Any real money poker site you play at, a beginner Pot-Limit Omaha player should only play hands with maximum equity. Since you're dealt twice as many cards as in Hold'em, your opponents will likely always have hands that have pairs and combo-draw potential. If you don't have the same, you're starting at a disadvantage and then relying on luck to make up ground. That's not a great recipe for Pot-Limit Omaha poker success.
Top Pot-Limit Omaha Starting Hands
The top 30 Omaha starting hands are as follows:
|1. A-A-K-K||11. K-Q-J-T||21. Q-Q-A-K|
|2. A-A-J-T||12. K-K-T-T||22. Q-Q-A-J|
|3. A-A-Q-Q||13. K-K-A-Q||23. Q-Q-A-T|
|4. A-A-J-J||14. K-K-A-J||24. Q-Q-K-J|
|5. A-A-T-T||15. K-K-A-T||25. Q-Q-K-T|
|6. A-A-9-9||16. K-K-Q-J||26. Q-Q-J-T|
|7. A-A-x-x||17. K-K-Q-T||27. Q-Q-J-9|
|8. J-T-9-8||18. K-K-J-T||28. Q-Q-9-9|
|9. K-K-Q-Q||19. Q-Q-J-J||29. J-J-T-T|
|10. K-K-J-J||20. Q-Q-T-T||30. J-J-T-9|
*All hands in the top 30 list must be double-suited.
As you can see, as in Hold'em, large pairs still hold a lot of value. The only difference is the need for redraw possibilities. This is why A-A-J-T double suited is the second-best hand, ahead of AA-QQ double suited. Having the J-T in place of the QQ opens the door for far more straight potential.
It's crucial to understand how spread out the distribution of equity is in Omaha starting hands. In Hold'em the No. 1 starting hand A A holds 83% preflop equity over the second-best starting hand K K . In Omaha the best starting hand A A K K is only 33% to win (41% to tie) against the second-best starting hand A A 10 J . There is only a 6% edge for the best Omaha hand to win against the second-best Omaha hand, versus the 66% edge in Hold'em.
The lower down the list the Omaha starting hand is versus the best, the more of an edge AA-KK will have over it. If you compare A A K K to K K J J , A A K K has a 69% chance of winning. Although this 39% edge is a vast improvement over the 6% edge in the previous comparison, if you make the same comparison in Hold'em (the No. 1 starting hand A A versus the No. 10 starting hand A 10 , A A holds a massive 73% edge.
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How Pot-Limit Omaha Equity Affects You
This spread-out equity distribution in Omaha translates into players rarely having a strong edge over their opponents. You will rarely find yourself with more than 60% equity heads-up, with your equity dropping massively with every additional player in the hand. This means that it is possible to get an edge in Omaha. So, the game can be beaten, and be profitable for a winning player. But even a winning player will suffer extreme swings.
It's easy to understand the amount of variance you should expect in Omaha by imagining a game of Hold'em in which you move all-in preflop every hand, each time holding the same hand of A-K, and your opponent calls every hand holding Q-T. Even though you have the better hand, and are sure to make money in the long run, Q-T has a 34% chance of winning, meaning your opponent will win the pot over a third of the time. This will cause your session to suffer from massive variance.
It is very difficult to hit a flop in Omaha which gives you much more than 60% equity to win. There are simply too many possibilities for draws to be in such favorable situations. For this reason, success at Omaha requires a player to adhere to the following three strategies:
1. Select starting hands very carefully.You simply cannot afford to play hands consistently starting you at a disadvantage against your opponents. It's too difficult to make up ground post-flop.
2. Value-bet. It's rare to have a real edge against the field in Omaha; when you do, you need to extract maximum value.
3. Minimize losses. It is imperative to lose the minimum amount, and win the maximum.
It's simply impossible to play Omaha without variance, so instead of fighting it you need to make the variance work for you. You need to make the inevitable downswings as small as humanly possible, and the upswings as steep and long as you can. Every opportunity you miss for extracting value allows your downswings to have a greater impact on your long-term results.
What About Pre-Flop Raising in PLO?
Some players question the value of raising preflop in PLO, as they feel that when you have a small edge at best, it does nothing more than increase variance. This mind-set is technically correct but detrimental to your game. Raising preflop will increase variance, as you will be playing in larger pots. But if you have a hand with an edge, no matter how small, it's profitable in the long term to maximize the size of the pot at that time.
The more money you make your opponents pay when you have any edge in equity at all, the more money you can make at the game. You simply can't afford to forgo any opportunities to extract value when you have an equity lead; doing so will cost you serious money in the long run.
A Final PLO Starting Hands Tip for Beginners
If you're just learning the game, or you simply want to rebuild your Omaha foundations, you should simply stick to playing only very strong Omaha starting hands. Any of the hands in the top 30 list are very strong hands even if not double suited.
Other than the hands on that list, the only hands I would recommend a beginner play would be four-way connected hands, such as 8-9-T-J. Hands like these will typically give you a very strong hand on the flop, or a very weak hand, making it difficult to make large mistakes while playing them.
As soon as you start playing weaker hands at a full Omaha table, such as A K 4 10 , you're going to start losing money. It takes very strong reads on the game and on your opponents to play weak hands profitably in Omaha. Leave the weak and marginal hands out of your game, and you'll be on the fast track to Omaha profit.
Bad Hands to Avoid in PLO
Omaha doesn’t necessarily have a cookie-cutter formula for which hands to play and which not to play. You need to be able to evaluate each and every hand you’re dealt to decide whether or not it will be profitable. The factors remain constant though the cards themselves may change. You want a hand that has great flopabilty, one that can make the nuts, and has something to go along with it. The rest of the hands you can be dealt in Omaha are on a sliding scale and it’s up to you to analyze them to determine how good they are actually are.
Kings vs Aces in PLO is a Mistake
Kings are another trouble hand for players transferring over from Hold’em to Omaha. Kings are weak for the same reason aces are weak - one pair rarely wins at showdown, and it’s tough to get to showdown. Unlike aces though, you rarely want to get kings in pre-flop - even if you can get your stack committed. If most of your money goes in and you have kings, you’re probably in big trouble.
Aces over kings are rare in Hold’em and it’s considered a cooler. With four cards in Omaha, aces are dealt far more often and getting kings in vs. aces isn’t a cooler – it’s a mistake. Kings should be played carefully before the flop unless they’re extremely strong kings - for example something like
- A K K Q or
- K K Q J
Compare K K 4 9 to the good kings above. These weak kings have nothing going for them. If they’re going to win at showdown in a deep stack game, they’re going to have to flop a set or they’re basically worthless.
Big Suited and Double-Suited Cards
The best hands in Omaha have more than one thing going for them You want to be able to make the nuts and have a back-up plan. Big suited cards and double-suited cards don’t often flop the nuts but they do often flop big two-pair hands that become big full houses. Big card hands like A-K-J-T, A-Q-T-9, K-T-J-9 and so on, are good on their own but they’re great when they’re suited and double suited.
A J 10 9 is an excellent hand and probably better than a non-suited A-K-Q-J because it has two suits to go along with it including a nut suit. Having a nut suit is extremely powerful because flush-over-flush scenarios are common in Omaha. With the nut suit in your hand, you’ll “cooler” the smaller flushes.
Playing OOP in Omaha is Practically Impossible
Position is important in Hold’em but in Omaha it’s paramount. Omaha is a game where the lead changes on practically every single street. It’s often difficult to know where you are in a hand and being out of position only makes it worse. If playing out of position in Hold’em is difficult, in Omaha it’s practically impossible. To adjust, you should be playing extremely tight from out of position - especially when you’re just starting out. As you begin to learn the game and figure out the subtle intricacies you can begin to open your game up a bit more. But even still the best Omaha players play out of position as little as possible because it’s very, very difficult.
What Makes a Good Omaha Hand
When you play tight before the flop and evaluate your starting hand strength ruthlessly, you make the rest of the hand easier to play out. It can be very easy to get caught up in the action and play too many hands in Omaha, but the best players are able to stick to their game plans and play profitable poker. Learning what makes a good Omaha hand and what separates a good hand from a great hand may seem like a steep learning curve, and it is. But once you figure it out and you evaluate your hand’s strengths and weaknesses on the fly, it starts to become easier and you start becoming a good PLO player.
Watch our Beginner Strategy video on Wraps, Semi-Bluffs and Blockers in PLO below:
More Pot-Limit Omaha Strategy articles:
- Playing String Rundowns in PLO
- Playing Aces in PLO
- Pot-Limit Omaha Strategy: The Combo Draw and More
- Poker Trouble Spots: Second Pair
- How to Play KK in Early Position
- See More Online Poker Sites
What is Omaha poker?Omaha - PLO - Pot-Limit Omaha - is a poker variation played with four hole cards instead of two. There's a natural similarity to Texas Hold'em which is why many players transition to it. But because there are more combinations, it invites a lot of action.
How to play Omaha hi lo?Omaha hi lo or "Omaha 8" is similar to PLO / pot-limit Omaha (Omaha 'high'). Except Omaha hi lo is the split-pot version where players compete for both the "low" and "high" halves of the pot.
Like in PLO, hi low players get four hole cards. They need to use two of them combined with 3 community cards to make a poker hand. And just like Hold'em and PLO, a player can win a pot before showdown if all other players fold to them.
However, if there's a 'call' and a showdown, both players' hands are compared. The player with the "high" hand gets half and the player with the "low" hand gets the other half. A player can win both halves of the pot too - called a "SCOOP".
How to deal Omaha poker?Each player gets dealt four hole cards (instead of two like Texas Hold'em). They must use two of them to make the best poker hand.
What beats what in Omaha poker?Omaha poker uses the standard Poker Hand Rankings. The best PLO poker hands are ranked as follows: - Royal Flush - Straight Flush - Four of a Kind - Full House - Flush - Straight - Three of a Kind - Two Pair - One Pair - High Card Here's a full list of poker hand rankings and explanations.
How to win Omaha poker?You need to use two of your four hole cards along with the community cards on the board to make the best poker hand. Hand rankings are the same used for Hold'em.
Where to play poker omaha?You can play PLO/ Omaha at any of the top poker rooms we recommend.