One of the best parts of poker is the diverse range of options it gives its players. There are near-infinite ways to play, with countless variations like Texas Holdem and Short Deck. All this variety has two significant benefits.
The first is that it keeps veterans invested in the game. Once you start feeling tired of one variant, there are many available alternatives. With the invention of online poker, even exotic variants are just one click away.
The second is that it allows every player to find the perfect form of poker that suits them. Like the mechanics of Texas Holdem, but want something with more action? 6-max cash games are perfect for you. Enjoy careful observation and analysis of your opponents? Try out stud poker.
Today, we’ll focus on the second most popular way to play poker: Omaha poker. If you want to try it and have a background in Holdem, this poker guide is perfect for you. It will give you strategy tips to transition your play between the two variants.
Starting hand strengths are different
First things first, you’ll need to understand the difference in game mechanics. Holdem doesn’t have any restrictions on how you can make your hand from the community cards and your hole cards. You can use any number of either; an extreme example would be using zero hole cards and “playing the board.”
For Omaha, how you can make your hand is fixed. You must use exactly two of your four hole cards and three community cards. While this sounds simple, it has a drastic difference in hand strengths. A hand like AAAA in Omaha is far worse than AA in Holdem; you can only use two of the aces in Omaha, so the other ones in your hand are useless and stop you from potentially drawing them.
As such, starting hands in Omaha need a few things to be good. The first has to do with the cards’ suits. All good hands should have precisely two unique suits; this gives you the maximum potential for a flush. Good hands also require multiple different pocket pairs and suited connectors. The best starting hands in Omaha are generally agreed to be AAKK, AAJT, AAQQ, AAJJ, and AATT in descending order of strength. AAKQ looks good at first glance but actually loses out on the potential for a straight since you hold too many cards.
Omaha is more draw-focused
Since Omaha gives players four hole cards, the game naturally has more draws since it’s easier to make a strong hand. Omaha also commonly uses betting limits which prevent players from getting bullied out of the pot pre-flop.
These factors combine to make Omaha far more draw-focused than Holdem. If you’re uncomfortable playing with drawing hands, Omaha definitely isn’t the game for you. There are far more “gray area” hands where it’s difficult to tell whether you should play them or fold, so be prepared to make tough decisions when playing Omaha.
Tighter play is encouraged
A general rule for trying out Omaha poker is to play tighter. Hands are much closer to each other in relative strength; the increased number of draws means hand strength can vary wildly between rounds.
In Holdem, if you get a premium hand, most of the time, all you need to do is bet big to win the pot. You’ll pressure drawing hands well with large bets and simply win at the showdown against weaker hands.
That doesn’t work as well in Omaha. You must think carefully about your bets; mindlessly betting could be costly since no hand is an easy win. Additionally, overbets can no longer be used as an easy way to get others to fold.
Because of all this, it’s important to play even tighter in Omaha, especially when transitioning from Holdem. A loose-aggressive strategy that plays a lot of hands may work out well for you in Holdem, but it will take a lot of adjustment for Omaha.
Bluffing is less common
Thanks to the betting limit in Omaha, bluffing is far less common. Hands are much closer to each other in relative strength, so it wouldn’t make sense to be unnecessarily aggressive with a weak hand. You can simply play passively to see the flop for far less risk.
The increased number of multiway pots in Omaha is another reason why bluffing is less popular. Pots can regularly have three or more players in Omaha, thanks to the bet size limit. This makes bluffing nearly impossible as you will almost never get two or more players to fold, especially without overbetting.
More action vs. less variance
Finally, the last “tip” for those trying out Omaha poker is to understand whether you really want to play it. You need to identify its strengths and weaknesses compared to Holdem to see if you should choose it or swap to another format entirely.
The biggest strength of Holdem compared to Omaha is the action. Holdem is far more suited to fast and aggressive play, particularly in formats like 6-max. The lack of a betting limit means you will often see huge pots even before the pre-flop ends. If this is what you enjoy about poker, you should stick to Holdem or try a similar variant like short deck.
The biggest strength of Omaha compared to Holdem is the effect of variance. Variance is the poker term for how much luck affects your game. Omaha enjoys less variance because your starting cards don’t have too much of an impact. If you want to rely on skill alone and hate feeling like you won or lost based on luck, try Omaha out!
Improve your game with online poker!
Hopefully, you find this transition from Texas Holdem to Omaha much easier with these tips and tricks. It’s essential to know your fundamentals well and understand the differences in Omaha before switching over, so be prepared to put in the extra effort. Play as many hands of Omaha as possible at low-stakes so your bankroll is unaffected by losses. Online poker works well for this as it’s faster-paced, allowing you to get in more hands per hour.