Basic Omaha poker strategy

My specialty is tournament no limit Texas Hold’em. However, I do like to play all kinds of poker such as 7-card stud, Omaha Hi/Lo and Omaha Hi. Today, I will get into some of the basic’s for Omaha Hi. This article is geared toward the Hold’em player who would like to play some Omaha.

Omaha is similar to Texas Hold’em except that each player is dealt 4 cards face down instead of the customary two. Keep in mind that the betting structures for Hold’em and Omaha are the same so there is no need for me to explain them here. Then 3 cards are dealt face up on the board. After another round of betting, a 4th card, called the turn, is dealt face up to the board. Then a 5th card, called the river, is dealt. At this point all the remaining players reveal their hole cards and the winning hand is determined.

Here is where it gets kind a tricky. Each player plays two of his hole cards and combines them with any three of the community cards to make a 5 card poker hand. The player with the best hand wins. Unlike Texas Holdem, the players cannot choose how many cards they want to use from their hole cards if any at all. They must use two and only 2 cards from their hole cards you cannot use 4, 3 or 1 card you must use exactly 2. For example, if there are 4 spades on the board, and you hold the Ace of spades, you do not have the flush. Unless you hold two suited cards, you can not draw to a flush. You must keep these things in mind when you sit down to play Omaha. Otherwise, you are just throwing your money away.

One thing that is different in Omaha than it is in Texas Hold’em, is that winning hands are generally higher in value in Omaha than the winning hands in Texas Hold’em, since players have 4 hole cards to choose from. Often the best hands are a straight or flush and if a pair is on the board, a full house is very common. It’s very rare that a hand such as one pair will win a pot.

A vital skill for a novice Omaha player is to recognize what the nuts are for a given flop. Knowing that you have the nuts (an unbeatable hand) means that you should raise as much as you can. Otherwise, play cautiously, even if there is only one card that can beat you because chances are, someone has that card and will do just that.

One thing that you will commonly see at the lower limit tables is that one player has a King-high flush and another player has an Ace-high flush. The King-high player will keep raising even though he knows the Ace is out there. This can cost you a lot of money over time, so it’s best to limit your raises when you have the second nut. On the other hand, a player can drag a lot of money if he has the Ace high flush and his opponent has the King high.

The difference between poor players and good players is that poor players are unable to see the differences between similar good hands, like aces full of kings vs. kings full of aces. Knowing what the nuts are and understanding that you have the second nut verses the real nut make a real difference and you can drag a lot of big pots by using this advantage over the poor players who can’t tell the difference.

If you have trips, you should try to knock out people on the flush or straight draw. If you have the flush, you should knock out people with two pair or trips, because they might catch a full house on the river. Even more so than in Texas Hold’em, it usually doesn’t pay to slow play in Omaha unless you have the big full house or better. When the river hits, don’t come out raising if the flush draw shows and you have only two pair or trips. Same goes if a full house possibility shows. Just check or call if someone bets. Saving bets really adds up over time. A bet that you don’t bet when you lose the pot is just like a bet dragged from some one else. Always think to increase your stack. And a bet saved is just as important as a bet won.

Another point of interest is pre-flop play. Your hole cards by themselves do not tell you much about whether or not you will win. In Texas Hold’em, pocket rockets is an excellent hand, but holding rockets in Omaha doesn’t mean nearly as much, because flushes and straights win so often. Overpairs are also weak in Omaha, because one pair is almost never enough to win a hand, unless the game is heads up. If you have rockets, your best hope is to catch a third ace on the flop.

This is not to say you should be docile pre-flop. You should still raise pre-flop with good hands. Many players will make the mistake of not raising because the hand difference is not as big. But think about it a KQJT, with KQ of spades and JT of clubs, is much better than A, 4, 9, J of different suits. The best hands are hands with AA or KK, which give you big full house possibilities, and hands like KQJT, which will give you both drawing and pairing possibilities; if the flop comes KQ, and then you have top 2 pair and a straight draw.

It’s also important to have the nut draw if possible. Having A 3 suited is much better than having 5 7 suited; small flushes lose to nut flushes all the time at the tables. Small pairs become trash for the same reason. If you hit trips, you’ll lose to flushes fairly often. Even if you hit a full house, you almost certainly have the small full house and can be destroyed by a big full house.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Remember to start off in low-limits until you get a good feel for the game as Omaha can be very tricky!