Omaha: Beware Variance

If you’re a Texas Hold ‘Em player, you know about variance. It’s found in the stretches when the cards are cold and the betting never seems to work your way. It’s one of those things every experience player plans for and works to ensure they’re secured away from thanks to bankroll management and planning, but here’s the thing: variance is much, much higher in pot limit Omaha poker.

This means that you can make a lot more money in a shorter amount of time, but it also means that if the cards aren’t going your way, you can easily drop 10-20 buy-ins in a single day, even if you’re meticulous planner. The reason for this is linked to the fact that pot limit Omaha is (say it with me) a game of the nuts. It’s rare for you to get your money in an 80% favorite like you will often do during No Limit Hold ‘Em play. Looks at the statistics show that it’s more common for players to see hands where they’re the 55-60% favorite.

The other reason that variance hits so hard in Omaha is that so many more cards are in play. There’s a much greater number of combinations of hands and possible draws and it’s much easier for those capricious gods of poker to throw you a run of lousy turn and river cards that will give your opponents the chance to outdraw you.

The way that variance hits can be much more dramatic in Omaha poker than it is in Texas Hold ‘Em and that means you need to keep a level head on your shoulders at all time. If you’re the sort of player that finds themselves tilting, this is something you need to address and repair because Omaha’s bad beats are more dramatic and more repetitive. Prepare yourself psychologically for the ups and downs and the game and you’re going to have an edge on the opponents who tilt after two back-to-back 50/50 all-ins.

How to you prepare for variance? Well, first of all, reading articles like this when your opponents haven’t is a great first step. Knowing that everyone who plays Omaha is subject to the whims of variance and that it’s nothing personal is one of the best things you can keep in mind.

I also recommend taking a moment out of the game when you’ve been kicked in the teeth to recompose yourself. In cash games, it’s easy to sit out for a hand or two and stretch, maybe grab a drink of water and let yourself get over it, but nobody ever got kicked out of a tournament for closing their eyes and taking a ten-count.