Omaha: Common Beginner Mistakes

Sam Farha
If you want to learn Omaha cash games, Sam Farha might be your best role model.

One of the most crucial characteristics a player must possess to succeed in Omaha is extreme patience.

You need to be patient in all forms of poker, but especially in Omaha.

Understanding Patience

When learning to play poker in general, it's always best to start by playing a conservative, tight-aggressive style. This means only playing premium hands, with very few exceptions.

On top of patience, Omaha has much more room for error when playing sub-premium hands than Hold'em does.

To put this into perspective: In Hold'em, there are 169 distinct hand permutations. If you play a conservative game in Hold'em, you will only be playing the top 10 hands (out of the top 10 hands there are actually 16 different options, including suited and offsuit versions of the non-pairs).

Out of all the possible starting hands, you will only get to play about 9.5% of them. You will be playing one in 10 hands.

In Omaha, there are 16,432 different possible unique starting hands you can be dealt. Out of those there are 30 premium hands (you can see a list of the hands in order in this article.)

Each of these starting hands can be double-suited, single-suited or rainbow. This gives you as a conservative player 90 acceptable starting hands.

These 90 starting hands make up a mere 0.5% of all possible hands dealt to you. If you only play premium hands, you will play one hand out of every 200 you're dealt.

Allen Cunningham
Full Tilt pro Allen Cunningham playing PLO at the 2007 WSOP. See? Omaha makes you happy.

I doubt there is a player alive who could, or would want to, stick to playing one out of 200 hands. This means that playing Omaha is going to force you to be playing sub-premium hands.

Now, don't get me wrong, there is no mistake in playing a sub-premium hand at all. The problem is that the less strength a hand holds, the larger possible margin of error you can make with it.

Think about Hold'em: if you got dealt AA every hand, you might make a mistake here or there, but on the whole you're going to win most of the pots you play and do very well for yourself.

On the other hand, if you were only ever dealt 6-8 off, you would be faced with many more difficult situations, allowing you to make far more mistakes.

The Temptation of Cards

In Hold'em, there are a few hands that look great but are actually poor-quality hands. Looking down at K-T it always seems strong at first sight. There are a handful of deceptive hands like this in Hold'em, but they're easy to avoid.

In Omaha there are hundreds of hands that look great but have little value to a newer player.

An advanced, skilled poker player can play any hand in the correct situation to turn a profit. As a beginner, though, you will make too many mistakes with weak holdings to play them profitably.

If you have Hold'em experience you might fall into the common trap of overplaying low suited connectors, especially if you have four in a row. Have no illusions - hands such as 4567, double-suited or not, are not strong ones for a beginner to be playing.

Omaha is a nut game; if you make a six-high flush, chances are you're going to lose your stack to the nuts. Hands like this need to make the nut straight, with no pair or possible flush. The odds of all of those factors falling into place at once are too slim to make the hand profitable.


Besides not being choosy enough in picking which sub-premium hands to play, one of the biggest mistakes beginners make when changing variants from Hold'em to Omaha has to do with bluffing. They bluff too much, too little or at dumb moments.

It's commonly perceived that in Omaha, bluffing is impossible or obsolete, as the fish with four cards are going to see a river no matter what.

This is both true and false. There are far more calling stations in Omaha, with players having so many different draws and redraws. On top of the draws, the pots are usually multiway, making them, on average, much larger than in Hold'em.

So if this is all true, when and how can you bluff?

The bitter truth is, as a rank beginner, you should almost never be making bluffs in Omaha. A successful Omaha bluff involves having a strong read on your opponent, a read on what they believe you to have, and a good sense of the texture of the board.

To oversimplify, because your one opponent has four cards, it's similar to attempting to bluff two other players in a Hold'em game. If you would not make the bluff against two players in Hold'em, perhaps you should not be making the bluff against one in Omaha.

As I've said, this is an oversimplification, but it's not too far from the truth.

Here are two common bluffing mistakes Hold'em players make in a PLO game:

1) At a basic level, there's no difference between three of a suit or four of a suit on the board. When the fourth card of a suit falls, it may look like a beautiful scare card to a Hold'em player, but it's actually far less significant.

If the opponent didn't believe you had a flush on the turn, the fourth card of the suit will not change that opinion.

2) Hold'em players will see low, unconnected cards as insignificant. It is not uncommon for strong PLO players to be holding low pairs or low cards suited with their high ranks.

What may look insignificant or like a scare card to a Hold'em player may have the reverse effect on an Omaha veteran.

For beginners, Omaha is a much more card-driven game than Hold'em. It takes immense amounts of experience and refined skill to be proficient enough at your reads and at reading the board to transition into a read-based game.

When you get to that level, the game becomes just as psychological as Hold'em, only with much larger average pots. The only way a beginner is going to be able to make bluffs in a PLO game is by exploiting table image.

If you're playing very tight, only playing the top 30 hands and never raising anything less pre-flop, when you do come in for a raise your strong opponents are going to put you on having a pair of aces every time.

And they can easily give you credit for one of the aces being suited. This opens the door for you to make a bluff.

David Williams
David Williams is not someone you want at your PLO table, unless you don't like money.

On the flip side, in pots like this you're going to have the veterans calling you with any four cards believing you have aces, and playing to crack them. Any board may be a danger board, and any board that looks dangerous will be a prime spot for the veteran to make a resteal.

Final Thoughts

If you're going to make the move to Omaha from Hold'em, it's worth thinking about the variables discussed in this article. The No. 1 trap all new players fall into is playing too many hands, and overvaluing early made hands, or second-bests.

There are two truths in Omaha:

  • Omaha is a nut game. As a beginner you never want to be drawing to anything but the nuts. A jack-high flush is going to cost you as a beginner more money than it makes you.
  • A hand should not be considered made until the river. The nuts on the flop means very little after the final two streets fall.

If you haven't played Omaha, I highly recommend you give it a shot. Titan Poker, for example, has great tournaments exclusively for beginners, so you can learn the ropes among fellow greenhorns.

It's a fantastic game that frequently features far more action than Hold'em, and if you like playing with gamblers and big pots, PLO may very well turn out to be your game of choice.

More Omaha strategy articles:

View Best Rooms to Play: Omaha Poker

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »