Omaha Poker Strategy

When I checked the content schedule to find our next outing was down the gold paved road of Omaha, my heart leapt for the fortuitous coincidence of it all. Just as we follow that winding yellowbrickroad to June’s $100K Omaha fest, what’s more useful to our delightful Omaholics and would-be ordained Omaha Omukama than an eyeful of helpful hints, tricksy tips and useful snippets to get you boosted clear of the fence and bounding towards the loot. That’s 30 days to transform our first-time contingent from ginger toe-dippers to grizzled veterans with more cunning than a velociraptor in a three-piece suit.

Without further ado, a brief introduction to poker’s long-maligned and less-loved second cousin. To its fans, Omaha represents ruleset perfection, challenge and a touch of the underground, akin to being the only friend in a group who prefers Anaal Natrakh to Kodaline. ‘Oh you guys play Hold’em, eh? That old thing!’

Omaha is like vinyl records, to Hold’em’s brand packaging and mainstream popularity. It’s also considered the harder game. The chances of creating a winning hand are higher with four hole cards, which can make a transition from Hold’em to Omaha tables more challenging, especially pre-flop.

Here at GGPoker, we cater to all-comers. Learn these strategies by rote and gear up for next month’s showdown.

Long-time hold’em players will note some key differences in strategy, to start:

  1. Respect big raises — at PLO, bluffing is less likely. Large raising typically indicates a strong hand
  2. Keeping tabs — this is where your player notes come in really handy; play the players, who’s betting, who’s folding, who plays inferior hands. Doing the above will help offset point number 1
  3. Patience at the gate — take time to learn which starting hand selections are worth playing, save yourself learning a harsher lesson later in the game; it’s not every four cards that are worth playing
  4. Like a life drawing class with a broken pencil, you gotta draw to the nuts, although there are select scenarios where you can play a weak draw aggressively
  5. This isn’t hold’em. Just to reiterate. Both card games, both provided by nearly all poker rooms and both popular, but the rules are different and gameplay reflects this. If you’re eager to take the plunge, ensure you’ve taken a practice with your floaties on first, otherwise the PLO sharks will eat you and it’ll be up to us poor GGPoker agents to sweep your bones from the deluge with a net when they pass, and we’ll say ‘Another poor Hold’em player from upstream, may he rest in pieces.’
  6. With less bluffing, larger hands in play and generally a stronger pool of knowledgeable players, PLO requires a heftier bankroll than say, regular cash games
  7. A keen positional understanding is required. You must recognize and know how to correctly utilize the nuts for maximum value
  8. In omaha, your max raise cannot exceed the pot, meaning later positions yield opportunities for higher raising.

Starting hands in PLO

I love the phrase starting hands. It makes me think of old pugilistic manuals breaking down the exact angle a punch needs to clean a chin out. Chapter 1. Starting Hands. Chapter 2. Headbutts and Crotchruiners. Chapter 3. Biting Techniques, and so on — I’ve had my fun.

Starting hands are as important, if not more, than in regular hold’em play. Skilled PLO players will test a wide range of hands. Start out exclusively playing stronger, easier hands. Double-suited hands are strong to start, giving you a chance to flop two different flush draws. Double-suited run-down holdings are also highly playable.

Bankroll

Highs are high. Lows are low. Water wet. When the PLO going is good, it’s milkshakes and rocketcars, but the flipside is also true. It doesn’t rain, it pours. PLO is fast, skillful and the pots increase quickly along with the action as the game continues. Point 9 above is important to remember when managing your bankroll. Although you cannot raise higher than the pot amount, later betting rounds and later positions will yield much higher rewards as the pot grows. In this regard, Omaha rewards the patient, knowledgeable player. Often newly-arriving Hold’em players cash decently with beginner’s luck as the seemingly-random nature of their play confuses reg players, dissuading their daring before they figure out there’s no method behind the madness. The same does not apply in Omaha. Often, new Omaha players will have a difficult task adjusting to the slower measure and keener strategies involved, but as with all things in life, the rewards and enjoyment grow with time and study. In summation, Omaha is best suited to a level-headed player with enough mental fortitude to cope with downswings, and a large enough bankroll to take a bruising and survive reascension.

Aces

I’d advise GGPoker players to beware anything that came from Lorne Malvo’s mouth first, aces included.

Don’t overvalue your aces. Yes, we know, they’re the best thing since sliced bread at Hold’em tables, and they wouldn’t have written the song if they weren’t worth playing. As a result, thanks Motorhead, many novice Omaha players find this transitional aspect difficult, but I’m guaranteeing you it won’t be more difficult than successfully playing aces in PLO. Aces in hold’em is like the BFG in Doom, there’s little room for ambiguity or tragedy on the flop. In PLO, more hole cards mean higher chances of flushes and straights, thus aces need a ballast of strong cards to survive.

Post-flop

Like a sequel to John Carter Man on Mars, it’s a post-flop sorta show. The range of possible strong hands, combined with a pot-limit structure, means the pre-flop bets pale in comparison to their chunkier, steroid-bulked cousins on the river, which feeds nicely back into my prior statement that the patient and cunning are rewarded first and foremost, an enticing suggestion for some. I think Nomeansno said it best; see you in the river.

Folding

Like the large-bottomed man says to his compromised deck chair, you have to be prepared to fold. For the inquisitive students of the game, folding a lot to start will come naturally as you adapt to the new pace and tone of the game, making as many reads as you can to begin, learning and mimicking which hands stronger players make to success, but those daring among us, who never dipped a toe before their head went under, it can be hard to hang back. If you play a lot of hands on Hold’em, and you’ll find many cash players do, you’ll bite your lip and hover over the mouse anytime a halfway decent hand comes up, but send those aces to the cleaners, this isn’t a license to print money, it’s a license to visit the factory where they print the money for a week and watch the experts add their flourishes.

That’s all folks

And what a merry melody it was. I hope you all enjoyed reading through my Omaha strategy guide. Take these lessons to the tables and see how you go, hopefully to the tune of $100K across June. I’ve said numerous times that Omaha tables are inhabited by regs and life-long Omaha players, it’s greatest adherents and propagators, looking at you J-grams, but that doesn’t mean it takes a lifetime to get there. Pay close attention to the strategies and the cards in play, hold your fire pre-flop and before you can say HOLE CARDS, you’ll be prattling on and scoffing at your Luddite mates still working off two.

Best of luck during the Omaha fest season. Let us know how ya go on Twitter, we’ll gladly retweet any of your brilliant successes as we approach the high-summer months and the tandem burning of wicker men on the many hallowed greenacres of our verdant island.

Happy trails,

Mike at GGPoker