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Omaha Hi-Lo Basics

The Begginer's Guide to Omaha Hi and Hi Lo

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For most online poker players, their first Omaha Hi-Lo game represents something they’d rather forget. Above and beyond the indignity of losing their entire bankroll in a few short hands, many of these guys still don’t understand what hit them, even though they hate to admit it.

Omaha is indeed a community poker variant, and in that respect it is related to Texas Holdem. It plays in much the same way, but that is about where the similarities cease.

Few people realize just how different it is from Texas Holdem, and even fewer players actually understand the nature of Omaha.
While Holdem is a predominantly post flop game (the importance of post flop action far exceeds that of pre-flop action, Omaha is nothing like that. Often referred to as the game of nuts, Omaha gives a whole new meaning to starting hand values. If you’re able to single out starting hands that provide good value under the set circumstances, you’ll gain a much bigger edge than you ever could in Holdem by properly performing the same action.

In Omaha, hands are literally decided before the flop. There are some clearly defined hands that win twice as much as other starting hands, while in Holdem, one can’t exactly state that about any starting hand with the possible exception of AA and KK.

Thus, starting hand selection becomes a much more important part of the game. There are starting hand charts for Omaha as well as point count systems, the only problem with these is that they mainly view the four pocket cards as two separate two-card hands. Some point count systems though, take all four cards into consideration, thus providing a much deeper coverage of the intricate odds involved. Such systems can provide beginners with a useful “crutch” until they learn to differentiate between value and junk on their own.

It is not that difficult really, but it does require a skill which is available in extremely short supply in online poke players: patience. A good Omaha player is patient, and knows exactly which starting hands he needs to act on. From our richer or poorer Texas Holdem experience, we all know that starting hand charts can be extremely deceiving. The real issue doesn’t boil down to which hands one can act on, but rather to why and how he needs to act on those given hands. The same goes for Omaha.

A starting hand may be extremely profitable in certain situations (for example when it’s a short-handed game we’re talking about) but fail miserably to reach their full potential under different circumstances. Preflop betting becomes extremely important here. A good player will not only locate the value in the starting hand and go after it, he will also try to mould the table into providing his hand the best possible environment for action. If needed, he’ll limit the number of opponents, he’ll get more money into the pot, do whatever it takes to cultivate the ground for harvest, knowing that the seeds have already been sown.

In Omaha, post flop play loses its decisive nature and it is more about further refining the situation and about making sure there’s enough money going into the pot if the expected value is indeed positive, or limiting the action if it looks more like a long-shot.

One more thing that rookies need to realize is that once they hit an Omaha table, they’ll go without one of the factors that have been supporting them, over at the Holdem tables: the luck factor.

In Texas Holdem, the luck factor allows rookies and generally clueless people to duke it out with the big boys from a relatively equal footing. In Omaha, this won’t help them anymore.

The Schooling phenomenon (the involuntary ganging up of weak players on their skilled opponents) will again work against the fish rather than in their favor.

Off-table edges like rakeback and game selection will be just as important, while table selection becomes critical. If you’re a good player looking to make some greens at an Omaha table, you’d better pick one with plenty of fish, because Omaha is just as punitive and tough when played against skilled opponents as it is easy when played against beginners.

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