Omaha is a fun and entertaining poker variation with many twists and turns. You can go from the best hand to the loser on one street, or find yourself in a no-lose situation where you can pump as many chips in the pot as possible and be guaranteed at least one call.
But Omaha can be a minefield for new players. You need to know a few essential things before you get started, especially if you’ve been playing Texas holdem. Here are my top seven tips for first time Omaha players.
1 – Two and Three
When you play Omaha, you get four hole cards. In Texas holdem, you only get two. In Texas holdem, you can use any combination of your hole cards and the cards on the board to create a five-card hand. But in Omaha, you have to use two hole cards and three board cards to form a hand.
While this doesn’t change things on every hand, it can be a costly mistake to make sometimes. It can get even more confusing when you play Omaha Hi-Lo Split. That is because you can use two cards for your high hand and a different two cards for your low hand.
Eventually, this will come naturally to you as you play, but as a first-time player, you need to constantly remind yourself of the two and three rule.
2 – Tight Is Still Best
Winning Texas holdem players learned that tight starting hand requirements are more profitable than loose. This is the exact reason why many losing Texas holdem players switch to Omaha. They think they can play more starting hands because they have twice as many cards.
But the truth is that winning Omaha players also understand the importance of tight starting hand requirements. I’ve played in many Omaha games where the most profitable strategy was to play fewer starting hands than in Texas holdem, not more.
You also need to learn how the four cards in your starting hand work together. The best starting hands have four cards that work together in some way. A high pair with matching suits to both other cards or a high pair and another pair have the possibility of hitting a big hand.
Hands that have three cards that work together and one card that’s not related can sometimes be played, but they give you fewer chances to complete a big hand. A hand with three high cards can make a high straight, but one with four high cards gives you a better chance and more protection against having your hand counterfeited.
3 – Pot Control
It may seem safer for a beginning Omaha player to play in a limit game, and this is true as far as protecting the maximum amount you can lose on a single hand. But it’s more valuable to learn how to control the size of the pot in no limit and pot limit games.
This sounds like common sense, but it seems like most players simply go with the flow on every hand and don’t have a plan.
Start every hand with a series of plans depending on what happens. Think through different possibilities so you don’t have to make decisions without enough time to think. It’s also helpful to know as much about your opponents as possible.
Watch how they play hands, even when you fold, so you can identify the ones you can manipulate later. This is a key component to influencing the pot size when you want to. Knowing which players call any bet chasing draws and knowing which ones will build a pot for you will help your long-term profit.
4 – The Nuts or Nothing
When you play Texas holdem, you can win many pots with the third or fourth-best possible plan. When you flop a set, the odds are high that you have the best hand, even when it’s not the top possible set. You can win hands with the second or third best straight and sometimes sneak into a win with a low flush.
But when you play Omaha, you see many more nut hands. It’s still rare to see a four of a kind or a straight flush, but when the board pairs, the odds are good that your flush is not the best hand.
Don’t commit too much money to the pot when you don’t have the true nuts, or at least a second-best possible hand with a low likelihood of an opponent holding the nuts.
5 – Passive or Aggressive
The general belief is that aggressive play at the poker table is better than passive. This belief is true in many situations, but the best Omaha players understand that in some situations, it’s more profitable to be passive.
Omaha players are more likely to call bets on the flop and turn because they have more possible draws. While this is great when you’re trying to build the pot, it also means that one benefit of being aggressive is diminished.
One of the reasons aggressive play is thought to be better is because when you bet and raise, you can win by having the best hand at the end or when your opponents fold. When your opponents fold less, it makes aggressive play less valuable.
Aggressive play is still better than passive play in some situations when you play Omaha, but you need to learn when it’s better and when you should utilize a more passive style of play.
6 – Things Can Change Fast
I’ve never played a game where your fortunes can swerve drastically with a single turn of a card. In Omaha, you can have the stone cold nuts after the flop or turn and get wiped out on the turn or river. It’s even possible to have the nuts on the flop and not even be a favorite to win the hand.
It won’t take long before you see this for yourself. But it’s important to understand this in every hand you play. While common sense says you should build the pot as much as possible when you have the best hand, you need to learn how to estimate your true chances of winning. This takes quite a bit of experience but being aware of it helps you learn.
Let’s say you flop four to the nut flush, an open-ended straight draw to the nut straight and a set. This won’t happen often, but in this case, you often are favored to win the hand even though an opponent currently has a better hand. In this case, you need to bet the maximum amount to get as much money in the pot as possible.
On the other side, you need to play more passively than in other games when you flop the best hand, but the board shows the possibility of an opponent hitting a better hand. There is a fine line between protecting yourself and maximizing your profits, but it’s a line you need to quickly learn about if you want to join the ranks of winning Omaha players.
7 – A Few Big Wins
Most Texas holdem players win several small and medium pots to turn a long-term profit.
I learned how to recognize opportunities where I could get as much money in the pot as possible with limited risk.
Here’s an example of a wildly profitable Omaha play:
You have the nut straight after the turn, and it looks like one of your opponents has the same hand. But you also have a draw to a flush. In this situation, you make the maximum bets and raises on the turn because the odds are high that the worst thing that can happen is you split the pot with your opponent.
Your opponent is forced to call every bet you make because they currently have a nut hand, but if the river completes your flush, you scoop the pot.
The same situation comes up sometimes when you play Omaha Hi-Lo, where you have half the pot locked up and have a draw for the other half. When you can scoop two or three huge pots in a playing session, you often leave the table as a big winner, so long as you don’t waste too many chips chasing smaller pots.
If you take the time to learn from the seven Omaha tips on this page, you can quickly improve your chances of winning. Some Omaha skills take more experience to master, but the tips on this page are a great place to start.