I love Omaha poker, and I don’t understand why it isn’t more popular in American cardrooms. Of course, Omaha isn’t just one game like Texas hold’em is. Omaha is usually played in one of two formats:
- Omaha high low
Omaha is played just like Texas hold’em, with two big exceptions:
- You get four hole cards instead of two
- You must use two hole cards and three community cards to make your final hand (in Texas hold’em, you can use any combination)
Omaha high low, on the other hand, has those rules, but the additional rule is what makes it an almost completely different game.
In Omaha high low, at the showdown, the pot gets split between the highest hand and the best qualifying low hand (if there is one).
This turns it into an almost entirely different game.
Here’s how you determine what a winning low hand is.
It’s made up of five cards, each of which must be ranked 8 or lower. This is why Omaha high low is sometimes called Omaha 8 or Omaha 8 or better.
To compare one low hand with another, you just turn it into a five. digit number with the highest number in the hand first. Suits don’t count.
So 87654 would be the worst possible qualifying low hand, while 54321 would be the best possible qualifying low hand.
If you’re not familiar with the game-play basics, you should spend some time reviewing them. You can find them on any decent informational poker website.
1. Remember—Two Cards from Your Hand, Three Cards from the Board
The biggest strategy mistake most new Omaha poker players make is to think that they’re playing Texas hold’em. They’ll want to play all five of the community cards, or they’ll want to use one community card with the four cards in their hand.
Of course, you’re not allowed to do that. It’s in the rules. You MUST use two cards from your hand and three cards from the board—no more, no less.
If you can remember that at every stage of the game, including the preflop stage, you’ll have an edge over the other beginner players who still don’t get it.
Also, if you’re playing Omaha 8, you don’t have to use the same five cards for both hands. You can create one hand for the high and a completely different hand for the low. Your goal, in fact, is to scoop the pot, which means you’ve won both the high and the low.
The worst possible scenario, by the way, is getting quartered. This means you’re splitting the bottom half of the pot with another player, which usually means you’re not even winning back the amount of money you put in the pot in the first place.
2. In Omaha 8, Play Five. Card Hands
This tip comes straight from Steve Badger, who is, in my opinion, one of the best Omaha 8 players in the world. He suggests that one of the secrets to winning at Omaha 8 is to play five. card hands as much as possible.
How do you play a five. card hand when you only have four hole cards?
The key is to remember that the ace counts as high AND as low, so it can make two different kinds of hands. If you keep this in mind, you’ll have a good understanding of why aces are so important in Omaha 8.
But then you also have three cards which can help you make the low hand: A, 2, and 3.
You have two cards + three cards, for a total of five cards.
This is the easiest way I’ve seen to describe how to think about opening hands in Omaha 8.
- A. 2. 3 is another good example. You have a pair of aces, which is great by itself, but you also have A. 2. 3, which can all be used to complete a low hand.
If you meet Steve Badger on the street, thank him for the Omaha 8 tip.
Also, don’t overvalue a hand just because it has two aces in it. If the other two cards are middle garbage, that hand might still turn out really bad for you. The best Omaha starting hands have lots of possibilities. You can’t have lots of possibilities from just two out of four cards.
3. Stay Away from Middle. Ranked Cards in Omaha 8
The rule of thumb I learned early in my poker strategy writing career is that when a game has more cards in it, you must play tighter to get an edge. You play tighter in Pineapple hold’em than you do in Texas hold’em, for example.
Mid. ranked cards, like 9s and 10s, are junk in Omaha 8. They’re rarely strong enough to help you win a high hand, and it’s impossible for them to win a low hand because they’re over 8.
What you’re looking for in Omaha 8 are really high cards and really low cards. Aces are so much more powerful in Omaha 8 than you can imagine. It’s almost like Omaha 8 is related to blackjack in that respect. (Aces are important in that game, too, for obvious reasons.)
Face cards, aces, and low cards (under 5) are the cards you want to see in your Omaha 8 hand. You should hope for at least three of your four hole cards to meet those criteria. If you fold everything else, you won’t be playing too badly.
Some cards have so much high-only potential that they’re still worth playing. K. K. Q. Q is a good example of this kind of hand.
But you also must keep in mind what I said earlier about two cards from your hand and only two. K. K. K. Q is a much worse hand than K. K. Q. Q because one of your outs is in your hand. Texas hold’em players would be forgiven for confusing this for a strong preflop hand.
4. Tight Is Right
I already mentioned this, but with more cards in play, you must be even more confident in your hands before you play them. This means you’re probably going to fold more often than ever in Omaha.
In fact, if you just practice tight play, you’ll probably be profitable in either version of Omaha if you’re playing in the lower limits. Most low. limit Omaha players tend to get attached to their hands because they see potential in them that isn’t really there.
What you’re looking for from an Omaha hand, in either Omaha or Omaha 8, are four cards that work well together. This is why A. A. 2. 3 is considered the best possible starting hand in Omaha 8. Think about the possibilities here.
You have a pair of aces toward the high hand. AND the other two aces are live.
You have an A. 2, which can make for the nut low.
If a two shows up on the board, the A. 3 can be used to make the nut low.
If the cards are suited, you have even more potential because of the flush possibilities.
If you’re not familiar with the terms “tight” and “loose,” they just refer to how often you fold versus how often you play a hand. Players who play few hands and fold a lot are considered tight, while players who play a lot of hands and rarely fold are considered loose players.
Loose players sometimes do well in Texas hold’em if they’re aggressive enough, but that’s not necessarily the case in Omaha.
Want to win at Omaha?
Learn how to fold when your cards don’t all work together.
5. Aggression Matters, Too
This is general poker advice, but it’s just as important in Omaha as it is in Texas hold’em. Besides classifying players as tight and loose, you can also classify them as passive or aggressive. This is just a measure of how often they bet and raise versus check and call.
The goals with betting and raising are twofold. You create pressure on your opponents and force them to make hard decisions about whether to continue in the hand. This creates mistakes that couldn’t be created if you didn’t bet or raise.
But you also get more money into the pot. If you’re playing tight poker, you have good cards, so you want more money in the pot. When you have a good hand, you’re more likely to win the pot. And the bigger that pot is, the more profitable you’ll be.
Your goal is to become a tight aggressive Omaha poker player. You don’t play a lot of hands, but when you play them, you bet and raise with them.
6. Look for Pot Limit Games and Focus on Winning One or Two Large Pots During Your Session
Pot limit is one of the most popular formats for Omaha, especially Omaha high low. In pot limit, the maximum size of your bet is the same as the size of the pot. This can lead to huge pots. In fact, the pots can get so big in pot limit Omaha that you can make a lot of money in a session just by winning one or two pots.
The other trick is to avoid donking off chips on lots of mediocre hands before you get to that point. It’s easy to waste a few chips here and a few chips there coming into pots when you shouldn’t have even been playing those starting cards. It’s also easy to lose when you’re playing a lot of middle trash.
Save your chips for the big pots, and try to scoop just one or two really big pots per session.
7. Pay Attention to Your Position
In my Texas hold’em tips post, I mention the importance of position. It’s hard to overstate how important position is when you’re playing Texas hold’em.
But one of the big mistakes inexperienced Omaha players make is to ignore position because they have so many cards in their hands.
The more mistakes your opponents make, the more you gain. If you’re paying attention to position when they’re not, you stand to gain.
8. Don’t Worry About Bluffing
Poker players just don’t bluff as often in Omaha poker. Some of that’s because everyone has access to so much information for so many cards during the game. I always advise beginning players in every poker game to bluff less often and stop trying to call other people’s bluffs.
This is doubly true in Omaha.
Give your opponents credit for the hands they’re representing. Just as you’re less likely to bluff in Omaha, so are most of them. It’s just not worth the lost chips to try to play sheriff and catch your Omaha opponents bluffing.
If you do want to try to run a bluff in Omaha, the same rules of thumb apply that I mentioned in my Texas hold’em post. You should only try to bluff one or two people at a time. When you’re trying to pull a bluff on three or more players, the odds of getting them all to fold drop drastically.
ABC poker is great for Omaha, especially at the lower limits, where you’re playing with a lot of inexperienced players. When I say ABC poker, I mean playing in a really straightforward manner—you bet and raise when you have good cards, and you fold when you don’t.
At higher limits, ABC poker makes you too predictable, so you have to start mixing things up to throw your opponents off.
But if you’re a beginner, you should just stick with the basic moves without getting too complicated. The expected value just isn’t there to warrant the extra creativity.
9. Draw to the Nut Hand
When you’re playing Omaha, you should focus on trying to draw to the nut hand. (The nut hand is the best possible hand.) This, of course, means you must recognize what the nut hand is.
One of the fun things about Omaha is the number of outs you have available to you. Those extra two cards in your hand means that sometimes you’ll have a draw to a straight with 20 outs.
Remember, too, that when more cards are in play, you should play tighter. But in Omaha, you should still play good draws. The good draws in Omaha are always better than the good draws in Texas hold’em.
10. Don’t Tilt
Omaha is a game where you can see huge bankroll swings. If you’re going to play Omaha, you need to have enough emotional resilience to handle these swings.
Tilt is a mental state caused by these swings that tend to sustain and increase the damage.
You’re on tilt when you get mad about a previous hand and start betting and raising aggressively even though you have lousy cards. Some players who are on tilt also just start calling their opponents down.
If you want to avoid tilt, you need to keep a long. term perspective as it relates to poker. You’re not interested in winning a single hand. You’re interested in winning lots of money in the long run. The way to do that is to stay calm and repeatedly make good decisions.
Omaha is a great game for beginners, regardless of whether you’re playing high. only or 8. or. better. You need to keep in mind the major rule changes, though, because if you’re making decisions based on your Texas hold’em strategies, you’re in trouble.