From Hold’em to Omaha: The Fine Edge

Omaha StrategyAfter learning about the differences in relative hand value between Hold’em and Omaha in part one of our Hold'em to Omaha strategy series, we're now free to look into some of the important numbers of the game.

To the Hold'em player, Omaha seems like the same game with twice as many cards.

Without understanding the odds and numbers of Omaha a Hold'em player will default to their two-card knowledge, assuming that the numbers they know simply need to be doubled (or halved) to work with Omaha.

It seems logical, since 4 cards are twice as many as 2 cards, the odds should be twice as good.

Since no one likes to sit through a math lesson (or if you do, you'll already know all of this), I'll keep this explanation very simple:

In Omaha you're dealt a four-card hand, not two two-card hands. Because your cards can all work together, like in a wrap draw, the odds increase (and decrease) exponentially.

In the simplest explanation possible: two plus two does not always equal just four.

The Fine Edge

Poker is an odds game. You wait for a situation in which you have favorable odds, and then you bet as much as you can. On the other end, when the odds are against you, you try to bet as little money as possible.

That's the very foundation behind poker strategy, excluding the bluffing aspect.

In Hold'em you will commonly find yourself in white and black situations, where you're either dominating or dominated. If you have aces against anything else, you're a massive favorite to win, and know it.

Final Table
A WSOP Final Table, the ultimate goal.

Hold'em is full of these scenarios, when you can be almost positive that you're dominating or dominated, making the game (at times) very easy to play.

The best Hold'em players are not the ones who make the most when they have the best hand; they aren't even the ones who lose the least with the worst.

The best players are the players who consistently make a profit when they're playing hands in the grey areas, where the facts are unclear at best, and the edges are fine.

Unlike Hold'em, Omaha is almost exclusively a game of fine edges. With the most dramatic examples aside, almost any hand vs. hand matchup you can come up with will have the better hand at about a 60:40 favorite.

You will play almost every hand of every session of Omaha in this grey zone of fine edges. To be successful in a game like this, you need to be relentless in your value bets, a super nit when you're on the losing end, and absolutely dead on with your reads.

Factor in what we learned in the previous article about the relative strength of hands and you'll begin to understand why Omaha is such a fun, action-filled but dangerous game. Even when you flop the nuts, there's almost always someone with a legitimate chance at catching up by the river.

This is why Omaha doesn't function properly as a No-Limit game. If the game was No-Limit, the player who flops the best of it would be all in on the flop, basically turning the game into a gamble filled, two-betting round shit show.

To play Omaha successfully, you need to understand that you're almost always only a 60:40 favorite at best, but at your worst you're only behind by 20 points.

Once you add four cards combining for multiple draws, and the equity this gives you, you'll begin to understand why Omaha is known as a drawing game.

Large Outs and Faulty Odds

The final point every Hold'em player needs to drill into their head before playing Omaha is the faulty odds associated with a large amount of outs.

If you find yourself with a big wrap draw, sitting on 20 outs, an average Hold'em player will put their odds of winning at 80%.

The full-time grinder will put their odds at "Ship it", not caring about where the actual numbers come in at.

The astute Hold'em player will use the formula (20*4)-(20-8)=68%.

While you have a huge hand with a big wrap, you can't count your outs and your odds as you do in Hold'em, and assume that they'll be correct and accurate most of the time.

If your one opponent has just a single over pair to your wrap draw, you're sitting at around 73% to win.

Chip Stack
In the end, it's all about grabbing chips.

If your opponent happens to have a set though, your odds drop to around 54%.

Once you factor in other players, especially other players with blockers and higher draws, your equity can absolutely plummet.

With 36 cards dealt out to players preflop (at a 9 handed table), chances are another player is holding your outs.

This doesn't mean your wrap draw is weak, in fact your hand is probably the best hand at the table, but you need to understand that even the most promising of a draw hand can still be dominated, only with a hand this strong it can take more than one player to do it.

In short, as a Hold'em player you need to take a step back, and shed the confidence that comes along with hitting a big flop. You need to separate yourself from the confidence that comes with holding a massive draw, and you need to understand that often times, regardless of how the situation may appear, you're sitting at about even money.

This game isn't for the faint of heart; it's for the players who are willing to be aggressive enough to put their money behind their hand.

The best Omaha players understand all of the concepts in this article and are willing to put their entire stack on the line knowing that the odds of you folding, along with the 60:40 rule makes betting, on anything, a decent proposition.

If you're not willing, or able to play back at someone throwing pot bets at you all night, on every street, then you should stick to a different game. Omaha is not a game to play super-tight, if that's the only style of poker you're comfortable with you're going to have a hard time turning a profit.

If you're willing to play back at someone throwing pot bets at you like candy, then take some time to digest the information in the articles and understand where you truly stand with your hand. Once you know where you're at, you'll know where you need to get to if you want to come out on top.

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