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Poker Pot-Limit Omaha, Cash Game

Pot-Limit Omaha is one of the most popular cash games played in casinos across Europe today. It has made significant headway in tournament games and, in fact, bigger tournaments host Pot-Limit Omaha events a couple of times throughout the year. Omaha is one of the fastest growing types of poker today and is played far more in Europe than in the United States.

Pot-Limit Omaha is a very strategic game, involving a great deal of skill and discipline, and requires that players are able to balance many concepts simultaneously. This article aims to help beginner and intermediate players improve their Pot-Limit Omaha game by playing in a solid, tight aggressive style. It advocates balancing bluffs and semi-bluffs with (mostly) solid play, and focuses on pre-flop and flop play since these are the most important betting rounds. The game rapidly becomes complex and more challenging to analyse when you reach the turn and river. However, if you play correctly pre-flop and on the flop, you will face less difficult situations on the turn and river.

As in all forms of poker there are exceptions to the rules and, as such, the concepts laid out in this article should be understood as general guidelines. In order to be a truly successful player, it is imperative that you are able to use your judgement when determining the best possible play. It is virtually impossible to provide clear-cut advice applicable to all situations.


Key skills to becoming a good Pot-Limit Omaha player


* Strict hand selection (patience/discipline)
* Good table selection (very important in all poker games)
* Discipline (the ability to wait for a good hand and not chase with second best hands)
* Read your opponents
* Courage to bet/raise (to be aggressive with draws or perceived best hands)
* Not vulnerable to go on tilt


A Comparison: Pot-Limit Omaha vs. Texas Hold'em

1. More players will see the flop in Omaha. The advantage of good starting hands over worse ones is not as great in Omaha. This encourages people to see more flops in Omaha than in Hold'em. It also creates bigger pots, making your decisions on the flop even more crucial.
2. You need a stronger hand to win at Omaha. The hands that typically win the pot in Hold'em, such as top pair with top kicker and overpairs, do not win it very often in Pot-Limit Omaha. In Omaha, the best hands are those that are made and hold additional value, like top set with a big draw. When the money goes into the middle in Pot-Limit Omaha someone is usually holding the nuts.
3. Omaha is a more hand driven game. There are not as many opportunities to bluff in Omaha. This is due to the fact that there are more players seeing the flop and more combinations of hands to be made. When a pair is on the board someone is likely holding a full house, when a flush or straight is possible someone is likely to hold it, and so forth.
4. Giving free cards is generally a bad play in Omaha. First of all, because the pots are usually bigger on the flop, it makes more sense to try and win the pot right there. Second of all, your hands are much more likely to get action because of the greater drawing possibilities. And, finally, it is very probable that a free card could beat your hand.
5. Position is less important in Omaha. Although position is very important in all forms of poker, it is less important in Omaha. More players are in on the flop and it is hard to pick up a pot by betting when checked-to in late position. As a result, it is usually the player holding the best hand that wins the pot.
6. Tight players are less likely to be "bullied" in Omaha. In Hold'em, tight players can easily be bullied out of pots when the flop comes with low cards. However, in Omaha, because a tight player can play hands such as 8-7-6-5, J-J-5-4 or 8-8-7-7 with little difficulty, it is harder to push them around. The pondering bully can never be positive that you do not hold the nuts on a flop like 7-6-3, while, in Hold'em, he would be almost certain that you do not.


Pot-Limit


In Pot-Limit Omaha, you want to protect your hands by making pot-sized bets and raises until you are a big favourite, at which point you put all your money in the middle. You want to have the best possible hand and/or draw when all the money goes in. In Pot-Limit, the pots increase quickly and you must be able to determine the amount you can bet on the turn, if you expect to get called on the flop.

Generally, there is no reason to bet or raise less than the size of the pot when playing Pot-Limit Omaha. You might do this on specific occasions, like when betting into an opponent with the second-nut flush on the river and the pot is very big, or if you want a call on the river and you bet the amount you think your opponent will call. However, while it is entirely dependent on the player and the situation, most of the time it is best to bet and raise the size of the pot.


Pot-Limit Omaha Top Advice


1. Be very selective with your starting hands: nothing is more important than choosing the correct starting hand for a certain situation.
2. Table selection: only play in games where you have an edge. You want at least a couple of weak players at the table when you sit down.
3. "Play the players": be sure to quickly assess the opposition: who plays inferior hands, who folds at aggression, who bets with draws, who calls big bets with weak hands and draws, who can be bluffed, who bluffs, etc.
4. "Pump it or dump it": fold or bet/raise (if the odds are with you). You should avoid calling unless you have a good reason (such as trapping an opponent or increasing your pot odds when you are on a big draw).
5. Respect most big bets and raises: this is particularly true in Pot-Limit Omaha since most players do not bluff.
6. Do not get "married" to the nut flush draw: the difference between drawing to the nut flush in Omaha as compared to Hold'em is that in Hold'em you can usually win the pot by pairing your Ace or win the pot with a flush even though the board pairs. The same is not true in Omaha.
7. Do not get "married" to an eight way straight draw: in Omaha, it is possible to flop 13-way, 17-way and 20-way straight draws. It is best to wait until you hold one of these draws before you heavily involve yourself in the pot.
8. Do not overplay unsuited Aces: when all you hold are a pair of Aces and two unsuited, unconnected rags, there is little you can flop to improve your hand. If you do not flop an Ace, you will usually end up with a weak holding.
9. Bet your best drawing hands: enhance the deception in your game by betting your strong draws, as you will also win more pots without a fight.
10. Always draw to the nuts in multi-way pots: when all the money goes into the middle in multi-way pots, be sure to draw to the nuts. Avoid committing all your money with draws without additional value as you can find yourself trapped between a set and the nut flush draw, maybe leaving you with only a nut straight draw that might end up in a split pot if you hit.


Pot-Limit Omaha Common Mistakes


1. Not releasing a decent hand when beat, thus losing the whole stack on one hand.
2. Overvaluing the hand (common mistake by Hold'em players).
3. Calling with weak holdings when facing a bet.
4. Playing too many starting hands.
5. Not raising pre-flop with premium hands (putting pressure on limpers holding drawing hands) and then going too far with them after the flop.
6. Giving free cards or-under betting the pot (risking a lot to win small/not protecting your hand).


Pre-Flop Play


General Pre-Flop Advice

The most important skill to master when playing Pot-Limit Omaha is knowing which starting hands are profitable to play. However, there are no guides capable of covering every possible situation, so it is advised that you follow certain standard guidelines. Essentially, the hand you chose to play is dependent on the following factors:

1. Is the table tight or loose?
2. How many players are sitting at the table?
3. How many players are in the pot when it is your turn to act?
4. Has the pot been raised? If so, from what player and position?
5. What is your position?

1. If the table is tight you should strongly consider moving to a different game, though there are ways to make money at tight tables as well. In general, you have to play more aggressively than usual. This translates into much more pre-flop raising and bluffing. Your advantage at this type of table is that you will know how your opponents play but you will be playing more hands and playing them aggressively, which will make your plays harder to read.
2. Generally, you must play tighter at a full table and looser at a short handed table.
3. If many players are in the pot when it is your turn to act, you will possess more information, which will allow you to play more hands. In addition, your drawing hands will get a better price and there is less of a likelihood that you will be able to limit the field by raising.
4. If the pot has been raised, you will have to play hands that you think are not dominated by the raiser. In these situations you should be very selective of what hands you play.
5. Your position will greatly affect the hands you play. In general, you have to play tighter from an early position and then add hands as your position improves.


Starting Hands

The starting hand is just as important in Omaha as in all other forms of poker. What you are looking for is four cards that work together, although many beginners (who are used to playing Texas Hold'em) do not realize this. They will play any four cards that contain one or two good Hold'em hands. For example, they often overrate hands like Js-Jd-2c-7h, thinking that it is as good as a pair of Jacks is in Hold'em. They also misinterpret hands, such as Ac-Qd-8h-8s, because they include two decent Hold'em hands. However, in this type of hand there are poorly coordinated combinations, like A-8 and Q-8. For example, compare the aforementioned hands to As-Ks-Ah-Kh, which is the strongest starting hand in Omaha. In this hand, you hold AA, KK and two different combinations of AKs. All possible combinations are very strong hands in Texas Hold'em as well.
Other examples of hands that have four cards working together are hands like:













the second strongest starting hand,

and so forth.


Thus, you want starting hands that hold both straight, flush and set potential. For instance, imagine the power of holding the As-Ac-Jc-Ts on a flop of Ah-Ks-Qs, giving you top set, the nut straight, and the nut flush draw. Notice that the Js will also give you a royal flush. Another example is if you hold the Qs-Qh-Ks-Th on a flop of Qc-Js-7s, giving you top set, a flush draw, and an open-ended straight draw.


Hand Ranking



Below you will find listed the top 30 starting hands in Pot-Limit Omaha.

double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
double suited
Whether double suited, suited or non-suited, these are all very strong starting hands in Pot-Limit Omaha.


The Trap Hands

Trap hands are hands that seem very good but can easily make you a second-best hand. These are the types of hands than can cause you to lose your whole stack. There are three types of trap hands in Pot-Limit Omaha:

1. The Small Pair Hands
2. The Low Wrap Hands
3. The Small Flush Hands


1. Hands with pairs below Nines are dangerous to play. When you flop a set it is very hard to escape the hand and, if you are up against a bigger set, you are drawing to one out. When you hold a hand like6s-6h-5s-4h and the flop comes Qc-Jc-6d, you may find yourself in big trouble. The moment to play small pairs is when you do not have a lot of money in front of you, at this stage it is not as bad to commit your whole stack if you flop a small set. Or, for example, when you have something like A-A-2-2 orK-K-3-3, then you should play in the hopes of flopping the big set. However, you must always think twice before you commit a lot of money with bottom set on the flop.
2. The types of hands that are very deceptive and dangerous to play are the lower four connected hands, like 5s-4c-3s-2c. These hands are dangerous because it is too simple to flop or draw to the low-end of a straight. When the flop comes 8-7-6 with this type of hand, you can easily find yourself up against a bigger straight, drawing dead.
3. Hands that can only make small flushes are risky hands. For example, let us again look at the5s-4c-3s-2c on a flop of Ks-Js-8s. This will give you a small flush. You cannot commit a lot of money with this hand and, if you were to get any action at all, you would most likely be beat.


Limping or Raising Before the Flop


In Pot-Limit Omaha, no matter what you hold, your opponent's hand will almost always have a decent chance of beating your hand. For example, being dealt an A-A-K-K double suited is 50,000:1 (against) and that hand is just a 3:2 favourite to win against 8-7-6-5 double suited. As such, the question arises as to whether or not you should raise when you hold a good starting hand.

What about only raising when you hold Aces? The problem with this strategy is that you become too predicable, as people will know exactly where you are and will not likely make mistakes against you.

How about always limping in? This is better than just raising with Aces though it is still not an optimal strategy. Whenever you bet, raise or call on the flop, your opponents will also have a good idea of what type of hand you hold. If you never raise pre-flop, you do not make other limping players pay enough to see the flop for those times when you hold a strong starting hand. Also, you will not be picking up as many pots as when you play with a raising strategy.

By raising with a variety of hands pre-flop, you will gain numerous advantages: you become unpredictable, you pick up more pots, you make opponents pay when you are likely to have the best hand, and you obtain more bluffing opportunities. Another advantage is that it is more fun to play according to this strategy. In light of all this, it becomes clear that a strategy combining both raising and limping with a variety of hands is the best.


What hands to raise with


A good pre-flop raising strategy is to raise with any of the top 30 hands mentioned above, all of which hold at least one suit and most that don't, though this is not entirely sufficient and you will need to raise with more hands. Add any four cards in a row that are double-suited with cards, Six or higher, and all single and double suited A-K-x-x with at least one x-card, Ten or higher. Hands like Q-J-9-8 or J-T-9-7 double suited are also good to raise with.


Summary:

1. All top 30 hands with at least one suit and most of the time when off suit.
2. All suited A-K-x-x with at least one x-card, Ten or higher.
3. All double suited four in a row of hands, Five or higher.
4. All double suited connected hands, Five or higher, with a maximum of one gap between the top two and the two low cards or between the low card and the three high cards. An example is K-Q-T-9 double suited and J-9-8-6 double suited.
5. All K-K-x-x double suited.


What hands to limp with

1. All A-Q-x-x with at least one x-card, Ten or higher, and the Ace being suited.
2. All four in a row combinations, Four or higher.
3. All A-x-x-x anything with at least two x-cards that are connected and the Ace being suited.
4. All four in a row combinations, Five or higher, with a maximum of one gap that is not between the top and bottom three cards in the hand.


Flop Play


General Flop Advice


Whether or not you were the pre-flop raiser makes a big difference in the way you play your hand. If you were the pre-flop raiser and the pot is shorthanded, strongly consider betting-out even though your hand did not improve. However, you should always consider what type of flop hit. For example, if it is three handed and you raised with two bare Aces and the flop comes Q-J-T with a flush draw that you do not hold in your hand.
This is a good opportunity to check and let the other two players fight for the money. But, if the flop is Q-7-3 with no flush draw, you should bet-out. This adds an element of deception to your play and enables you to pick up more pots. In addition, you will get more action when you do hit a great hand on the flop, since betting-out does not necessarily mean you hold anything substantial. Basically, you should never slow play any hand when you hit your hand hard on the flop, especially because giving free cards in Omaha comes with a much higher risk than it does in Hold'em.


Two Pair


Two pair is a difficult hand to play in Omaha. This is because it is a strong hand but not strong enough that you feel completely comfortable committing all your money with it. In general, you must have at least top two pair to give action on the flop. There are too many ways you can be beat or will end up outdrawn if you commit a lot of money with top and bottom two pair or bottom two pair. If there are straight and/or flush draws on the board and you are called, use your judgement when deciding whether to bet again on the turn
Always consider the type of opponent you are up against. If you think your opponent will continue to draw, you should bet in an effort to shut him out. In Omaha, when someone just calls on the flop that player is generally on a draw, though in some cases they hold bottom set or a weak two pair that they do not want to release on the flop. Bottom two pair and top and bottom two pair are not worth playing on the flop, essentially. It is better to have a big draw to the nuts than to hold this type of hand. The most dangerous aspect of these hands is that you can trap yourself for all your money. This usually happens when you hit a full house on the turn and that same card gives someone else a bigger full house.


Sets


Since the playing style suggested in this article warns against playing small pairs, you should not find yourself in many situations where you are up against a bigger set. If you were the pre- flop raiser, almost always bet-out on the flop if you hit a set. It is seldom wrong to bet-out with top set in a short-handed pot, even though the board looks scary. Remember that anytime you flop a set, you have about a 34% chance of improving to a full house on the turn and river combined. For example, if you pre-flop raised holding K-K-7-6 double suited and the flop comes K-J-9 with a flush draw that you do not have, bet-out and be prepared to get action. The other players will have to hold a Q-T-x-x with the flush draw in order to feel comfortable moving in against you.

Some players only raise with Aces and, if one of these players raised pre-flop and an Ace flops, you can put them on top set right away. This is especially true if they limped in from an early position and then re-raised the pot after it had been raised behind them. These players will almost always be holding Aces.


Straight Draws


In Omaha you will flop many kinds of straight draws. What you want to flop are so-called wrap around straight draws. This happens when the flop comes with two cards that connect and you have cards that surround these two cards. Let us look at a few examples:



It is better to have more overcards than undercards because you will be drawing to a bigger straight. This is why Hand 1 is stronger than Hand 2 and Hand 3 is stronger than Hand 4. Situations will arise when Hand 1 and Hand 2 move all-in on the flop. In this case, Hand 2's strength will diminish considerably, leaving it in bad shape.

You should bet the majority of your big draws on the flop. You do this for two reasons: because you can win the pot immediately (semi-bluff) and because it adds deception to your game. If you play in this manner, your opponents will not know whether you are betting a made hand or a draw.

If you flop a 13-way straight draw to the nuts without any possible flush draws, you are going to get involved in the pot. With 13 nut outs, you have an approximate 29% chance of hitting the nuts on the turn and a 50% chance of hitting on the turn and river combined. Therefore, if an opponent bets the size of the pot, you should call or raise depending on the situation and the player.


The Turn


The turn is generally a time for making big decisions. Should you bet again? Should you re-raise the maximum? Should you fold or call? This depends on many factors (too many to address here), though there are some general guidelines that can be followed. If you hold the nuts, you bet on the flop and, if you still hold the nuts on the turn, you usually should bet the maximum again. Your opponent is likely to be drawing and you want to shut him out or charge him the maximum for attempting to outdraw you. If you hold a minimum of 13 outs to beat whatever your opponent might be holding, it is appropriate to call a pot-sized bet on the turn, though only if both you and your opponent have money left on the river. With 13 outs, you are slightly less then 2:1 (13/44=29.5%) against improving and those are the exact odds the pot is laying you in this case. Because of the implied odds when there is more money left to win, a call is correct.


The River

If you hold the nuts, contemplate what your opponent might possibly hold and try to squeeze out the maximum. If you missed your draw, you must either give up or try a big bluff in case a scare card hits. A lot of judgement is needed when the pot is big and you hold a good hand but not the nuts. You must consider what your opponent is capable of. Will he try to run a bluff if checked to? Or will he also check? Do you dare to value bet with a good hand that is not the nuts?