Come in with Omaha poker battle plan

Aug 14, 2012 3:09 AM

When you enter the battle for an Omaha high-low pot, you must be fully armed for the upcoming fray. Fate may dictate the cards you’re dealt, but its role stops there. You are the one who must decide whether your cards are strong enough to enter the battle.

Some Omaha high-low hands have a much higher expectancy for success than others. For example, A-2-3-4 has a far better chance of winning than K-Q-8-8 (which you should almost never play), because it has the potential for winning both the low and the high.

Eddie-Q will play no hand unless it contains an A-2 suited to another wheel card. He waits a lot, yes, but he also wins consistently at low-limit Omaha high-low poker.

Expert Omaha high-low players look for a hand in which all four cards work together as a team, similar to the teamwork of a baseball club. If the shortstop misses the ball, the center fielder is there to back him up. But subtract one of the nine players and the team cannot compete at its highest level.

Similarly, when you enter the contest with a hand such as K-Q-J-3, your team of cards is missing an important fourth connector and is handicapped from the get-go. Only three cards work together and the hand has no low draw. In Championship Omaha, T.J. Cloutier calls a hand with one card that doesn’t work with the others a dangler. 

“It’s dangling off the roof,” he says.

And you’ll be stranded on the roof without a ladder if you continually play danglers. 

Ideally, your four cards will contain both a high draw and a low draw. For example, the mighty As-Kh-2s-3h arms you with multiple layers of armor: two high flush draws, one of which is the nuts; one high straight draw, including a nut straight; the wheel draw, which can capture the entire pot; and even top two pair.

Your hand must fit the cards the dealer flops. For example, suppose you’re dealt three low cards with a high kicker. Then the flop comes with two high cards that don’t pair your high card or give you a flush draw. Your hand does not fit the flop and you should fold it.

Always ask yourself, “What kind of flop am I looking for?” If you have Ad 3d 4s Qc, your answer will be, “I need a diamond-flush draw and two low cards that include a deuce.” That way, you’ll have a draw to both ends of the high-low spectrum.

The value of Omaha high-low hands is also influenced by table position, because players who act last have the advantage over players who must act first. Prosperous poker players do not come in up front with weak hands in either Texas hold’em or Omaha high-low because front position weaklings cannot tolerate bullies who mistreat them by raising, re-raising, or capping the pot.

(Shane Smith is the author of Omaha High-Low: How to Win at the Lower Limits, and Beat Texas Hold’em).