Close Shaves in Omaha Poker

Texas Hold ‘Em poker players are used to a certain amount of “gap” between a winning hand and the others on the table, but since Omaha poker players generally see a lot more flops, turns and rivers than hold ’em players, they have a much greater chance of making a hand at any given time.

In fact, in no limit hold ’em, there is frequently an optimal or “correct” way to play any given hand. Much of the time our hand will fall into 3 distinct categories: strong made hands, total air and draws. There are many more close decisions in Pot Limit Omaha because players can rarely put our hand in such a category. The four cards in front of you make a “combo hand” that can make an exponentially greater number of hands that will how you play from street to street dramatically.

(As an aside: the fact that there are so many possibilities in any given Omaha poker hand is why I steadfastly refuse to play multi-table games. I’d rather play for higher stakes at one table and focus to win than lose at two or three tables because I wasn’t able to focus enough. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned that way.)

Pot Limit Omaha becomes much more about player tendencies, positions and the psychological when you hit the turn. Before the flop, players are rarely more than a 60% favorite, but after, you can become an 80% favorite instantly and then after that, your fortunes can change wildly. If you’re out of position and you’re only a 60% favorite with the current board, you have to figure out if it’s worth it to three-bet or just call flatly. If you’ve got a strong pair and a flush draw on the flop but the flush draw is only Jack high, then it can be difficult to decide what’s best: calling a bet or raising. The next card can completely change the hand.

The complexities of Omaha handbuilding, when combined with the very human factor of other players, make it close to impossible to find a “correct” play at any given time. Value betting for a pot can feel awry many times because you could be opening yourself up to a check-raise that could force you to fold. These situations are extremely common and it’s only experience that will help you look at all of the factors in play: opponent tendencies, the situation at hand and how big the pot is compared to stack sizes.