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Is Omaha 8 the game for you?

Posted by Bill "zimba" Seibert 3 years, 35 weeks ago
Have you ever played Omaha 8? While No Limit Texas Hold’em gets most of the attention and by far the greatest number of players, there are a number of reasons to consider playing other forms of poker. With so much literature and resources available to the NLHE player, it has become a very competitive game. Players have improved dramatically over the last few years. Considering a game like Omaha 8 can introduce a different playing field with different rules where you can excel against a lesser experienced playing crowd.
There are two major differences between Texas Hold’em and Omaha 8. While your goal is still to make the best five card hand, now you are dealt four cards rather than two and very importantly there are two ways to win. You can make the best high hand or the best low hand or hopefully both.

The Ace plays as both the lowest card and the highest card. For a low hand to count, you must have a five card hand, using two of your own, with all of the cards lower than an 8. For example, if the board is A-K-Q-7-6 and you have K-K-3-4, you have a set of Kings for your high and a A-3-4-6-7 low. If you have A-A-A-9 in your hand, and the board is Q,2,3,4,5, you do not have a straight or a qualifying low hand, only 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 which goes to the best high hand.

There are multiple ways the pot can be divided at the end of the hand. It can all go to the best high hand if there is no qualifying low hand (no three cards 8 or lower on the board). It can be split evenly between the high hand winner and the low hand winner (which can be the same person) Or in the event of ties for high or low hand, that half would be split into quarters.

With four cards dealt to you, like in PLO, drawing hands are very strong. For example, you have A-K-Q-Q double suited, a good starting high only hand and the flop comes Q-5-2. In Holdem this would be a perfect flop. In Omaha 8, there are numerous ways for you to lose both ½ the pot and the whole pot. A player holding a quality low hand like A-3-4-7 could win the low with any card below 8 and scoop the pot (take both the high and the low) with an ace, three, four, or six. Understanding the threat that good drawing hands pose and the power of having a good low and high possible hand is crucial if you are going to be a successful Omaha 8 player.

The betting is the same as a Limt Hold’em game with single blind size bets pre-flop and on the flop, with big bets (equal to twice the big blind) on the turn and river. Players are usually more passive pre-flop with most of the action occurring on the flop or turn when players see the power of their draws or made hands.

The most powerful hands are those that have the potential to scoop the entire pot. Those hands typically have A-2-x-x or A-2-3-x, especially if it’s a suited Ace, in them if there is a qualifying low, or big pairs with backup cards on hands where there is no qualifying low board (e.g. A-A-2-3, A-A-K-K, A-K-3-4 etc.). It is important to remember that if your low card pair with the board, it is considered being “counterfeited” and can’t be used towards your low hand.

Mid range cards are rarely if ever good to have in Omaha 8 (e.g. 8-9-10-J). You prefer a hand made up for suited cards and high and low cards. The more mid range cards you have, the more likely you will wind up with a second best hand. It is better to fold those types of hands to save yourself the future trouble and expense.

Some general tips and differences from Hold’em.
  • Don’t bluff as much, unless you are playing heads up and scare cards might come.
  • Don’t play low to medium pairs, or mid range cards, or hands with three cards of the same suit.
  • Facing big bets on the river, don’t inflate the action if you only have a chance for half the pot.
  • The turn card is the least important card, as 7/9ths of the cards are known on the flop. Knowing your flop equity and percentages is key to how you play the hand.
  • While it may seem you can play more hands in Omaha 8, it is generally recommended that you actually play less.
  • High-only hands will win the pot some 30% of the time.

While Hold’em is a game of exploiting tiny edges often, Omaha is a game of exploiting huge edges less often. There is less random luck in Omaha 8. So consider playing Omaha 8 the next time you need a break from Hold'em.
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