If you’re new to pot-limit Omaha, these dilemmas will set you on the path to enlightenment
So far all of our quizzes have focused on no-limit hold’em, but many of the biggest and most profitable cash games, particularly in Europe, involve one of the many variants of Omaha. In the most common form of Omaha you are dealt four private hole cards, although the game can also be played with as few as two or as many as six hole cards.
The key feature that distinguishes the game from hold’em is that in Omaha you must use exactly two of your hole cards in combination with exactly three of the community cards to make your best five-card poker hand. That can be confusi ng for hold ’em veterans, so in this quiz we’ll start off slowly and begin with the basics before really testing your knowledge with the final poser.
SCENARIO 1 POCKET ACES
Q You are playing $0. 25/$0.50 pot-limit Omaha (PLO) online. The table is nine-handed. You have a $50 stack, and the other stacks at the table vary widely, from $10 to $250. You’re first to act pre-flop, and you’re dealt A?-A?-K?-K?. What should you do?
B) CALL $0.50
C) RAISE THE POT, TO $1.75
While there is some disagreement about what is the best starting hand in Omaha, A-A-K-K double-suited is certainly up there. Mathematically, it’s the best hand if you can get all-in pre-flop. Many top players argue that A-A-J-10 double-suited is stronger because of its high straight-making potential, but in terms of pre-flop equity, A-A-K-K is the boss.
So, you have an extremely powerful starting hand here, which means you should raise the pot, right? Well, the decision isn’t quite as obvious as it may seem. The problem is, pocket Aces lose a lot of value after the flop unless they improve, and they can be very difficult to play out of position. At an aggressive table it’s often better to limp in, hoping one of your foes will raise. You can then re-raise, committing yourself to the pot and making your decisions from that point onward very easy.
One of the problems with raising is that you end up setting yourself up to lose a lot of money when you’re beaten, and win only a little when you are ahead. Let’s say you raise to $1.75 and get four calls (which is certainly not unusual). The pot will be at least $8.75 on the flop, so if you bet the pot you’ll be committing about 18% of your remaining stack. You’re not committed, but you don’t want to invest this many chips and fold often either. You’ll be faced with some very tough decisions.
Contrast this with limping. Now, either you’ll be able to re-raise and commit yourself to the pot with the best possible hand (never a bad thing), or the pot will be smaller so a flop bet won’t cost you as much. Another reason to limp is that it disguises your hand, as well as balancing your strategy, since you’d like to be able to limp with a lot of weaker hands too.
A Folding is out of the question. Out of the two remaining options, I prefer to limp in most circumstances, raising only if I know the table is tight and I’m likely to get heads-up.
SCENARIO 2 POCKET ACES POST-FLOP
Q As in scenario 1 you are playing$0. 25/$0. 50 PLO online and you are dealt A?-A?-K?-K?. You raise to $1. 75 and al l eight opponents call . The pot is $15. 75, and you have $48. 25 remaining. The flop comes 5?-6?-7?. You are first to act. What should you do?
B) BET $8
C) POT IT, FOR $15.75
The biggest mistake Omaha beginners make is to overvalue unimproved pocket Aces after the flop. In hold’em, an unimproved overpair is often the best hand, even on a dangerous board like this, and even against multiple opponents. However, in Omaha, unimproved Aces in a multi-way pot are almost completely devoid of value.
A With eight opponents holding four cards each, it’s almost impossible for you to be ahead on this flop, and you’ll probably be drawing slim to dead. Betting at all is a mistake here. You should check, and be prepared to get out of the way if there is any significant action.
SCENARIO 3 THE WEAK STRAIGHT DRAW
Q Still playing the $0. 25/$0.50 gameon the internet, a few hands later you are dealt A?-Q?-5?-6? on the button. Four people limp in and you call. Both blinds play, so there is $3.50 in the pot. You have $48 in your stack. The flop comes 7?-8?-2?, giving you an open-ended straight draw. The small blind checks and the big blind bets the pot, $3.50. The first limper calls and the others fold. What should you do?
B) CALL $3.50
C) RAISE THE POT, TO $14
In hold’em, you would almost certainly call with an open-ended straight draw after a bet and a call, unless you thought the chances of a raise behind you were significant. But in Omaha, the average hand is much stronger, and it’s important to only draw to the nuts and avoid expensive second-best hands.
Here, it’s possible that you have almost no equity at all. For example, against A-A-5-6, you are drawing to a split pot. Against 10-9-8-8, you can hit your straight with a 4 and still be only a slight favourite to win. It might seem pessimistic to put your opponents on such hands, but even if the cards aren’t held by a single opponent, it’s easily possible for several opponents to hold a combination between them that has you in terrible shape.
A Here, your straight draw isn’t to the nuts, and you should fold.
SCENARIO 4 STRONG DRAW IN SIX-CARD OMAHA
Q You’re feeling ambitious, so you’replaying in the £5/£5 dealer’s choice game at your local casino. Your foes are mostly degenerate old men and they look at you with visible contempt as you sit down. There is no cap on the buy-in, and the stacks range from £250 to £5,000 in size. You sit down with £500.
You sigh as the dealer calls out ‘Six O.’ That means he’s picked six-card Omaha. After two misdeals you finally look down at A?-J?-10?-9?-6?-5? in middle position. The first player calls ‘pot’, raising to £20. A second player calls, and you call. The button calls, as does the big blind, making the pot £85.
The flop comes 8?-7?-3? and the first player bets £85. The second player calls. There are two players behind you, the pot is £255, and you have £480 remaining. What should you do?
B) CALL £85
C) RAISE TO £170
D) RAISE THE POT, TO £425
You have not a pair to speak of, but you should be willing to go all the way with this huge draw. You have flopped what is known in Omaha as a ‘wrap’ – that is, a straight draw with a whole bundle of outs. In this hand, three Jacks, three tens, three nines, three sixes, three fives and four fours will give you a straight.
You have 19 outs to make a straight alone. In addition, you have the nut flush draw, which gives you another four outs for up to 23 outs in total. Such a huge draw is a dream hand in Omaha. The worst opposing hand you can encounter is a set, because then if the board pairs your hand will be ‘killed’, but even against the current nuts you are a favourite to win.
A Your only concern is how to make the most money from the hand. Your opponents may be happy to commit all of their chips now, but be scared off by the wrong turn card. Therefore, you should probably make a big raise right now, to £425, and be prepared to put the rest of your chips in as soon as you can.
Omaha is a high-variance game, and if you’re used to hold’em, playing it well requires some adjustments. However, it’s an exciting and very lucrative game. Give it a try!