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Pot-Limit Omaha Beginners Guide Part 2
This is part two of a detailed three-part guide to getting started in Pot-Limit Omaha. Part two covers starting hands, hand rankings and some pre-flop thoughts.
What you are looking for is four cards that work together, although many beginners (who are used to playing Texas Hold'em) do not realize this. They will play any four cards that contain one or two good Hold'em hands. For example, they often overrate hands like:
J♠ J♦ 2♥ 7♣ or A♣ Q♦ 8♥ 8♠
Although both of these hands contain card combinations of top 10 Hold'em hands, they are not altogether powerful Omaha starting hands. What you have to always keep in mind is that Omaha is a nut game. These hands have very few opportunities to make the nuts outside of flopping a full house.
The strongest Omaha starting hand is ace-king double-suited: A♠ K♠ A♥ K♥.
In this hand, you hold AA and KK as starting made hands, two nut flush opportunities and A-K for the potential broadway straight.
Double-suited hands with high-valued connectors and pairs are always the best Omaha starting hands. Some examples of quality Omaha starting hands:
A♠ A♥ J♥ T♠ (the second-strongest Omaha starting hand)
K♠ Q♣ J♠ T♣
Q♥ Q♠ J♥ T♠
A♦ A♠ 7♠ 6♦
You want starting hands that hold straight, flush and set potential. For instance, imagine the power of holding A♠ A♣ T♠ J♣ on a flop of A♥ K♠ Q♠, giving you top set, the nut straight and the nut flush draw.
Notice that the J♠ will also give you a royal flush. This gives you the current nuts, with two redraws to higher nuts. This is one of the situations where the chances of you losing this pot are almost zero. You should be pumping this pot with everything you have.
Another example is if you hold Q♠ Q♥ K♠ T♥ on a flop of Q♣ J♠ 7♠, giving you top set, a flush draw and an open-ended straight draw.
Below are the top 30 starting hands in Pot-Limit Omaha. (all hands in the top 30 list must be double-suited)
Whether double-suited, suited or non-suited, these are all very strong starting hands.
The Trap Hands
A trap hand is a hand that can hit the board just hard enough to make you second-best. When you're second-best with a pseudo-monster, it can be hard not to lose your whole stack. Omaha has three types of trap hands:
- Small Pair Hands
- Low Wrap Hands
- Small Flush Hands
Small Pairs: One of first concepts to learn in poker is to make every action for a reason. It's amazing how often you'll see amateurs pay for a draw, only to fold when it hits. Once you learn this lesson you can start to see why it's such a mistake to play a hand such as:
6♥ 6♣ 4♦ 3♣
If you're playing this hand, one of your hopeful draws is to hit a set (or full house).
Imaginary flop: Q♦ J♣ 6♦
On a flop like this, you're setting yourself up to lose your stack. The odds of running into a set-over-set scenario in Hold'em are poor enough to make playing the 6♥ 6♣ profitable here.
In Omaha, you're going to run into a higher set far too often. There is almost no flop you can hit where flopping your third six would be good for you.
Low Wrap Hands: If you have any experience playing Hold'em, you'll be aware of the danger in playing the sucker-end of a straight.
By playing low wrap hands such as 5♠ 4♣ 3♠ 2♣ you're setting yourself up to be in this exact position. Other than hitting the wheel, the only straight you will hit with this type of hand is the sucker end.
If the flop comes with a 6-7-8, it's very likely someone else is on a 9-10. There is nothing worse than hitting your hand to be drawing dead.
Small Flushes: As previously stated, Omaha is a nut game. If you have a baby flush, you're going to lose your stack more often than not. Unless you have the ability to get reads, and fold a strong hand when it's beat, you should only be playing ace-high flushes in Omaha.
Limping or Raising Before the Flop
As previously stated, the best Omaha starting hand is AA-KK double-suited. The odds of being dealt this hand are a staggering 50,000-1 against. Even with it being such a prestigious holding, the hand is just a 3-2 favorite to win against 8765 double-suited.
With all the draw and redraw possibilities, the gaps between starting hands in terms if their strength are far less than those in Hold'em. That being the case, the question arises of whether or not you should raise pre-flop with a top starting hand.
The reasons to raise or not to raise in Omaha are identical to those in Hold'em. You raise for isolation, information and increased pot size with the most equity.
As all serious gamblers know, you want to get your money in when you have an edge, regardless of how strong the edge is. Being a 3-2 favorite makes this a favorable situation to increase the pot size.
As in Hold'em, if you only raise the very best hands, your play will become predictable. Mixing it up in Omaha is just as crucial. For a more in-depth look at this topic, check out this article: Calling Versus Raising.
Which Hands to Raise With
For beginners, a good pre-flop raising strategy is to raise only with any of the top 30 hands mentioned above, all of which have at least two to a suit.
Once you want to start opening up your game a bit, you can mix in any four cards in a row that are double-suited with cards, six or higher, and all single- and double-suited A-K-x-x with at least one x-card, ten or higher. Hands like Q-J-9-8 or J-T-9-7 double-suited are also good to raise with.
This is similar to raising suited connectors or medium pocket pairsin Hold'em. You're doing so to mix it up more so than for value.
1. All top 30 hands with at least one suit and most of the time when offsuit.
2. All suited A-K-x-x with at least one x-card, 10 or higher.
3. All double-suited four in a row of hands, five or higher.
4. All double-suited connected hands, five or higher, with a maximum of one gap between the top two and the two low cards or between the low card and the three high cards. An example is K-Q-T-9 double-suited and J-9-8-6 double-suited.
5. All K-K-x-x double-suited.
Which Hands to Limp With
1. All A-Q-x-x with at least one x-card, ten or higher, and the ace suited.
2. All four-in-a-row combinations, four or higher.
3. All A-x-x-x anything with at least two x-cards that are connected and the ace suited.
4. All four-in-a-row combinations, five or higher, with a maximum of one gap that is not between the top and bottom three cards in the hand.
As with any poker advice, these are just guidelines to give you a place to start from. The hands you raise and limp with will change depending on your table, your image, your skill and the skill of your opponents.
The third part of this detailed guide finishes up with a look at post-flop play, and a few of the other aspects of the PLO end game.
More strategy articles from Sean Lind:
- Pot-Limit Omaha Beginners Guide Part 3
- Pot-Limit Omaha Beginners Guide Part 1
- Omaha: Common Beginner Mistakes
- Omaha Odds and Outs: A Quick and Dirty Guide
View Best Rooms to Play: Omaha Poker