Pot Limit Omaha

Annie Duke explains how taking a decidedly non-hold’em view is crucial to your long-term success in pot-limit Omaha

Pot-limit Omaha, as with all forms of Omaha, is a deceptively tight game. Most new players to the game make the mistake of thinking, ‘I have four cards so I can play a lot of hands.’ However, the fact is that having four cards makes it much easier for your opponent to make a hand, so it’s much more important in a four-card game to enter with the hand that has the best chance of winning. Omaha is a game of making hands as opposed to bluffing your opponents off hands.

In Texas hold’em, in a heads-up pot your opponent will miss the board around 67% of the time. This means that, especially with position on your opponent where you get to act last, you can play a pretty wide variety of hands with the expectation that you will be able to bluff the majority of them. The other significant factor is that it’s rare for an opponent in hold’em to flop a draw which is more than a 2/1 underdog to hit, so you can get your opponents to lay down drawing hands, thus offering your made hands much more protection while also facilitating bluffing.

However, in Omaha this is not the case. Drawing hands are often the favourite, so made hands can be offered little protection against obvious draws on the board. Also, your opponent will have his cards working with the board much more often which means that your successful bluffing percentage goes way down. On account of this, hands have to be selected more carefully, and you must always keep in mind that if your hand is a drawing hand you need to make sure that you have multiple possible draws working or that the draw will be to the nuts.


One of the biggest mistakes beginners make in pot-limit Omaha is to look at their hand like a hold’em hand, playing any four cards that have a strong two-card combination. Good starting Omaha hands have all four cards working together so that you can flop big draws like wrap straight draws.

Take a hand like A♦-K♠-Q♦-10♠. This hand is a huge Omaha hand because you can flop several wrap straight draws on boards like K-J-x (you can hit an Ace, Queen, 10 or 9), and when you flop a flush draw it will be the nut flush draw or the second nut flush draw only. If you are going to play lower cards in Omaha, you again need to make sure they are working together, like 9♦-7-6♦-5. This hand can flop a lot of wrap draws as well and, in fact, is exactly the type of hand you want if your opponent has A-A in their hand.

Even with four cards working, you still need to make sure your four cards are not likely to be drawing to anything that is not the nuts. Hands like 2-3-4-5, for instance, are generally not playable because most flops that work with that hand will have redraws to a bigger hand. Think of a flop like A-3-4, as an example. If a 5, 6 or 7 hit the board on the next card, you are very unhappy because someone can now have a bigger straight. You always want to avoid hands that can put you in tight spots – for example, where scare cards hit the board, leaving you in a difficult situation. Your opponent might be able to trap you for all your money with a better hand or get you to lay down the best hand by bluffing at a scare card for you. If you only draw with hands that are likely to make the nuts, you won’t get yourself into this situation.

Having four cards working is, in fact, so important that A-A with two random cards is often a hand you can fold if the action is right. Hands like A-A-9-6 all off-suit are foldable to a big raise and an all-in, especially where it’s very likely one of your opponents has A-A along with you and the other is likely in a strong wrap and double-suited situation, like J♦-9-8♦-7.


Given that opponents make hands so often in pot-limit Omaha and the fact that most opponents play a very loose version of the game, raising pre-flop is a much less preferred strategy than in hold’em. In hold’em, three of the primary reasons for raising are:

To limit the number of opponents in the pot with you. This is because you want to be playing most pots heads-up since most hands in hold’em will not hit anything after the flop – so the fewer opponents in the pot with you, the more likely it is that your hand will win without improving.

To take the lead on the pot by adopting an aggressive stance. By raising before the flop in hold’em, you are taking control of the pot, and since your opponent will miss the board the majority of the time you will generally win those pots by having taken the aggressive stance pre-flop. It increases the likelihood of a successful post-flop bluff.

To get information about your opponents’ hands. Opponents calling raises in hold’em tend to be quite strong. Most of them will not call a raise without at least the top 20% of hands they could be dealt, so the mere fact that they are calling your raise gives you a very good idea of the kind of cards which they might have. The more that you know about your opponents’ hands, the better your decisions will be later in the hand. And, of course, it hardly need be said that the better your decisions are, the more money you make.

Now let’s consider these three reasons for raising in relation to Omaha. In general, a raise in Omaha will still get several callers, so reason number one is out the window. Once you have multiple opponents, the chance that their hands relate to the board in some way is a big favourite, so reason number two is generally defunct since it’s quite difficult to run a successful bluff on the flop in pot-limit Omaha. Most bluffs are reserved for the turn or the river when a scare card hits the board like a flush draw or a pair. And as for the last reason, once you realise opponents have loose calling requirements then the fact that they called a raise really doesn’t tell you much about their hands except that they probably don’t have trips.


You can probably deduce then, that Omaha tends to be a game where there is more limping. You try to take cheap looks at the flop to make big hands (either trips or wraps or straight draws with flush draws). Once you have flopped the big hand, then you can go ahead and get the money in the pot. Omaha is not a game where you tend to get all your money in before the flop – unless you specifically have A-A and think you can get the pot heads-up or you have the big wrap and flush kind of hand like J-10-9-7 double suited. But even those hands will often limp or make smaller raises.

However, the one factor that does remain the same in both hold’em and pot-limit Omaha is the importance of position before the flop. You need to be playing tighter in any situation in poker where you know that you have to act early in the decision-making process. This is both from the perspective of worrying about someone showing up with a huge hand behind you when you act early and from the perspective that it’s easier to bluff and to milk people with the best hand when you have position on them. It stands to reason therefore, that you can play a wider variety of hands in position than out of position.

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