Making the Jump from Hold'em to Omaha


When I started to play Hold'em online, sometime around 2002, the games were wild. Aspiring rounders were flooding the Internet to try this new craze and most of them had no clue what they were doing at all.

Well I have to admit that yours truly wasn't exactly a shark either, but I was eager to learn and found some good Web pages where I could read up on basic strategy. Having played other forms of poker before, the strategy articles helped me a lot in my transition to the new game.

But the most fascinating thing to me was that many of the players didn't seem to know anything about poker strategy - a fact that proved to be very lucrative for the rest of us.

You can still find great Hold'em games online, but more players seem to know what they are doing nowadays. My new gold mine where you find the best online action today, in my opinion, is Omaha.

You will be amazed how many clueless players there are to be found at the virtual Omaha tables - thanks to the popularity of Texas Hold'em.

Omaha and Holdem: Two Very Different Games

The average Omaha player is a poker player with basic knowledge of Texas Hold'em, who thinks Omaha is a four-card version of the other game.

Nothing could be further from the truth - the games are very similar on a superficial level, but if you take a closer look you'll find two completely different entities.

But don't be discouraged: the leap from Hold'em to Omaha isn't necessarily that hard if you acknowledge the differences.

I'll be specifically contrasting Pot-Limit Omaha with No-Limit Hold'em in what follows, because these are the most popular forms nowadays of the two poker variants.

Both Hold'em and Omaha are community card games. In Hold'em each player gets two hole cards and in Omaha four, and these cards are combined with the five community cards on the board.

In Omaha you have to use exactly two of your hole cards to make your hand, which, as you probably know, is not the case in Hold'em.

Omaha Starting Hands

A major difference between Omaha and Hold'em is that there are very few starting hands that are huge favorites against other starting hands in Omaha. If two players have reasonable hands, one is rarely more than a 60-40 favorite over the other.

Compare this to Hold'em where a higher pocket pair is an 80-20 favorite over a lower one.

Isabelle Mercier
Know what you're doing at Omaha, or you'll be shown No Mercy.

This means that you can see more flops in Omaha than in Hold'em, at least if you know what you're doing. But as a novice you should probably play fewer hands - for the most part, only starting hands where all four cards are connected in some way.

Then, when you've got more experience, widen the range of hands that you play.

Omaha: A Game of Draws

Omaha is a drawing game. When playing Omaha you will often have to commit a large part of your chip stack without a made hand - because of the great odds you get on your draws. This rarely happens in Hold'em.

The most important thing to remember in Omaha is that you should always be drawing to the nuts. This can't be emphasized enough - don't put your money at risk if you don't have the nuts if you make your hand. It can prove to be very expensive.

In Hold'em you are usually thrilled to make the jack-high flush on an unpaired board, but in Omaha this is a real trouble hand that should be discarded if any of your opponents shows strength.


You hold As-7s-9h-7h and the flop comes Ac-Td-8h. You have a top pair with a straight draw, but you are drawing to the bottom end of the straight. The only card that will give you the nuts is a 6.

The risk is that another player has something like K-Q-J-x or Q-J-9-x and will make a higher straight. OK, so you also have top pair, but that won't get you anywhere in Omaha.

Many players used to Hold'em tend to overplay their draws in Omaha. I am amazed how often players pay you off with a sucker straight against your nut straight or decide to draw to a flush on a paired board when you already have a full house.

This is what makes the game of Omaha so wonderful. Just don't make the same mistakes yourself!

Jordan Morgan
That's what I've been doing wrong at Omaha!

Position, Position, Position

Position is important in Hold'em, but even more so in Omaha. Sitting in late position is great because you get more information than your opponents, but in Pot-Limit Omaha you also get good control over the pot.

If you make a bet in early position in Omaha you give a lot of ammunition to your opponents acting behind. The pot-limit structure makes it possible for them to come over the top of you for a large amount.

For this reason you should never raise pre-flop in early position. You commit money to the pot, but have no control over the betting on the later streets.

Say you have A-A-x-x and raise it up under the gun. What do you do when you fail to improve your hand and have three players acting behind?

The same goes if you flop a decent hand in early position, say a middle set. If you bet out here and someone comes over the top, you are forced to play a very big pot if you decide to continue.

You have a lot better control over the pot in late position. If somebody bets into you, you can choose to call with decent draws and come over the top with strong hands that you want to protect.

So be careful and never raise pre-flop in early position (the only exception is when you can get acheck-raise in for over half your stack with aces).

Omaha: A Game of Swings

Be prepared to have bigger swings when you play Omaha - and to play larger pots in general. It is not uncommon that both you and your opponent have the correct odds to commit all your chips and let the cards in the deck decide the outcome.

In Omaha you will risk your entire stack more frequently than when you play Hold'em.

Erick Lindgren
Man... these swings are brutal.


You hold Kh-Kc-Jd-9c on the button. The flop comes Ks-Jh-8d. You have flopped the nuts! Better yet, your opponent makes a pot-sized bet into you.

But this is a dangerous board, so you decide to come over the top. He re-raises you all-in and you call. Your opponent holds Qs-Th-9d-8s, and has a very strong wrap straight draw.

This is virtually a coin flip, with your opponent as a slight favorite. There is no way that either one of you could get away from this hand - you both have to risk your whole stack on a coin flip.

With this flop you are a favorite against all hands except wrap straight draws and your opponent is a favorite against most hands except sets.

Situations like this are a lot more common in Omaha than in Hold'em. That's one reason why Omaha is such an action game, but by the same token, it can also give you gray hairs.

Omaha and Hold'em might look very similar, but as you can see there are some major differences between these two exciting games.

If you educate yourself about them and adjust your Omaha play accordingly, your chances of making some serious money at the poker table will skyrocket.

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