Pot-Limit Omaha

Omaha HU WS

Widely popular for years in Europe, Pot-Limit Omaha is the second most popular form of poker played today, and its popularity is only increasing.

Omaha is catching on for two main reasons. It's similar to Hold'em, so players feel like they've already got agood feeling for the game, and it's action-packed, something any self-respecting poker player should be happy about.

Even more than Hold'em, however, Omaha requires players to have a very solid understanding of how to read the board, winning hand combinations, out-counting and odds.

Without these skills, Omaha is merely a fast-paced action-fest allowing players to gamble at will. This article functions as a basic beginner's guide to Omaha, mapping out the key areas of the game, and the skills required to become successful at it.

If you're looking for the basic rules and game play of Omaha, rather than basic strategy, head to Omaha Poker Rules and Game Play

Key Skills to Becoming a Good Pot-Limit Omaha Player

  • Starting hand selection
  • Discipline and patience
  • Ability to read the board and common situations
  • Ability to consistently play a strong, aggressive game
  • At least a basic understanding of odds and outs

Pot-Limit

The term Pot-Limit refers to the betting conventions used in the game. Simply put, the maximum bet you can make in a Pot-Limit game is equal to the size of the pot, unlike No-Limit where a player is only limited by the total number of chips they have in play.

To learn more about betting limits, and how to calculate a maximum pot-sized bet, head to: Omaha Poker Betting Rules: No-Limit, Limit, Pot-Limit.

Pot-Limit Omaha vs. Texas Hold'em

  1. The two biggest differences between Omaha and Hold'em are the number of starting cards (players receive four cards in Omaha), and how a winning hand is made. In Omaha a player must use exactly two cards from their hand, and three cards from the board.
  2. More players will see the flop in Omaha. Unlike in Hold'em where one starting hand can have another completely dominated it's rare for any hand in Omaha to have too much of a preflop advantage.
  3. Because more players are seeing flops, and all players are holding four cards, the strength of the average winning hand is far greater in Omaha. This means to win a hand you are commonly required to have the nuts, or something close to it. Hands such as two-pair or top-pair are not as valuable in Omaha as they are in Hold'em.
  4. Omaha is a more hand-driven game, meaning there are fewer opportunities to bluff. More often than not players are betting on made hands, or huge draws rather than stone-cold bluffs.
  5. Although position is always one of the most important factors in poker, it loses some of its value in Omaha due to the reduced ability to bluff. Position in Omaha is primarily used to gauge odds and value-betting amounts.

Key Pot-Limit Omaha Tips

  1. Be very selective with your starting hands. It's imperative to avoid hands with a dangler (a single card which has no connection to another in your hand, such as A K Q 6). Playing these hands basically forces you to play 3 cards against the 4 of your opponents, a great disadvantage.
  2. Understand that Omaha is a drawing game. The best hands are often made on the turn or the river.
  3. Avoid raising out of position pre-flop, unless you have a top 10 starting hand.
  4. Pump it or dump it. If you have the best hand, or a massive draw, it's better to be betting and raising rather than checking and calling. If you don't have a hand strong enough to bet, chances are you should be folding.
  5. More so than in Hold'em, a large bet often means the player is protecting a large hand. It's foolish to make hero calls in PLO.
  6. Do not get married to a basic draw. It's possible to have as many as 20 draw outs in Omaha, making a standard 8 or 9-out draw a poor investment.
  7. Only draw to the nuts. More often than not having a flush smaller than the nut is going to cost you a lot of money. Omaha is a nut game, treat it as such.
  8. Do not overplay unsuited aces: when all you hold are a pair of aces and two unsuited, unconnected rags, there is little you can flop to improve your hand. A simple over-pair is just not very strong in Omaha.

ivey omaha widescreen

Common Omaha Mistakes

  1. Overvaluing weak hands, such as two-pair or bottom set.
  2. Drawing too thin (you need combo draws; 8 outs simply isn't good enough).
  3. Playing too many hands.
  4. Misreading the board (gutshots and backdoor draws must be noted).
  5. Betting pot, simply because you can (always have a reason for betting a specific amount; don't get into the habit of simply betting pot for no reason).

Preflop Play

The most important aspect to preflop play in Omaha is your starting hand selection. There's no absolute guide that covers every possible scenario and situation you will encounter, but there are general guidelines that can help any player become a more consistent winner.

Starting Hands

What you are looking for in a quality starting hand are four cards that work together, or at least two pairs of compatible cards.

Your goal is to have a hand with as many possibilities for making the nuts as possible. This is why it's so important to throw away any hands with a dangler.

For example J J 10 2 may look like a decent hand, but since the 2 does almost nothing for you, you're now playing your three card hand against the four cards of your opponents.

Ideally you want to have a hand such as 10 J Q K where all cards work together in making a straight, as well as being double suited to maximize flush possibilities.

A hand such as 10 J 5 6 is not a premium hand by any means, but it does have two cuplets of suited connectors. Although this is not a hand to be playing into a raise, it's a decent hand to be limping with in late position.

Top 30 PLO Starting Hands

Below are the top 30 starting hands in Pot-Limit Omaha (all hands below are double-suited).

Final Table
WSOP PLO final table.
 

1

A-A-K-K

11

K-Q-J-T

21

Q-Q-A-K

2

A-A-J-T

12

K-K-T-T

22

Q-Q-A-J

3

A-A-Q-Q

13

K-K-A-Q

23

Q-Q-A-T

4

A-A-J-J

14

K-K-A-J

24

Q-Q-K-J

5

A-A-T-T

15

K-K-A-T

25

Q-Q-K-T

6

A-A-9-9

16

K-K-Q-J

26

Q-Q-J-T

7

A-A-x-x

17

K-K-Q-T

27

Q-Q-J-9

8

J-T-9-8

18

K-K-J-T

28

Q-Q-9-9

9

K-K-Q-Q

19

Q-Q-J-J

29

J-J-T-T

10

K-K-J-J

20

Q-Q-T-T

30

J-J-T-9

Whether double-suited, suited or non-suited, these are all very strong starting hands in Pot-Limit Omaha.

The Trap Hands

Trap hands are hands that seem very good but can easily make you a second-best hand. These are the types of hands that can cause you to lose your whole stack. There are two main types of trap hands in Pot-Limit Omaha:

  1. Small Pair Hands
  2. Low Draw Hands

1) Hands with pairs below nines are dangerous to play. When you flop a set it is very hard to escape the hand, and if you are up against a bigger set, you are drawing to one out.

When you hold a hand like 6 6 5 4 and the flop comes Q J 6, you may find yourself in big trouble.

You do have a strong hand at this point, but you need to understand that there is most likely someone with a straight and a flush draw, and there is a chance you're already behind a better set.

Because of this you want to play any hand (other than the nuts) with extreme caution. Always ask yourself what your opponent must be holding to be able to make the bets and calls that they are making. Omaha is a game to be played with care, don't assume that you're golden just because you flop a set.

2) A low drawing hand is a hand such as 5 4 3 2. Although this hand has four connected cards, double suited, it's begging for trouble. If you hit any flush or straight with this hand, chances are it will never be the nuts.

Anyone willing to put money into the pot once you hit your flush will almost certainly have a better flush. These hands should never be played into large pots, unless you have a very good reason to do so.

General Preflop Advice

Below are three points to keep in mind when entering into an Omaha hand. In any poker game it's important to always have a plan, and to be able to cut your losses and eject if things go bad.

1) What position are you in?

The better your position, the more active and aggressive you can become. If you have a strong starting hand raising is always a good option, good position just strengthens your holdings. It's never a mistake to build larger than average pots when you have the advantage of position (with a strong hand).

When you're out of position you need to carefully select your starting hands and understand that you will be forced to play your hands out of position for the duration of the hand. Drawing out of position is never as profitable as drawing from the button.

2) What's the texture of the table?

You need to adjust your play to the texture of the table. If the table is hyper aggressive you need to keep pots as small as possible and only play the most profitable starting hands to avoid gambling in constant coin-flip scenarios.

If the table is very tight and passive, you want to ramp up your aggression. If the table is folding to the majority of your bets, it's going to be profitable to continue making those bets, even if it results in having to take a few coin flips.

3) How many players have entered the pot?

The more players headed to the flop, the less equity your hand holds. As the number of players in the hand begins to grow, so should the strength of your hand. With a strong starting hand you want to consider raising pot after many people enter, simply to thin the field.

Thinning the field will increase your equity, and put dead money into the pot. Unfortunately it's unlikely you will lose too many players in Omaha with a raise, so be prepared to play a raised pot multi-way if you take this line.

omaha bracelet WS

Post Flop

Proper post-flop play in Omaha is extremely situational. You need to gauge the other players, the aggression level of the table, the value of your hand and most importantly the texture of the board.

Reading the Board

Regardless of whom you're playing with or where you play poker, be it online or live, reading the texture of the board is the most universally important skill there is when it comes to playing Omaha.

You need to have the ability to discern every possible made hand and draw for any given board/hand combination.

How you play your hand will greatly depend on how your hand stacks up against all possible current hand combinations. Depending on the board, top set might be enough to get it all in, or it might be too weak to even call.

For more information on how to read the board, count your outs, discern your true outs and even understand what an anti-out is, head to Omaha: Outs, Anti-Outs, True Outs and Blockers

Drawing in Omaha

It's been said multiple times in this article: Omaha is a drawing game. You're going to have straight draws, wrap draws, flush draws, combo draws, re-draws and even boat draws.

On top of that you're going to have to spot and understand all of the previous draws related to your opponents' hands as well as your own.

This might sound daunting to the beginner, but it's not nearly as difficult as it sounds. In fact, with a little practice the majority of the work will be done without thinking. It becomes second nature.

The first step in being proficient in spotting draws and counting outs is to memorize the most common types of draws, and their corresponding number of outs:

Draw

Hand

Flop

Outs

Gutshot Straight

5 6 7 8

10 J 2

4

Open-Ended Straight

5 6 A A

7 8 2

8

Flush

5 6 7 8

3 A J

9

13-Out Straight

5 6 7 8

3 4 K

13

Wrap Straight

5 6 9 A

7 8 2

17

Double-Wrap Straight

5 6 9 T

7 8 2

20

Gutshot (Inside Straight Draw)

Anytime you have a single gap between four connected cards (2 in your hand, 2 on the board), such as 7-8- -10-J, you have a 4 out gutshot.

Open Ender (Outside Straight Draw)

An open ender is when you have four connected cards in a row, such as 5-6-7-8. This allows you to hit a card on either end of the four connected cards, giving you 8 outs.

Flush Draw

Since there are 13 cards of every suit, when you have four of them (2 in your hand, 2 on the board) you have 9 outs to hit your flush.

13-Out Straight (Baby-Wrap)

If you hold three cards above (or below) two connected cards on board, such as 3-4-5-6-7, you have 13 outs to make your straight.

Wrap

With two connected cards on board (such as 7-8), you have 17 outs if you hold two cards on one end, plus one card on the other, such as 5-6-7-8-9.

Double-Wrap (Big Wrap)

When you have two cards above and two cards below two connectors on board, such as 5-6-7-8-9-10 you have a big wrap worth 20 outs.

One thing to keep in mind is it's always better to have as many cards above the cards on board, rather than below.

When you hold the small cards of a straight, you will often be drawing to the sucker straight, meaning your straight will have the potential of being beat by another player with a larger straight using the same board cards.

Combo-Draws

A combo draw is a combination of draws. If you hold a wrap with a flush draw, you have as many as 23 outs, meaning your hand is most likely a favorite to win the pot, regardless of holding absolutely nothing on the current street.

If Omaha is a drawing game, combo-draws are the most valuable combinations of cards you can hold. Anytime your outs are at or above 20 on the flop, you can be almost sure that the only mistake you can make will be folding.

For more information on the rules and game-play of Pot-Limit Omaha, head to our Rules section. Or for more strategy tips and advice, head to our Pot-Limit Omaha Strategy Section.

If you have any questions or comments, post them below.

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Sean 2011-12-22 18:41:33

U people r idiots, never talk to strangers or ask advice from people u don't and can't trust

Mike Lemense 2011-09-22 11:14:08

Kathy, mj legend, and quijito...you all seem to be suffering from the same confusion. Reread the basics of Omaha. You can only use EXACTLY 2 cards from your hand and EXACTLY 3 cards from the board. You can't use more than 2 cards from your hand. You guys cannot have a straight flush unless EXACTLY 3 of the cards making your flush are from the board and EXACTLY 2 are from your own hand. You CANNOT use 4 cards from the board and 1 from your hand and vice versa. You CANNOT use 3 from your hand and 2 from the board. It has to be EXACTLY 2 cards from your hand and three from them board. Get it? Anyone, I hope that helped

quijito 2011-03-02 13:22:18

hi, i was playing omaha and my card was Qh2h Ad5c
flop comes 3h4h5h turn was blank and river is 6h, how come i lose against Ahkh6d9d? isnt there a straight flush in omaha?

medichill 2010-12-28 03:13:15

MJ - you use two cards from your hole cards and only 3 of the board - you did not have a straight flush, you had a K high flush and your opponent had an A high flush.

mj_legend 2010-12-27 10:00:27

One question:
i had a jack clubs, my oponent had ace clubs, we both had another club (2 and 7)
on board were 9, 10, queen and king clubs ..
how is it possible that i lost? i had straight flush and he just had a nuts flush ..

ross 2010-06-10 03:45:18

why is AAKK the best starting hand when overpairs are almost never good post flop?

Sean Lind 2010-01-08 19:56:02

Kathy,

I think you misread your hand.

In the first line you say you have the Qs and 10s, which would give you a flush.

But in the hand line at the bottom you only have the Qs.

In Omaha you need to use two cards, so even though there are 4 spades on the board, you would need 2 in your hand to win the pot. Since you only have one, you have to make the best hand you can with 2 cards, which is a pair of nines.

Your pair of nines loses to his pair of aces.

Kathy 2010-01-08 05:59:16

HELP PLEASE

RE GAME: POT LIMIT OMAHA

Can some of you review the hand of Pot Limit Omaha I've listed below and tell me who should win the hand and why?

I think the algorithm for the PLO game, on the site where I play is incorrect and I need opinions from those that know PLO.

Thanks so very much for any responses.


Your hole cards are 10s 9h Qs Kh
The flop is 9s 7s Js
The turn is 3s
wildemaan, it's your turn
The river is 6h
Katuzka has 10d 9h Qs Kh and a pair of nines
lakers32 has Ah 4c Ac 2c and a pair of aces

John Marshall 2009-11-02 22:41:00

I never really played omaha however lost a lot of money on it because I overrated hands such as top two pair and bottom set, I have learned a lot from this article and use the advice to improve my game.

the yidmeister 2009-09-15 23:34:00

Good explanation,i've gone from total numpty to a very good player on Pokerstars,nice one.

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