In all poker games, position is important. Generally, you want to act last or close to last on every betting round. However in limit Omaha high, position is not as critical as it can be in other forms of poker (position is extremely important in pot-limit Omaha). The reason for this is that limit Omaha is a nine-card drawing game, where you and everybody else are drawing to the nuts. Everybody can see what the nuts are, and the nuts are usually out there, somewhere. The nuts usually get paid off in a showdown, since someone with the second best hand will call due to pot odds. Position might earn you an extra bet, or save you one bet. But position will almost never win the whole pot on a bluff, as it might in Texas Hold’em or pot limit Omaha.
This is usually the main problem Hold’em-players have taking up limit Omaha high because two of their weapons at the poker table are taken away from them- the bluff and position play. For them, tough limit Omaha high games are sometimes unbeatable. However, they can increase their chances for winning if they do a few things to give themselves an extra edge.
Starting Hands – The Selection is the Key to Beating the Game.
In Texas Hold’em, there are three groups of hands. Great hands (i.e. AA, KK, QQ, AK), marginal hands (for example AQ, JTs, 99) and trash hands (the rest such as 94). The marginal hands are playable only under the right conditions, generally speaking in late position or in pots without too much action. The marginal hands are also great for trying to steal the blinds with a raise, or to play heads-up against a “maniac” (raise or re-raise to get head-to-head with the “maniac”, see the discussion at Hold’em For Experts)
In limit Omaha, there are only two groups of hands: playable hands and unplayable hands.
Playable hands are ones where all four cards work well with each other, and these hands are playable from every position. Ideally, you want a hand that could flop well and have draws that could improve it even further. This implies that a hand like AAxy, a hand most Hold’em players think is phenomenal, is in fact trash. I know you are shocked, but this hand often belongs in the muck. Two aces will seldomly hold up, so you are in fact drawing to hit a third ace with no re-draws. If one or two of the other cards were connected or suited with the aces, you can take a look at the flop with them. For example with AAT8, you primarily are hoping to hit another ace on the flop, but you also have back-up with a flush draw in spades. The two AT- and T8-combinations can make a few straights as well.
What To Look For in Starting Hands:
In limit Omaha you are almost always drawing! The only exceptions to this are when you hit a monster flop (i.e. four of a kind, straight flush and “Big Full”). If we take our example hand again, AAT8, and say the flop is AT5, you clearly have the nuts for now. You have a set of Aces, not a full house (if this confuses you, you are not ready for Omaha yet). However, you are still drawing to hit the full house.With a flop like this one, it is impossible that there will be no straight possibility at the river unless the board pairs (try simulating it yourself!).
There are certain types of boards that actually make the big trips (AAA, KKK and QQQ) the nuts at the river, for example AK982, KJ762 and Q9732. Three Jacks can never be the nuts at the river; either there will be a higher card on the board or a straight possibility will exist. Remember, Omaha is not like Hold’em. In limit Omaha high you need the nuts or close to it to win the pot.
Therefore, AAxy, KKxy and QQxy, where x and y are close in rank with the pair are playable. Being suited helps, but it has the most value if it is suited with an ace.
The other hands that are playable are the hands where all four cards interact with each other, for example AKQT, JT87, 8764 and so on, all the way down to 6543. Also small pairs with perfect connectors are playable, i.e. 8776, 6654. The worst hand I would play is something like QTT8. If you play trash hands such as JT93 and so on, you are costing yourself a lot of money. It would be a far better use of money if you just sent me a check instead of throwing your money away at the table! In the hand JT93, the 3 is called “a dangler”, meaning a card that has no interconnection with the other cards in your hand. If someone puts a gun to your head and demands that you play some of your danglers, at least play them when they are suited with an ace, for example A765, where you have some nut-out of the dangler.
These are the playable starting hands. The rest are trash. Raise or re-raise with half of your playable starting hands (the really good ones), and limp or call a bet with the rest.
If you don’t have the patience to wait for these starting hands, you will have great difficulty surviving at limit Omaha high. Actually, contrary to “common wisdom”, you might want to consider taking up pot-limit Omaha if you want to play worse starting hands. Only do this if you are VERY good at dumping your hands on the flop, have a big bankroll and a mood that can handle large swings. This is because there are much more implied odds in pot-limit Omaha when you hit your hand perfectly.
Playing the Flop:
Success in limit Omaha can be said with two words: “Never Chase!” Let your opponents chase, it is from their bad play you will win money, not by your own world-class play. This is not the WPT (World Poker Tour) where we see world-class players outsmarting each other at the final table; this is limit poker. Limit Omaha is best played in a very straightforward way. If you have it, bet it. If you don’t, dump it. If the flop is Q62, and you call a bet or two with our example hand AAT8, you are calling on a prayer. First, you hope for one of the remaining two aces, and secondly for the set of aces to hold up. That is a lot of hoping to do.
Flopping Two Pair:
Two pair is one of the trickiest hands to play at limit Omaha high. Generally speaking, you should fold bottom two pair. If you flop top two pair, you should consider playing it. If you flop top and bottom, you are in a tricky situation. You have to proceed carefully. Some of these flops are GREAT, some are not.
Let’s run some examples with the hand T877 and the flops:
KT8: Bottom 2-pair, and no draws to nut hands. Easy fold.
T98: Top and bottom, but very dangerous flop. There is already a straight draw out there. Fold.
T85: Not much of a hand, and should probably fold, especially in pot-limit.
976: You flopped the nut straight with full house redraws (you have a set of 7’s as well). Bet it!
On the other hand, if your hand is J986 and the flops are:
KJ8: Fold. You have bottom two and there are many nut-straight draws
JT6: Difficult: Any 7 will give you nut-straight, and a Q will give you a low straight. Do not take any heavy action with this hand, but if it is heads-up, please feel free to go ahead and play it. J85: You are preliminary drawing to a J for nut full house or an 8 for a small house, but you also have some straight possibilities. Go ahead and play it.
This is the main concept about the play on the flop at limit Omaha. You want to be drawing to the nuts, but you also want secondary draws with your hand, and these secondary draws only come if your hand is very coordinated with itself.For example, compare the two hands JT98 vs 9852 with the flops
765: What is the 9852´s hope? That hand can only hope to split the pot, unless it hits a backdoor full house (like 765-5-2). The hand JT98 will win the whole pot if any 8 or 9 comes.
983: JT98 will win if any Q,J,T or 7 comes.
Flopping a Set (three of a kind):
When you flop a hidden set, the same principles apply as when you flop two pair: If you flop bottom set, fold. If you flop top set, play it. And if you flop middle set, you have to play good poker.
In Hold’em, a flopped set is usually a ticket to heaven. In Omaha (any kind of Omaha), a flopped set is just another drawing hand, drawing to a full house. And you want to be drawing to big full houses, not small ones.
Being suited adds a bit of value to your hand, and being double-suited adds a lot. However, you should ONLY play the nut flush for its value alone. Never draw to a hand that will not be the nuts.
However non-nut flushes will have their value as your secondary draws, or redraws. For example: JT98 vs JT98 with the flop 765. Both players have the nuts, and both have great draws to even bigger straights, so there will be much action on the flop. But JT98 has no out to win the whole pot. Any heart will give the first hand the pot, and so will a backdoor diamond flush. Freaky hands, but they occur.
Any hand that you back-door, (i.e hit runner-runner) does not need do be that strong for you to bet strongly on the river. This means that if you happen to stumble into a diamond flush in the example above, you may bet it even against more than one caller. This holds true also for small houses and second-nut straights that you backdoor.
Preflop bluffs should not be in your repertoire; it is almost impossible to steal blinds in limit Omaha high. You should rarely bluff at any other stage, but there are a few spots that you might try to steal the pot.
For example, if you have the bare Ace of any suit and three of that suite flops, for example AAT8 with the flop K82. Such a flop will every now and then be picked up by a bet, but you need to have the key card (A) to do the betting.
Another example is if the board comes with a pair, say 992. If there are not that many players seeing the flop, a bet might steal the pot. Never call such a flop without a 9. But feel free to bet without one!