in a position to bet hands on the river, when the pot and bets are biggest. Make-aflush-on-the-river boards are where the clearest exchange of money/value takes place in PLO8. You can't tie flushes, only one winner. And, betting/pseudobluffing opportunities present themselves where pure low hands can blow high hands out of pots. It's an oversimplification, but it could be asserted that when you aren't suited you want pots to be decided on the flop and turn; when you are suited, you want to be putting in action on the river -- and again, the money in the game is in making river bets when the pots and possible bets are biggest. PLO8 is not a game to focus a lot of your longterm attention on as a player because if any game is NOT the game of the future, this is it. But when the game is played, and non-good players are involved, it presents an excellent opportunity for solid, positive expectation poker by focusing on a few key concepts: betability, "and", suitedness, 3/4ing, freerolling. Peter Lizak started it by writing: "I would rather play AKQJ over AA24. AA kinda sucks alone. It needs back up. Think of it like chess. The queen is powerful, but you don't shove her into enemy territory without support." My view is that if a player would rather play AKQJ for all his chips head-up, then he needs to hit the lottery quick. Pot Limit Omaha is not about cards very much. It is first and foremost position, position, position. If the chips are deep, position renders everything else trivial. If the chips are not deep, you want to get all-in or close to it before the flop with AAxx. You are a significant dog to nothing, besides a dominating other AA hand, and a good favorite over most. Raising first under the gun with AAxx is suicide, not because AAxx is bad, but because raising under the gun in PLO is foolish with any hand. Limp and reraise if the chips are short. If the chips are deep you should be limp/ fold almost everything. The main reason to play hands out of position in PLO is to encourage other people to play out of position. That is really and truly the main reason. You want to limp and fold, while they limp and call your raises when you are in position. One thing to keep in mind though is that PLO is the game most different in casinos compared to online. The online cardrooms have buy-in limits that prevent you from playing the normally sensible way -- buying yourself a big stack of chips. They have capped buy-in amounts and thus require you to play small stack PLO (until you win your way to a big stack). In that way, AAxx is a much better hand online than in a casino, since any pot size reraise will often be over half your stack. But again, PLO is position and betting. A solid player who understands the game and has deep chips, can play 3579 in position and eat up AAKK, while also play AAKK in position to eat up 3579. Most any hand can eat up a better hand that is out of position. If someone wants to make a pot raise under the gun with AAKK or AAJT, I'll play the big majority of hands against them if we have deep chips. This is especially true if I can put the player on AA with great confidence. The player in position will generally lose small pots and win much bigger ones. This is why you can't get good PLO games with only good players. They become utterly pointless. You need players playing out of position for the game to exist. Another person then wrote that in a multiplayer pot you can get more out of the AKQJ, and that such multiplayer pots weaken AA42 quite a lot. I replied that this was not saying much, unless we know specific hands, and the position of those hands. AKQJ offsuit is a very lame hand multiway when AA is also out, and more so when you have other big card players in the pot. The Broadway straight is the #1 sucker hand of PLO where people get freerolled for all their chips. Also, a hand like AdKdQJ is not great because you have the key payoff card that you want in an opponent's hand, the K of diamonds. AAxx should be looking to play pots headup, via a pot raise in position or a pot reraise out of position. If it can't manage one of these scenarios it should commonly be limped before the flop, then folded when the flop misses. If you do see a flop out of position for a limp multiway, AAxx is vastly superior to AKQJ because the way AA will hit the flop is either an Ace, or a nut flush draw with a small pot. In either case you are in fine shape. AKQJ hits sucker flops, two pair against sets, straights against the same straights with flush outs. Only very rarely will you have the best freeroll with the nut straight and top two pair, and that is only four outs. A suited ace, flopping the Broadway straight and having the nut flush draw, there you have a hand, and it comes along pretty rarely! Like No Limit Hold'em, even more so, Pot Limit Omaha is a card game that is only a little about cards. Personalities, chip stack size and table position dictate play much more than the spots on the pasteboards. Steve, the intro that you wrote is very good. It just about sums up my entire knowledge of the game and how I try to play in the local Mississippi HiLo games. The games are usually 3-6 Kill, 4-8 half kill, 5-10 Kill and 1020 Kill. The game I play in most is a 3-6 Kill at the Silver Star in central Mississippi. Most of the other games are about 3 hours away in Tunica and on the Coast. My game is still developing, but I am still an overall winner the last three years. Omaha HiLo has been the most consistent money maker for me since I realized the edge Omaha presents. You and Dr. Ed Hutchison have been my mentors. I kept seeing Doc Hutchison constantly stacking up his chips and going home a winner. I flat out asked for help. He pointed me to his webpage with the point count system. Your Lee Munzer interview in Poker Digest also played a significant role. I studied Doc's system and used it for 4-5 sessions. It worked. I won. I haven't used it in a game in over 2 years. Before I started using Doc's system I had no clue about what a good starting hand could be. I knew A-2 was good. I also thought 2-5 was nice. Doc's system helped me focus on what the good hands are in Omaha. I really had no other way to learn. The tuition for learning Omaha in live games can be rather expensive. Doc's system in effect gave me a scholarship. In addition, I was able to skip a few elementary grades because I now had learned the basic starting hands that are profitable in Omaha. Sure a point count system is a crutch, but the long term goal is to throw away the crutch and walk on your own two feet. A few comments on sections from your fine introduction: INTRODUCTION TO OMAHA STRATEGY (ITOS) - "but it is very easy to teach a player to play way-above-average Omaha... but the basic advice is to play with great discipline... but having discipline is an advanced skill... and is boring as paste." COMMENT - Right on the mark. This also gives some justification for early use of Doc's system. It is rather tight and if a player follows it they will have great discipline before the flop. ITOS - "Starting hands... Unlike Holdem, where post-flop play is far more critical, winning Omaha fundamentally begins with starting hands. Starting hands exist before the flop, which is where you get enormous edges in Omaha against a field." COMMENT - I hate to use your words to back up my belief in Doc's system as a learner's tool, but the strong starting hand nature of Omaha makes Doc's system useful for a beginner. Of course, you get your edge by knowing what to do with a starting hand. At least, a beginner can start with a hand with an edge. ITOS - "Not counting AA and perhaps KK, Holdem hands run much closer in value than Omaha hands do -- urban myths not to the contrary. If you don't know and appreciate this basic concept, you are going to be in trouble in Omaha. Omaha has a fairly large group of hands that will win at double the rate of randomish hands. Few Holdem hands can say the same." COMMENT - This may be what is deceiving some people. Omaha has more hands that can be big winners. Holdem probably has more hands can just be a small winner. Thus, I will play more hands before the flop in Holdem. I just will not win big with many of them. ITOS - "Before the flop: you should play hands that have a high expectation; you should manipulate the pot size; you should try to manipulate your opponents so that when you have a hand that plays well against fewer opponents you are playing against fewer opponents and when you have a hand that plays well against a full field you are playing against a full field." "After the flop: the flop is critical. Here you should begin to roughly calculate the probabilities and deduce how favorable your chances are to win. Again, here a player should be manipulating the pot -- get more chips in when the odds favor you, try to minimize when you have a longer shot." COMMENT - I don't think there have been two paragraphs written that better state the "Essence of Winning Low Limit Omaha." ITOS - "The RGP Posts section of this website addresses several fallacies involving Omaha point count systems, and starting hand charts in general. There are a lot of reasons these systems are a bad idea, but the most basic flaw is they view Omaha hands as several two-card units." "It should be easy enough to see though that while 3d3h is a basically useless Omaha holding on its own, when combined with an As2s it now becomes a powerful aspect of a coordinated hand! Viewing the 33 out of the context of the A2 is a serious error." COMMENT - Doc Hutchison's system does not look at an Omaha hand as a series of two card units. It takes into account all four cards at once and awards points based on the basic two card low and gives additional points for kickers, pairs and suited cards. ITOS - "Beyond the simplistic thinking about starting hands, it is critical to think of Omaha hands as four card units after the flop. You might play As2s3dQd, but end up with a flop of Qs9c2c. Before the flop no point-count system would assign the Qd2s aspect of your hand any value, but now here on the flop it is part of your whole hand, and you must think in terms of how you have two pair, a backdoor flush draw, a back door nut low draw, a backdoor wheel draw, etc. Omaha hands are multifaceted and multi-dimensional. They should be viewed and analyzed as integrated wholes, not separate parts. An Omaha hand can be greater than the sum of its parts, or sometimes even less, but Omaha hands are always four cards." COMMENT - Doc's system, of course, recognizes the power of A-2-3. It also gives additional credence to the suited A, the suited Q and the Q as a kicker. I've dug up my old cheat sheet to show you the actual points here on this hand. A2 = 20 points, 3 kicker = 9 points., suited Ace = 4 points, suited Queen = 2 points, Queen kicker = 2 pts. For a total of 37 points. Twenty points are considered the lower limit for calling in early position. This hand screams raise to build a pot. If I changed the Q kicker to an unsuited nine the hand is lessened in value by four points, but the hand still suggests raise. I'm sure I will never convince you to change you mind about using Doc's point count system as a learning tool in Omaha. However, I found it to be helpful to me. I'm just anecdotal evidence, but it worked for me. I couldn't tell you the point value of a single hand I played last night. My cheat sheet for Doc's system is only found in a file on my computer. I haven't needed it for over two years. It was another good night. Three hours of play, positive three big kill bets an hour against a table of regular players who for the most part don't have a clue about "The Essence of Omaha." Needless to say, I do not plan to distribute copies of your excellent "Introduction" to any of them. I don't think you have ever met Dr. Ed Hutchison. I and most other players consider him to be the best low limit Omaha HiLo player in Mississippi. He has a Ph.D. in psychology. He is a gentleman and a scholar. I've never seen him on tilt. His discipline is excellent. He combines these strengths with his psychology based people reading skills to outplay everyone pre and post-flop. It is like he can see the front and backs of cards and peer down into player's souls at the same time. I hope I haven't been too long winded in my COMMENT. Maybe you can see some insight into why Doc's system worked for me and how it could work for some others. I don't think it will work for everyone because most players don't have and don't want the discipline to use it to take an exponential leap in learning starting hands. Best wishes, Frank "mredge" Bowen Carthage, MS Technically, the word "Holdem" refers to the some-cardsin-your-hand/some-cards-on-the-board, four betting rounds structure. But it has commonly become associated with the Texas version. Texas Holdem is generally considered "Holdem", while Omaha Holdem is merely "Omaha." Birthed of the same mother structure, Omaha and Holdem have similarities, but like siblings they also have dramatic differences when it comes to winning strategy. Understanding these sibling differences can lead to each of us making better game selection choices and recognizing our own strengths as poker players. Some of the differences stem from logistics. When playing in a casino, approximately twice as many hands are dealt an hour in Holdem. Omaha is usually played HiLo. Holdem players usually have a wider variety of games to choose from. Omaha games have more regulars. Besides these things, there are many more complicated differences. If your aim is to win, Holdem requires more risk-taking, more variance. Winning Holdem is all about exploiting tiny edges, and even more, creating tiny edges. Holdem skill often comes into play in turning 55/45 edges into 60/40 ones. Obviously that is a good, profitable thing to do, but just as obviously it takes something of a long run to make these small edges add up. Great Holdem players find nickels and dimes and dollars of value in hand after hand -- getting free cards, protecting (or not protecting) blinds, value betting, inducing bluffs, etc. Very good winning players don’t depend on showing down AK against KQ on a KJ742 board. Showing the best hand is the bedrock of winning, but it is merely the tip of the iceberg. Omaha has quite a lot of differences. For very good players, Omaha edges are usually huge. Against weak Texas Hold'em opponents, a very good player can play a lot more hands. This is not the case in Omaha. While 76s can sometimes become playable in Holdem, 9764 is never playable in Omaha High Low (outside of maybe putting in one more chip in a two chip small blind) regardless of how lousy your opponents are. While the faster-paced Holdem is all about the application of many tiny edges time and again, glacier-paced Omaha is more about waiting for rare instances of enormous advantage. These huge advantages occur because most players simply do not "get" that when played properly Omaha has very little gamble to it, with less playable hands than Holdem -- especially "playable hands per hour". Looseish Omaha games mostly come down to simple math. A pot has so many chips in it, and you have so many outs to make the winning hand. You are either getting the right price, the wrong price, or the very, very right price. Omaha is tortoise poker. Holdem is for the rabbits. Generally, winning Omaha players make more money per hour (with less variance) than their equally skilled Holdem counterparts. This occurs despite more Holdem hands being played simply because most Omaha players play far worse than the average Holdem player. If a weak player is taking the 40/60 worst of it in Holdem many times, that player is taking the worst of it fewer times against Omaha opponents but the worst of it now is more likely to be 10/90. Your personal temperament might be better suited for one than the other, but one game is not "better" than the other. While Omaha remains easier money, these days Texas Hold'em offers a much wider array of opportunities to win. Omaha tournaments are still peopled with very weak Omaha players, but the sheer number of Holdem tournaments and the larger amount of people playing Holdem events offsets that. Smaller edges in more events with more people simply returns us to the basic difference between Omaha and Holdem -you get to apply a small advantage much more often for larger bets. These days, being properly bankrolled is even more important in the past. If you can afford to every five seconds bet $990 on a coin flip to win $1000, soon you will have an awful lot of money. But if you only have $640 to your name, you aren't going to even be able to play, let alone play with an expectation of not going broke due to bad luck. If you are a Holdem player, especially a Holdem tournament player, keep your powder dry... take loving care of your bankroll. Profit comes in different ways, and you have to be capable of catching it. On Rec.Gambling.Poker, a poster asked about his play of an Omaha High Low hand. He asked if he played it right. In my view, he played every street wrong. The only way to play the hand worse at any point was to fold. The point here is not to rag on a series of poor choices, but to emphasize how you need to act to extract value from situations, not passively accept what value that other players will just give you. You can't be a beacon, a shining example of success, if you don't let your value shine. > Omaha Hi/Low $0.50-$1 > Seat 1 ($54.15 chips) > Seat 2 ($14.50 chips) > Seat 3 ($25.05 chips) > Seat 4 [Ad4sAc2s] ($42.15 chips) -- has the dealer button > Seat 5 ($14 chips) > Seat 6 ($24.70 chips) > Seat 7 ($51.30 chips) > ANTES/BLINDS > Seat5 posts ($0.25), Seat6 posts ($0.50), Seat3 posts ($0.50) The first thing to note here is that there is an extra blind being posted by a new player. Seat5 is behind the button, but the game is only seven handed. With an extra posted blind, virtually any hand Our Player chooses to play should be raised before the flop from the button. When there is that extra dead money out there, it is simply terrible to give two people free rides, and the small blind a cheap look, when you have a playable hand in best position. > PRE-FLOP > Seat7 folds, Seat1 calls $0.50, Seat2 calls $0.50, Seat3 checks > Our Player calls $0.50, Seat5 calls $0.25, Seat6 checks Here we have the most basic mistake in playing Omaha. Our Player had the best of it at this point, but did not raise to put more money in the pot when he had the best of it. In fact, he had five opponents but only two had to put in a bet the size he did. This makes no logical sense. The point is to make other people put in money when you have the best hand, not the other way around. > FLOP: Qh6c7c > Seat5 bets $0.50, Seat6 calls $0.50, Seat1 folds, > Seat2 calls $0.50, Seat3 calls $0.50, Our Player calls $0.50. As horrible as the preflop call is, this is worse. Seat1, the person who opened under the gun and thus (all other things being equal) is most likely to have the best hand, or in this case A2xx, folds. Our Player's hand looks even better now. Additionally, it was the small blind who bet. If Our Player raises, we might get a reraise, which will lead to a much bigger pot, or everyone else folding and getting a pot with a lot of dead money in it. Either is fine. Merely calling and again minimizing the pot has no advantages. Then also, Our Player has the ace of clubs. He must raise here. If it comes a big club on the turn or river, we certainly don't want an opponent to either bet a small flush, or bluff because no one but the small blind has shown strength. Ideally the original bettor will reraise with a hand that Our Player dominates (like AQ42). Of course, the key problem remains that there was no preflop raise which makes further play a lot of clueless bumping around in the dark involving a smallish pot, rather than easier to read action involving a larger pot. > TURN: Qh6c7c8s > Seat5 bets $1, Seat6 calls $1, Seat2 raises to $2, Seat3 calls $2 > Our Player calls $2, Seat5 calls $1, Seat6 calls $1 Here we have a real hatred of money call. What was Our Player waiting for? His hand is as good as it is going to get. If one player has a straight, we can't beat that for high, but presumably some of the other players are drawing live to flushes or full houses or bigger straights. We need to get value out of them now, because if they miss their draws on the river they aren't going to pay. Even in the worst case scenario, where Our Player is getting 1/6 of the pot, there are five players, so if the betting is capped at $4, and Our Player got 1/6... Our Player would only lose .67 cents ($20 bet from five people, 1/6th = $3.33). Compare that to if Our Player gets 1/4 of the pot (1/4 of $20 = $5) where he wins $1, or where he gets half the pot (1/2 = $10), where his profit is $6. Clearly the loss you have when you get a sixth is more than made up for in the times you get 1/4 or 1/2 the pot. > RIVER: Qh6c7c8sQs > Seat5 checks, Seat6 bets $1, Seat2 calls $1, Seat3 folds, > Our Player calls $1, Seat5 checkraises to $2, Seat6 calls $1, > Seat2 calls $1, Our Player calls $1. How does Our Player's action here make any sense? What does he think these people have, based on how they bet. Seat6 called the turn but now bets? Seat5 bet the flop and turn and now checks, and then checkraises? Seat2 raises the turn and now calls the new bettor? How can Our Player possibly put any of them on A2, let alone more than one? If we get quartered four way, we lose nothing. If we get 1/6 four way, we lose $1.50. If we get half, we win $4. To not raise, Our Player has to think it is nearly three times more likely that he will get 1/6 than he will get 1/2! Even the terrible play previous rounds should not have left Our Player so in the dark that he could not conclude that at least two of these players were playing high hands. > SHOWDOWN > Seat5 shows 7s7h6sKh > Seat6 shows 6d9hQc6h > Seat2 shows 4d2c5hJs > Our Player shows Ad4sAc2s > Our Player wins low $11.15, Redhanded01 wins high $11.20. Most tellingly, presuming this was not Our Player's second hand in the game, he should have observed the above players previously, which now makes not raising pre-flop to be even worse. The way each played these garbage hands should make Our Player aggressive on the button with even some fairly mediocre hands like A39J. Online Omaha HiLo games continue to be populated with some of the worst poker playing in the galaxy, and that poor play comes in many forms, including hopelessly passive weak-tight play. Hopefully Our Player will learn from his mistakes on this hand, but sadly such straightforward, hyper-profitable situations don't come up often. When they do though, it is critical that you "let it shine" and get your money in when you have massively the best of it.
Pages to are hidden for
"Omaha"Please download to view full document