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How to Play Omaha Poker

Starting Hand Selection
As in Texas Hold'em, the most important decision you will make in Omaha/8 is on which hands to enter a pot and on which hands you should run for the hills. Omaha/8 is a game of scoops (winning both the high and low pots on the same hand or the high when no low is possible) and redraws (having a good hand with the opportunity to improve to a better hand with community cards).

A hand containing an ace that is
suited to another card in the hand is a good example of both scooping and redraw hands. You can win low with the ace, and you can win high with an ace high flush if your three suited cards hit on the board. For these reasons, your starting hand selection should include mostly hands that have the possibility to scoop and that offer redraws. Hands that have an ace are the most common starting hands because an ace can be used for a high hand and a low hand.

Another important concept is having counterfeit protection. For example, let's look at two hands, one with A-2-3-5 and one with A-2-Q-K. If the
flop comes 4-6-7, both players have the best possible low hand. You might raise the bet here, thinking you have a good shot at the low hand. However, if an A or 2 falls on the turn or river, the hand with A-2-Q-K no longer has the best possible low while the other hand still does. Remember, you have to use two cards from your starting hand. If you have to throw out your A or 2 because you made a pair on the turn or river (and consequently no longer have the lowest hand), you would have to play your K or Q (making your low hand very weak). The first hand has counterfeit protection because it can fall back on the 3 or 5.

This hand has counterfeit protection
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
This hand has counterfeit protection.

Most experts agree that in Hold'em you should see the flop only about 20 percent of the time. Many players believe because you have four hole cards in Omaha/8 instead of two, you can see more flops. This is only true if you want to be a losing player. The fact is you should see only about 20 percent of the flops in Omaha/8 as well. Starting hand selection is at least as important in Omaha/8 as it is in Hold'em, perhaps even more so.

At the lower
limits, position is not nearly as important in Omaha/8 as it is in Hold'em. While it is nice to act last, it can be almost as good to act first, and even acting between players is not as bad as doing so in Hold'em. Due to the more straightforward way Omaha/8 plays and the fact that you should have a very good idea of your chances to win after the flop, you should be able to play almost any hand you decide to play in any position. As you become more experienced and move up in limits, position plays a more important role.

Particularly at the lower limits where the majority of players see the flop, you will often have to start with the best possible hand to win either the high or the low half of the pot. For example, if a flush is possible, you have almost no chance of winning the high pot unless you can beat a flush as one or more of your opponents will have one. If you have a flush and the board pairs (two cards on the board are the same, like K-K or 2-2), then you have probably lost to a full house. This is one of the reasons it is important to have hands that have both high and low potential.

Looking at low possibilities, most players will play any hand containing an A and a 2. If you have a low that cannot beat one that has A-2, then you probably won't win the low half of the pot unless the ace or two is counterfeited. If you are playing only toward half of the pot after the flop, it is imperative to draw only to the best possible hand.

It's best to look at some visual examples of starting hand selection strategy. In the next section we will view four different hands that work together.

For more information on Omaha poker and other variations, try the following links: