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Poker Strategy | Beginner's Poker

Switching From Holdem To Omaha 8

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The problem with playing Holdem cash games is there is an insane amount of literature and sources available to poker players on that subject. While you can find the right game, for the most part you will be facing people that have an understanding of what they are doing and it can be tough to consistently have winning sessions. One thing you can do to expand your horizons and perhaps increase your bankroll is to consider playing other games. Omaha 8 or better is a great game to start out with because the vast majority of players do not understand the game. They either jump in blind and treat it like it is Holdem... overplaying hands they should not be playing in the first place... or they read one or two things on the game and think they know it all without realizing the various subtleties and nuances of the game.

There are two major differences between Holdem and Omaha 8. You still make the best five card hand but now you are dealt four cards rather than two and now there are two ways to win... you can make the best high hand or the best low hand. In order to qualify the low hand, you must have a five card hand with all of the cards lower than an 8. Unlike Holdem you cannot just play the board. You must use two cards from your hand, and only two. For example if the board is A-K-Q-J-T and you have 2-2-3-4, you do not have a straight... you have a pair of twos. If you have A-A-A-A in your hand, you do not have quad aces... you have a pair of aces. One important point to know is that if there is no qualifying low hand than there is only one pot awarded to the high hand.

That being said, it is important to understand the split pot concept. It provides multiple possibilities to win the pot. More importantly, it provides numerous ways for you to get outdrawn. Say for example, you have A-K-K-Q double suited... a strong starting hand for sure... and the flop comes K-5-2. In Holdem this would be a great flop. In Omaha, there are numerous ways for you to lose both ½ the pot and the whole pot. A player holding a premium low hand like A-3-4-7 could win the low with any low card and scoop the pot with an ace, three, four, or six. Understanding this possibility is crucial if you are going to be a successful Omaha 8 player.

Omaha 8 or better is a much more passive pre-flop game than you will be used to if you are a Holdem player. It is not unusual for 5 or 6 people to limp in or for that matter for 5 or 6 people to see a flop in a raised pot. The majority of your money making decisions will come post-flop after your hand and your possibilities have been defined more clearly for you. That doesn't mean that you are always going to limp in or just call however. There are definite times where you should be raising. Your reason for doing this is usually two-fold. First, you want to punish the marginal hands that have no business being in there (the A-6-7-10 type of hands). Second, you want to build up the pot in case you hit your hand.

What hands do you raise with then? Typically, you want to raise anytime you have a hand that has a potential for scooping the entire pot. Which hands meet that criteria? Four cards lower than a 5? While you can scoop the entire pot with those hands, usually you're looking at only the low end. A-2-x-x type of hands is the same deal. It is the high only hands and the big pair with backup hands that give you the maximum scoop potential and it is these hands that you should be raising with pre-flop. The other hands limp in and call raises with but don't put anymore in the pot than you have to.

What is the benefit of raising with the high only hands? If you are playing $3/$6 limit Omaha 8 and four people have limped in and you are in the big blind, raising will put an additional $12 in the pot. If the flop comes with all high cards that is an additional $12 you will win from your opponents who more than likely are playing low cards. It also makes them more likely to make the mistake of chasing a runner, runner low because of the pot size thus winning you a larger pot in the end when it does not come. If you miss? Well you only spent an additional $3 and your hand plays easily post-flop... you can fold.

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