Omaha hi/lo Strategy - Part II
Posted by Anthony Martino
This series continues from my Omaha hi/lo Strategy blog part I
Not all Aces are created equal. There is a huge difference between A2A3 and AA99 in this game.
The first hand is extremely powerful because you are double-suited (giving you a shot at two potential nut flush draws) plus you have two wheel cards in addition to your aces that will give you a great shot at locking up the low half of the pot (while still having strength to play for the high half as well)
The second hand is relatively worthless, as the cards aren't suited and don't work together to create straights. So it's a hand with significantly less opportunities for you to make a strong hand post-flop. It gives you no shot at low, so it's a one-way hand (i.e. high only) that puts you into a position of hoping to flop a set (and then hoping that set holds up and isn't outdrawn by a straight or flush)
A hand such as A2A3 is the type of holding you could limp or raise preflop. Getting this hand headsup isn't terrible, but if you can get a large multi-way pot going, it gets a lot of people putting more money in where you could snag at least half, possibly 3/4th's and maybe even the whole shebang if things go well.
If you're in early position I'd recommend you limp in. Ideally there will be some other limpers and if someone in late position raises it, you could consider 3-betting to make yourself a nice pot to play for with such a powerful holding.
However, let's say you hold A4AK
That's the type of hand you'd prefer to play against one or two opponents if possible. The A4 isn't the strongest holding to make a low, and if you get involved in a pot with 5+ opponents you could be in a position to get nothing out of the pot. This hand just doesn't play as well multi-way as the AA23 holding does.
Always remember that one pair post-flop in this game is generally worthless. Two pair isn't that great either, since players have so many hand combinations. So you'll see sets, straights, flushes and full houses far more frequently than you would in a hold em game.
Bottom line, don't get married to your Aces, don't play them like this is a hold em game.
Ah, the classic hand in Omaha hi/lo that gets so many players into trouble. With KKxx ideally you want the xx cards to work well together with the rest of the hand.
KK23 is a decent hand to see a flop with, because you are double suited and also have two wheel cards. While KK49 is much weaker because your two remaining cards are danglers that don't work all that well together.
If your table is loose-passive and you can see a cheap flop with KKxx then feel free to limp from EP. But generally you're better off playing this holding from late position.
Having suited Kings is nice, but it's not great. Remember that EVERYONE is trying to play a suited Ace. So if you make the 2nd nut flush, you could be dead to the nut flush, I've seen this happen to folks more times than I can remember.
While in Hold Em it can be hard to get away from the 2nd nut flush (for example you hold KQ and the flop is 74T) in Omaha hi/lo you can't be afraid to fold this hand post-flop if the action dictates.
Omaha hi/lo is generally a game of the nuts, and if you're regularly paying off with 2nd, 3rd or 4th "nuts" then you're going to be a loser in the long-run at these tables.
I Flopped My Set!
Congratulations kid, here's a cookie. But don't get cocky, hitting your set is only half the battle, you still need to have it hold up.
Not all sets in this game are created equal. Bottom set is a money burner in this game. If you have 22xx and the flop is 27T and the board pairs, you could be drawing to one out. Not to mention the presence of straight or flushes can put you in a world of hurt as well.
Bottom set in hold em is a far difference scenerio than in O8, so like the 2nd nut flush mentioned previously, don't be afraid to get away from bottom set.
Whether you should continue after making your set continues on a number of variables. You have to factor in the board texture, your hand strength and potential, plus the action of other players at the table.
If you have 88TJ (let's assume you saw a free flop from the BB, since you shouldn't be playing this hand otherwise) and the flop comes:
428 and there's tons of betting and raising by the other players at the table, you can be sure of a few things:
1. Someone has a low and you are now only playing for 50% of the pot
2. Someone probably has the flush and you need the board to pair to salvage the high half
The other players are going to make you pay to draw out on them in a situation like this, and since you're only playing for half the pot, you may want to consider getting out early. That's just a bad board texture for you and the action is too intense.
If you hold KKJJ and the flop comes:
that's a great board texture for you. You have top set, there's no flush draws, there's only one low card (so someone chasing for low will have to runner-runner to get there, and believe me there are players who will chase here) and the potential straight draw is hampered because you have two of the Jacks locked up.
Let's take that same KKJJ holding but give you this flop:
That board texture is significantly more dangerous for your hand. Remember that your opponents can have a ton of draws against you here, so in a spot like this expect to only be playing for half the pot.
The potential for straights, flushes and lows means you should lean towards keeping the pot size manageable, rather than pumping it up to "protect" your hand. You can't protect your hand here, there will be players going to the river looking to hit their hands.
If the 8 falls on the turn, depending on the action you may consider folding your set rather than run the risk of getting scooped during the double-bet rounds (turn and river)
So always take into account the board texture, if your hand has additional potential given the board, if your hand blocks some of the draws your opponents might be trying to hit, the action of your opponents and what hands likely warrant such action (and if those hands have your set beat) and of course the #1 issue to consider......are you only playing for half the pot or can you scoop the whole thing?
I highly recommend the CardPlayer Omaha hi/lo Odds Calcualator. Make sure to check off you want odds for 8 or better hi/lo when using this tool.
One thing that can really help you learn the math of this game and relative hand strengths is to plug in hands and see what the odds are preflop.
Then put in some flops and see how top set fares against flush, straight and low draws as far as overall equity in the hand.
- Overvalueing TPTK, Two Pair, Bottom Set
Remember that this isn't hold em. Your opponents all hold four hole cards giving them a multitude of potential draws and hands they can make against you. You will regularly see straights, flushes and full houses in this game when compared with hold em. Don't go crazy because you started with AKxx and the flop came A36
- Playing Middle Cards
7's, 8's and 9's are some of the weakest cards in this game. 6's and 10's a bit as well, but not as much.
Playing hands with mostly middle cards in them will cause you to make non-nut flushes and straights a vast majority of the time. Often if you make your hand there will be a low as well, meaning at best you're playing for half the pot.
- Continuing With No Possibility Of Improvement
If you started with 4678 and the flop comes
you've flopped the nut high, congratulations. Now good luck getting it to hold up. A ton of cards can come on the turn or river to destroy you. Your chances of improving your hand are relatively zilch (outside of you making some miracle full house or quads)
Since your hand cannot improve from this point onward, that only means one thing......it can get worse!
Don't fall into the trap of overplaying the nut straight with no redraws. You're unlikely to have the best low hand if a low arrives. If the flush arrives you could be dead. There is also potential for someone to make a higher straight than you here as well, or the board could pair.
So if the action is too heavy on the flop, consider folding the nuts. I know it goes against everything hold em players are accustomed to doing, but in the long run you will burn a ton of money overstaying your welcome with a hand that has zero redraws and is generally playing for half the pot here.
- Overplaying Straights On Flush or Paired Boards
You hold JJQQ and the board on the turn is
Congratulations, you're probably behind. You have the nut straight, but the board is paired and there's a flush you don't have a piece of. Even if you hit a J or Q on the river you could still be beat, since most any player will play AKxx or ATxx combos.
Don't be afraid to fold here, again, this isn't hold em and spots like these are money burners for many a hold em player that sits in my game.
Overplaying QQxx or JJxx
I had this happen recently in an O8 game I was in. Guy to my left went nuts holding 49JJ because he started with a pair of Jacks and was raising like there was no tomorrow.
As stated previously, making the King-high flush can be a money burner in this game, so imagine what happens when you make the Q or J-high flush?
There are still plenty of bad players who will go all the way to the river (including raising you) with the 3rd or 4th best flush when you have the absolute nuts. That's what's so great about this game, so easy to make money off of bad players.
Many players will see a flop of 234 and think "oh, my JJ or QQ are an overpair, I have to raise!" when they're already drawing dead with someone having a straight and a low.
It can be ok to see a flop with QQxx or JJxx when the xx = other high cards that complement the overall hand for straight potential (i.e. high only hand that can scoop with the right flop) or of course if you have A2QQ or A3JJ or other wheel combos that work well for a great overall hand.
If you're like me, you enjoy easy decisions. While the "challenge" of poker can be fun, if you want to make the most profit you're usually looking for loose-passive games like myself.
These are full tables (9-10 players, although 7-8 isn't terrible) where regularly 5+ players see the flop.
This will provide you with the right pot sizes to make it profitable, plus enough opponents in the pot with non-nut hands willing to pay you off.
Ideally you want the pot size to usually be around 10 bb's. So for a 5/10 game pot sizes of $100 or so are ideal (larger is always great as well). Remember that this is usually going to be a split-pot, so you may only be playing for half that pot.
You can sometimes be playing a session for hours with no significant wins (or sometimes no wins at all). But with this game, it only takes one or two hands to make your night.
I've had sessions where I've been playing for 4-5 hours and nothing is going well and I'm down 6-10 big bets. And then you hit one or two decent sized pots (perhaps a scoop or perhaps a split of a massive multiway pot) that puts you up 10-20 big bets.
It's all about having the patience to not do what your opponents are doing (i.e. getting bored and trying to play EVERY hand).
Yes, it will be frustrating watching some of the worst players on the planet scooping massive pots with absolute junk. But don't fall into the trap and get roped into playing like they do.
This is not a game of constant action, it's a game of math, hand selection and patience. If you are disciplined, those players you see scooping with garbage will be throwing money your way soon enough.
Fortunately they leave every few sessions with a nice win of their own, making them believe they play well and just got "unlucky" in all the other losing sessions. Make sure you're there on a regular basis and they'll be your best customers.
Adjusting For Short-Handed or More Aggressive Games
Preflop most hands run relatively close in strength, which is unlike hold em where there are a number of scenerios where you may be a 70/30 or 80/20 favorite (or dog). Most commonly I believe you'll see 55/45 or so as the spread of percentages when comparing most hands against one another preflop in Omaha hi/lo.
While I don't have a ton of experience in short-handed or super aggressive games, I know enough to get by. Generally I try to avoid these since you have to make a lot more marginal decisions and it's not as easy a way to make your profit.
The book I'd recommend for learning more about aggressive games is Mike Capelleti's Omaha Hi/Lo Split Poker.
He discusses concepts like the "promo raise". Which is essentially where you are in a three-way pot and you have both a high and a low, but most likely are beat in each direction by your opponents.
You try to raise one of them out (provided your opponent doesn't have the nut in that direction of course) and thus "promote" your hand into a winner.
For example, you may have the A4 low and you're trying to get someone with another A4 or the A3 low to fold, promoting your hand into a winner for at least half the pot. And then perhaps your high holding may also beat the other player for a scoop (or vice versa, you try to push out the other player with a better high that isn't the nuts, and promote your high hand into a winner for half the pot)
I hope you've all enjoyed this series and look forward to seeing you at the tables!
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