Poker variants get their names from a number of different places. Some of the most popular are named after cities, others get their names from the friends of their inventors or the names of famous gamblers. It’s fun to imagine a map made up entirely of cities used in card game names – replace the large city spread across Kansas and Missouri with a flag reading “Kansas City Low,” and switch out the name of Texas’ largest metro area with one reading “Dallas holdem,” etc.
Omaha holdem is another popular variant of the set of game rules called “holdem.” The history of Omaha poker and the impact of a few small rule variations between this game and the more-popular Texas holdem version is fascinating especially to those of us who enjoy a few rounds of cards.
But we’re not here to tell the story of how this game was invented; good strategy for this game is distinctly different from strategy used in Texas holdem. Here are some solid pieces of advice to help any player new to Omaha improve their chances of winning.
Strange but true – many poker players online and in casinos at Omaha tables are just plain bad. This is especially true for low stakes games. Whether this is because Texas holdem is far more popular (and a lot of Texas holdem players only sit at Omaha tables to kill time and aren’t all that concerned with winning) or whether this is because Omaha is genuinely tougher than Texas isn’t clear.
Many players first made their way to Omaha games to take advantage of the weak competition. For example, players who try to apply Texas holdem skills to Omaha, such as trying to fight for pots when they hold two pair, will find themselves broke before long.
Omaha rewards patience. Omaha rewards good strategy more than bluffing. But it is also simple to figure out what constitutes good strategy; fold weak hands and play what’s known as “ABC poker” and you should find yourself performing well, even at mid- or high-stakes games. Drawing out weak players by concentrating on your better hole cards should wipe out gamblers used to the tactics for Texas holdem in no time.
ABC poker is particularly effective in this holdem variant when a big pot is on the line.
ABC poker gets its name from the unsophisticated way it teaches gamblers to play. ABC players only put money in post-flop on the best possible hands. ABC players raise before the flop to wipe out passive competition. These players know how to slowly build a pot, and to only do so if they hold good cards. In other words, they fold bad hands and play good ones.
Of course, using the draw-out (basically another word for ABC) only works if you have been preparing your competition this way for a few hands; make your opponents comfortable building up a big pot against you then break their back with the one solid hand you’ve had for the past hour.
It can’t be over-emphasized; the best hands in Omaha are straights and flushes, and if you play ABC-style you will perform at your peak if you set up your opponents for big losses by drawing them out when you have or can build to a straight or a flush.
Here are four more steps to becoming a better Omaha player, good poker strategy tips in general that all work well with this variant. Follow these four tips and you’ll have a leg-up on your competition.
Table position is important in poker, but particularly in Omaha games. A player used to Texas holdem is likely to ignore position and to fight for too many pots. Omaha doesn’t allow for playing weak hands through the way Texas does, and really only from a specific table position. Yes, Omaha rewards players who stick to strong hands only and fold bad cards, but in certain table positions you can play through with nothing in your hand.
Tight and aggressive play in Omaha is the best way to counter the majority of your opponents who will probably be taking a loose / passive approach. As soon as you feel like you are chasing too many pots, it is likely that you are.
We all know that slow poker isn’t usually fun. The fast pace of certain games (especially online Texas holdem games) is a big reason for their popularity. Unfortunately, playing fast also leads to bad habits, like not learning how to read a flop and (especially) not taking time to practice reading it.
Practicing your flop reading skills will make you better even when the game you’re in speeds up its pace. To read a flop quickly and determine the best possible hand (as well as who is most likely to have it) you need to spend time outside of a live game reading flops, reading flops, and reading more flops. Omaha players who can spy straight or flush potential are usually the best in any game.
Whether you play live games at casino poker rooms or you prefer online poker, taking notes is crucial. You don’t have to use the note-taking feature provided by your online poker room; taking notes with a pencil and paper is just as effective if you prefer to use those caveman’s tools.
Take notes on everything – how your opponents play certain hands, how well they read the flop, how often they go after pots, even specific notes on tells and other little ticks. The more notes you take (while still paying attention to the game) the better a player you’ll be.