Omaha Strategy: Straight Draws and Outs

Winning hand values in Pot Limit Omaha tend to be big; that’s just an accepted fact of the game. With four hole cards offering up six different combinations — AB, AC, AD, BD, BD, CD — the possibilities are greater for a player to make a playable hand. In fact, most Omaha poker hands are won by players holding a straight or better. This means you have to have a real understanding of the draws that can help you win with a straight.

Why are we talking about the straight instead of other hands? Whenever the board doesn’t contain a pair or three cards that build a flush, the best possible hand is most likely a straight. For example: if you’re looking at 6c9s8d on the flop, then you’re probably going to see someone with a 7 or 10 (or both!) competing pretty hard for their chunk of change. It’s only with a non-paired, non-flushed board that has a wide spread such as AJ964 that you’ll see top sets winning. In fact, that’s one reason I always recommend playing high pairs; they can help you make a strong set or, hopefully, a full house.

Let’s look at the different numbers of outs and how you should play them, starting with the long shot: four outs to build a straight. In the same way that you shouldn’t be too brave when you’re looking for four outs with your straight draw in Texas Hold ‘Em, you need to be very, very conservative if you’re hoping for joy after the flop in Omaha. Let’s say you’re holding QJ87 and facing the first three community cards of 954. There are only four sixes that can complete a straight, meaning that you’ve got only a 16% chance to make a winning hand by the river. If pot-sized bets are the norm when this is happening, you can throw a lot of money into a hand you don’t stand a chance to win. An eight-out straight draw is also relatively weak and needs to have the same sort of conservatism applied to it.

Instead, look to play (and bet with) hands where you’ve got thirteen or more outs. The thirteen-out straight draw is actually the most common “big” straight draw there is. Commonly called the “wrap” draw, it’s generally a hand where four running cards “wrap” around two cards on the board. Let’s say you’re holding T986 and the flop is 75X; you’ve got thirteen cards that can help you build a straight. You’ll need one of four threes, three fives, three sevens or three eights. Here, you’ll have the nuts unless a river card opens up a better hand for another player.

Once you go above the thirteen-out “layer” of possible hands, then you can feel secure in betting a bit hard and shaking down the other players to get pot-sized bets in on the action. Just remember that if you’ve got less than 13 outs after the flop, you’ll need to play a bit tight and be willing to fold.