Six appeal

Hand selection in five and six-card Omaha is just as crucial as in the traditional four-card format

Omaha, whose full name Omaha hold’em poker, has long been the most popular alternative to Texas hold’em. Omaha is a game that utilises the same format of hole cards, flop, turn and the river, but generates more of a gambling atmosphere by giving bad players the opportunity to play more hands without immediately getting skinned alive.

There are three traditional formats that are offered by most online sites: pot-limit Omaha and Omaha hi-lo (most popular among Europeans) and limit Omaha hi-lo (favoured by Americans). Of these, only pot-limit Omaha tends to breed a true gambling atmosphere as many hands are playable and usually will have some value at the flop and beyond, whereas hi-lo games are more likely to contain players who aim to win by waiting for good hands and trapping worse players in very bad spots.

Going gambling

But there are also five and six-card varieties as well, with six-card pot limit Omaha being regarded by many as a pure gambling game which is best avoided. The other popular option is pot-limit Omaha hi-lo, which, in a five and six-card format is even more a game of patience and waiting to catch out an opponent than its four-card cousin. Interestingly, limit versions of the games are rarely played with more than four cards (gamblers want to gamble), and the rise of internet poker has seen the introduction of no-limit four-card versions of Omaha.

The best way to learn five and six-card Omaha games is to have a solid grounding in the four-card versions, which will give you a basis for comparison. Remember that you have to use exactly two cards, and so have six two-card combinations to choose from. With five and six cards then, you will have 10 and 15 combinations respectively and this sequence of numbers should aid your initial attempts to calibrate the strength of various hands.

Hands up

The first consideration you will need to make is in selecting starting hands, and with experience in four-card Omaha this should be relatively easy. In hi-lo, for example, the best four-card starting hand is A-A-2-3 double suited – so in five and six-card games A-A-2-3-4 and A-A-2-3-4-5 are optimal hands. In six-card games a couple of substitute Broadway cards have merit as well, so A-A-2-3-K-Q or A-A-2-3-K-K are also excellent holdings as your A-2-3 will rarely be counterfeited and you have outs at the other end of the deck.

Notice, however, that in these hands there are no ‘danglers’ (useless unconnected cards), and that whilst you will rarely be dealt six perfectly connecting cards, it’s a bad idea to get in a hand with more than one dud in five or six-card games. Even with its limit format, Omaha hi-lo is a game built around backdoor outs and playing it pot-limit with more cards simply magnifies this element of strategy.

It’s also worth taking on board that the extra combinations mean unsupported lows like a bare A-2 are even more dangerous and that strictly high hands with little or no low value are almost worthless unless on a flop with two or more low cards.

This is demonstrable when thinking about the various possibilities for flops in Omaha hi-lo and how the nuts (which you should invariably be drawing to in five or sixcard versions) can change on future cards. A hand with just a bare A-2-3-X-X-X will often get into trouble against one that dominates it, like A-A-2-3-4-5 with almost any combination of three low cards ensuring that it is either splitting, getting quartered, or even scooped.

Fold , Call or Re-Raise

Reckon you can deal with five and six-card Omaha? Try these:

1. Playing six-card Omaha, you have 6-7-8-9-10-J in a deep cash game and see a flop of 9-10-2 rainbow after one solid player raises pre-flop. He bets the pot, you re-raise the pot, and he pots it back at you. There is still a lot of money left behind, do you a) fold, b) call or c) re-raise?

2. Playing five-card Omaha hi-lo, you are dealt A-A-2-3-4 double-suited and get to the flop after raising and being called by one unknown player. It comes K-5-7 rainbow and your pot-sized bet is raised the pot. Do you a) fold, b) call or c) re-raise?

Answers top right…

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