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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Omaha Hi/Lo Is an Easier Game to Read Than Hold'em

15 February 2008

Draw poker and Stud poker have pretty much gone the way of the Dodo bird in giving way to "flop style" poker. Texas Hold'em is king lately, with Omaha poker running a distant second.

Most players timidly shy away from Omaha because of the confusing nature of having four hole cards in your hand. In Texas Hold'em, for example, there are only 169 different hands your opponent could have in the hole. But in Omaha Hi/Lo, there are several thousand.

This, quite naturally, intimidates many would-be Omaha players and pushes them away from the table. Yet ironically, as the board unfolds, it actually becomes easier to figure out what your hand is worth in Omaha than in Hold'em.

Why? It's because Omaha has so darn many hand possibilities that its strategy actually ends up being self-evident. If that last sentence doesn't make sense to you, look at these next couple of typical examples.

Texas Hold'em

Your Hand
Kh/Jh

The Board
Jc-10c-2d – 7c

You were raising and betting both before the flop -- and on the flop when you flopped top pair. Your opponent was just checking and calling. But now, when the 7 of clubs comes on the "turn", he just bets right into you. What might he have? What should you do?

Well, he could have two clubs in the hole for a flush, or an 8/9 for a straight –- or maybe even pocket 7s. Then again, he might just have the lone Ace of clubs with an off-card and be semi-bluffing, figuring that maybe you'll fold. But even if you don't, he might catch an Ace or a club at the river. Nevertheless, your pair of Jacks might well still be enough to take the pot after the smoke clears. Or -- you could already be completely out of it.

See the problem? In Hold'em, you've only got two cards in your hand, and lots of times one high pair is all you need to take down the money. Since that's true, there will be a very wide range of winning hands shown in Hold'em, making it harder to know what your hand is worth. Being able to read your opponent is a key factor in Hold'em. Now look at this Omaha Hi/Lo hand.

Omaha Hi/Lo

Your Hand
Ac/2c/6s/9d

The Board
5c-7h-8h – 2h

When the three card flop came, you made both the "nut" (best possible) low with you're A/2 and the nut high hand, a 9 high straight using your 6/9. You were leading both ways, so you bet and got a few callers.

Now, when the 2 of hearts comes on the turn, it's suddenly a bet and a raise to you. Even though you still have your straight and the fourth best low (now using your A/6), how you should play is very clear-cut. There's no question about whether to call the rest of the way to see if you still might win something, because you know you won't! How?

It's because in Omaha, there are so many cards working in all the players' hands that any hand which the board makes possible usually is made by somebody. If you don't have the heart flush or an A/3 and other players are betting, they almost certainly have them.

So then, Omaha boils down to being much more of a card game than a people game. Reading your players isn't that important –- it's reading the board that counts. If you just pay attention to what the board will provide for, and either play or fold according to that, you'll be a fairly tough Omaha player. So don't let those extra two cards in everybody's hand scare you away. Omaha Hi/Lo is more of an "A-B-C" game.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey