Hold'em Mindset Hurts Omaha Profit


Even though they're similar in structure and play, playing Omaha as you would Hold'em is going to cost you a significant percentage of your roll.

To give you an idea of the difference in value, I've run some calculations of Omaha situations versus the best equivalent in Hold'em. This is a little bit like comparing apples to oranges, but it's close enough to give you a solid idea of the numbers:

Big Pair % Versus %
A A K K 59 7 8 9 T 41
Big Pair % Versus %
A A 77 7 8 23

The difference in equity in these two hands is a total of 22%. I chose these hands to compare large pairs against large drawing hands. To not give the Omaha hand an advantage, I purposely left it unsuited.

If you'd like to run the numbers in any sort of other configuration, including multiway pots (where big pairs lose even more equity in Omaha than they do in Hold'em), play around with our poker odds calculator.

Drawn and Quartered

Firstly, getting quartered is only possible while playing a hi/lo split game. In O8 (Omaha Eight-or-Better/Omaha Hi/Lo) half of the pot goes to the worst hand,if you only win half of half of the pot, you get quartered.

Hold'em players without Omaha experience don't even think about the concept of getting quartered. As soon as a Hold'em player get the idea of "having the nuts" into their head, they stop thinking about everything else.

In case you didn't know, in a hi/lo split game, half the pot goes to the winning high hand (the best hand) and the other half goes to the best qualifying low hand (worst hand). For all the details on how this works, and the rules, read this article.

When a Hold'em player first begins playing O8, they will commonly find themselves holding A-2 in their hand for the nut low. What these players don't seem to understand is that A-2 most commonly makes the nut-low hand in O8. Because of this, most every player dealt A-2 plays A-2.

Holding an A-2 made nut low without a chance at the high will commonly pit you against another player (or players) with the same hand. To keep it simple, if you get heads-up with your nut low against a player with a winning high and the A-2 nut low as well, you put in 50% of the pot to win back 25%. Your "nut" hand has cost you 25% of the pot.

Hold'em players need to learn that the goal in O8 is to win the high, with a solid shot at the low. If you have the nut high, you're a lock for half the pot, meaning you're freerolling, or making money to draw at hitting the low as well. This is the only way to make a profit long-term at O8.

Hold'em players can be seen losing very large amounts of money when they get quartered on the high. Even Hold'em players who understand getting quartered well enough to not get trapped with only a low will forget about getting quartered with the high.

Holding T-J on a 7-8-9 board gives you the nut straight. If any other player also holds T-J, you're now in line to get quartered without a low draw. The worst scenario is holding this high, no low, against a second player with the same high, and a third with a set. This sort of scenario is much more common in Omaha games than in Hold'em.

In this scenario you're getting quartered, with another player drawing at scooping the whole high out from under you. I can't stress this enough: in O8 you need to be playing both sides of the pot, with your emphasis on the high.

Chasing Less Than Nut Draws

Outside of an amazing read or very deep stacks, it's extremely rare for a player to get away from a flush-over-flush situation in Hold'em. The odds of hitting a flush in Hold'em are low; running into another player with a higher flush than you is a rare enough occurrence that you don't have to worry about it. Most Hold'em pros treat a situation like this much like that of a set-over-set - when it happens, they just pay the guy.

Unfortunately, this is not the situation in Omaha. With every player being dealt four cards, the chances of another player having the same draw as you more than doubles.

I should clarify slightly: I'm not talking about the odds of another player being dealt the same draw; I'm talking about another player playing the same draw to the flop with you.

In Hold'em, many suited hands will be folded pre-flop if the high card is accompanied by a rag. For example, few players will be playing K-2, especially under a raise. Many players will fold A-2 in the same circumstances.

In Omaha, having A-2 suited is ideal for O8. In straight high Omaha, aces with a suited rag often become playable thanks to the second two cards. For example, A 2 A K will be played by almost every player, regardless of a raise or not.

For reasons such as this, you should almost never be chasing a non-nut draw.* If you don't have the nuts, you won't get the pot. If you're playing O8 and have a lock on half the pot, a less-than-nut draw at the scoop is better than no draw at all.

These are the main leaks Hold'em players suffer from when stepping into an Omaha game. The best way to avoid all these leaks is to approach the game with the mentality of a total beginner. Learn the game from the ground up - that way you won't fall back on Hold'em strategies that harm your game.

Even if you are more used to Hold'em play, your general poker skill and experience will greatly speed up the learning process, allowing you to become a competitive Omaha player in a short amount of time.

If you haven't played much, or any, Omaha and are looking to get into it, sign up to any of our top online sites to play for free, or a few bucks.

* The fewer players you have at your table, the more weight your non-nut draw will hold.

More beginner strategy articles:

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Sean Lind 2008-09-30 17:45:00

Thanks Hamish, I was only thinking about high there, no excuse really. I've fixed it.


Hamish 2008-09-28 01:43:00

One of your O8 examples is incorrect. If you have AK on a QJT flop, nobody is freerolling you on a low because no low is possible. Maybe a better one is if you hold AK unsuited on the same flop but it is 2 suited, someone could have AK and be freerolling for a flush or whatever.

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