Five- and Six-Card Omaha

Alex Scott looks at the degenerate-attracting variants of five- and six-card Omaha

For some poker players, four hole cards and six two-card combinations are just not enough. After all, it’s just too difficult to hit a flop when you’ve only got four cards, right? How are you supposed to make any money unless you make the nuts once in a while?

Well, if you’re one of those players, I have the game for you! Simply take the standard game of Omaha, and add another hole card or two…or four. Every flop becomes exciting and every turn brings new possibilities. The action is non-stop and the money flows freely.

Let’s be blunt, six-card Omaha was invented by, and is usually played by, utter degenerates. It’s not a game that you will find online or at the World Series of Poker. However, it’s a game that’s commonly dealt in the UK, both at casino Dealer’s Choice tables and in home games.

Played properly, it can be extremely lucrative. In this article we’ll look at some of the common traps and strategic adjustments that result from such a simple change to the game.

How To Play

The only change from regular Omaha is to deal more cards to each person, and depending on how many players are in the game, Omaha can be played with almost as many cards as you like.

The basic rule of ‘two from your hand, three from the board’ remains – that is, you must use exactly two of your hole cards with exactly three of the community cards to make your best poker hand. Most common in the UK is five and six-card Omaha.

Starting Hands

In four-card Omaha, there are six possible two-card combinations that you can use to make your best hand. In the five-card game, this rises to ten combinations, and to fifteen with six hole cards in play.

It should be obvious, then, that in ‘Six O’ you’ll need a stronger hand to win at showdown, on average, than you would need in the four-card version.

In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised to lose at showdown unless you have the absolute nuts. As with all poker games, you’re looking for a co-ordinated hand with as much potential as possible. The more your cards work together to make straight, flush, and full house opportunities, the better.

Six-card Omaha is a heavily flop-driven game, so you’re looking for hands that can easily make the nuts, and that can change the value of certain types of starting hand.

For example, a bare pair of Aces, such as A-A-J-7-5-2, is particularly weak, as is a hand like K-9-5-5-2-2 which, even though it is double-paired and relatively likely to hit a set, will very rarely make the nuts.

It’s important not to overplay these types of hands, which is easy to do if you’re used to hold’em hand values. Much stronger are hands with multiple possibilities, such as A-K-K-J-10-9, 10-10-9-8-7-6, and so on, particularly if suited.

However, it’s rare that you will be dealt one of these dream hands. In four-card Omaha, you would often throw away a hand with a ‘dangler’ – that is, a card which is unrelated to the rest of your starting hand.

However, if you threw away every six-card Omaha hand with a dangler, you would be playing far too tight (in fact, you’d hardly enter any pots at all). Just be careful to avoid those hands that are completely uncoordinated.

The Flop

Six-card Omaha tends to be a very loose game, with lots of multi-way pots. The best type of game is one that is loose and passive, because you’ll often get free cards to make your draws, but a loose-aggressive game can also be profitable.

Needless to say, you’ll have to make the nuts, or a draw to the nuts, in order to be completely comfortable with your hand in a big multi-way pot.

Occasionally, you’ll come across players who are way too tight, perhaps because they’ve heard about the game’s reputation. These players simply wait until they have the nuts to bet, and can easily be bluffed off their hand when a dangerous card appears. You should aim to quickly identify these players and take advantage of them.

Usually, when you reach the flop you’ll be playing against multiple opponents, and if you don’t have the nuts or a draw to it, somebody else probably does. For that reason, it’s often far too dangerous to give free cards if you flop a strong hand – make your opponents pay to hit their draws, and bet your hand like there’s no tomorrow.

There are two other reasons not to slow play a good hand. The first is that you will often get called regardless, as it’s so easy for your opponents to connect with the flop and find an excuse to call.

The second reason is if you check and a scare card comes on a future street, you will sometimes lose your market – that is, the card that comes scares your opponent out of calling a bet which he would have called had you bet sooner.

Redraws play a larger part in six-card Omaha than they do in the regular version, and their importance is difficult to overstate. Let’s say the flop is K-Q-8, and you hold K-K-x-x-x-x. You have the current nuts, but there are lots of possible draws that could be completed on the turn (an Ace, Jack, 10, or 9 would be particularly scary cards).

If you have nothing helpful to go with your top set, you must play much more cautiously than you would if you also had, say, J-10 on the side (which gives you an open-ended straight draw as back up).

Redraws are valuable not only because they are an offensive weapon – they give you the opportunity to improve to an even stronger hand, but also because they provide a defence against your opponents outdrawing you.

The cards you have may be cards that they need (‘blockers’), or may mean that even if your opponent makes their hand, they will split the pot
with you, in which case you are essentially freerolling against them.

It should be clear, that there are many reasons to be aggressive in six-card Omaha. You bet to protect your hand, to extract money from loose opponents, and to encourage overly-tight opponents to sacrifice equity in the pot by folding incorrectly.

In particular, you shouldn’t be afraid to bet your strong combination draws, of which you will have many – top two pair combined with straight draws, sets combined with flush draws, and so on.

These types of hand often have so many ways to improve that they are favourites even against the current nuts, and you should treat them as the powerhouses of potential that they are.

The biggest mistake a new six-card Omaha player makes is to get too attached to marginal hands. In particular, non-nut flushes and straights, which are dangerous even in the four-card game, are utter trap hands and simply cannot stand much action.

Other marginal hands include middle and bottom set, and strong hands (particularly straights) that have no redraws as back up.If you can avoid getting trapped with these hands, and have the guts to withstand the variance, you could do very well at six-card Omaha!

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