There are two general rules you should follow when starting to think seriously about strategy in Omaha High. The first is that to begin with, you should not be drawing to anything but the nut hand (the strongest possible hand in any given situation). The second is that you should not consider your hand made until the river; a hand that is the nut on the flop may look very different after the final two streets.
You will notice that many Omaha players are extremely patient. They tend to be very conservative and only play the best hands, with very few exceptions. However, the good news is that there is more room for mistakes when playing sub-premium hands in Omaha than in Texas Hold’em.
In Omaha there are 16,432 possible unique starting hands that you can be dealt. Thirty of them are premium hands, and each of them can be double-suited, single-suited or rainbow, which means that there are 90 acceptable starting hands for a conservative player. If you were to follow this rule strictly, then you would be playing just 1 in every 200 hands. Realistically, you are going to have to play a number of sub-premium hands.
When playing Pot-Limit Omaha, you should always remember that no matter what you are holding, your opponent still has a good chance of winning. For instance, if you are dealt A-A-K-K double suited, it is 50,000:1 against, and that hand is just 3:2 favourite to win against 8-7-6-5 double suited. This raises the question of should you raise when holding a good starting hand, or only raising when you hold aces. There is a simple problem with this strategy; it will make you too predictable as a player, so your opponents will not make many mistakes against you.
Another option is to always limp into the game. This is certainly better than just raising with aces, but it is still not ideal. Whenever you bet, raise or call on the flop, the other players will always have a good idea of what you are holding. If you don’t raise pre-flop, then you will not be making other limping players pay enough to see the flop.
Therefore, you should be raising with a variety of hands pre-flop. It will make you unpredictable, you will win more pots, and you will be making the other players pay. Furthermore, it will give you more opportunities to bluff.
When to Raise Pre-Flop
As a general rule, a good strategy is to raise with any of the top 20 starting hands. However, you should be raising on more hands, such as any four cards in a row that are double suited and six or higher, and all single and double-suited A-K-x-x hands with at least one x-card ten or higher. You should also be raising all double-suited connected hands that are five or higher with at most one gap between the top two and low two cards or between the low card and the three high cards, for example J-9-8-6 double suited.
Conversely, there are hands that you should always limp with. For instance, all four in a row combinations, four or higher, and all four in a row combinations that are five or higher with a maximum of one gap that is not between the top and bottom three cards in the hand.
Many players come to Omaha High from Texas Hold’em and they frequently make mistakes when it comes to bluffing. It is important to remember that there are many more opportunities to call in Omaha due to the draws and redraws. Furthermore, the pots are often multiway, which means that they are larger than in Hold’em.
While it doesn’t mean that you should never bluff, it is better to be safe than sorry. You need to be sure that you have a good read on your opponent, a read on what they think you are holding, and a good sense of the board texture.
A common bluffing mistake occurs when there are suited boards. There is no difference between three or four of a suit on the board. When the fourth card of a suit falls, it is not very significant. If the other players did not already believe that you had a flush on the turn, then the fourth card of the suit is not going to change that opinion.
If you are playing a conservative game, only playing the top 30 hands and never raising anything pre-flop, when you do eventually raise, the other players are going to assume you have a pair of aces every time, and they may even believe that one of the aces is suited. This opens up the opportunity of bluffing. On the other side, in this situation experienced players will be calling you with any four cards thinking that you have aces and playing to crack them.
Important Terminology for Further Advanced Strategies
This article only scratches the surface of Omaha High strategy; it is possible to write books on the subject. If you are going to start researching further strategies then it is important that you are familiar with terminology associated with the game.
Outs are cards that you can hit to take a lead if you are behind in the hand. For example, if you are holding jacks and the other player has aces, you will need to hit a jack to give you three of a kind. In this situation, you are said to have two outs, as you hold two of the four jacks are there are two left in the deck that you could hit and win.
This is a card that would have been an out for your hand, but will actually strengthen the other player’s hand if you hit it. For example, a player with aces hitting three of a suit on the flop. If you then hit a jack of that suit you would have three of a kind, but your opponent would have a flush. Therefore, one of your outs is actually an anti-out.
True Outs are the sum of your anti-outs taken away from your outs. If you have two outs and there is one anti-out, it leaves you with one true out. When you hear poker players talking about outs, they are nearly always referring to true outs.
A blocker is a card in your hand that steals another player’s outs. For example, you have 6 spades and 7 spades on a 4 spades, 5 spades and king hearts flop. This gives you two flush outs and straight flush blockers. A player on a nut flush draw cannot hit 3 spades or 8 spades, which gives you four blockers. The opponent will be unaware of the blockers, so they will miscalculate the pot odds.