Omaha will catch Hold'em in poker popularity
March 03, 2015 3:00 AM
by Robert Turner
I’ve been teaching my wife Patty how to play Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) this week, and it got me to thinking about the differences between PLO and Omaha High-Low, which I taught her how to play two years ago.
PLO is an entirely different game than Omaha High-Low because you have to manage the betting so as to draw as cheaply as possible or attack the pots aggressively as most European players do. The British have a perfect name for the game – pop it up or fold Omaha.
When you switch to Omaha from Hold’em, you’ll notice it has so much more gamble while at same time it’s a game of the nuts with backdoor outs, which creates a lot of action. Like any poker game, the best players will win the most money.
You must have more discipline in Omaha poker. Just because you have four private cards doesn’t mean you should play more hands.
Starting hand selection is a key feature of any poker game. My friend Greg Gensicki, a specialist in mixed games, puts it this way: “To the unsuspecting, it would seem every hand is playable. ‘How can I miss when I am getting four, count ‘em, four cards?!’ Years spent playing seven card stud instilled in me the importance of appropriate starting hand selection. The same holds true for Omaha.”
Greg continues, “Well coordinated hands (e.g. KQJT, T987) fare much better than uncoordinated ones (e.g. KQT6, T945). Coordinated suited and double suited hands can provide redraws for the win when your less discerning opponent has the same hand. They can be the difference between having a lowly open-ended straight draw or a powerhouse having 20-plus outs.”
Secondly, you want to get in the pot as cheaply as possible to see the flop. I like to say No-Limit Hold’em is played before the flop and PLO is played on the flop. Just like any poker game, you can expand your hands selection playing short-handed versus a full game.
Lastly, the real finesse of Omaha begins after the flop. Since it’s usually a multi-way pot, not only are you analyzing multiple hands and players, but you must decide how fast and furious you want to proceed. You must continuously evaluate what to do since so many changes occur in Omaha on every street.
As my friend Greg says, “Whereas Texas Hold’em is often a game of pairs and position, Pot-Limit Omaha is apt to be about straights, flushes and full houses due to each player holding four starting cards. Experienced Hold’em players new to the game quickly learn, to their chagrin, top pair top kicker doesn’t have the same value.”
In the book “Mastering Hold’em & Omaha Poker” by Mike Cappelletti, Mike Caro writes, “It would not be surprising if Omaha surpassed hold’em in popularity sometime within the next 40 years.”
I agree. I predict this is the year Omaha will explode in popularity, especially at the World Series of Poker this summer, where I believe the cash games will double in number. It took a while, but Omaha is growing on the West Coast faster than any other poker game.
Omaha has really grown in Southern California. The most popular game played is a mixed format of eight hands of Omaha High-Low and eight hands of High only. High only is a much easier transition from Hold’em than Omaha High-Low; it’s Hold’em on steroids.
In Los Angeles, PLO has quadrupled in the past year with more young players stepping up from No Limit Hold’em. It seems they are tired of coin-flip poker and want a better game to protect their money. Mastering Omaha will open lots of opportunities for your poker earning power.
As Cappelletti writes in his book, “For many players, it is much easier to win at Omaha than hold’em simply because few players play Omaha correctly. Even most decent-to-good Omaha players cost themselves money by playing incorrectly both before and after the flop.”
Every game has its learning curve. I recommend you read all you can on the subject then choose games with players entering many pots and raising a lot of hands. To get better, you have to practice.
Over the past three years I had the opportunity to teach my wife not only about Omaha but poker and that life. She made me look at poker through new eyes and fall in love with the game all over again.
I want to dedicate this article to my wife who has helped me take a long look at my poker career and help me put into words the experiences of playing for over 50 years.
Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry and is co-founder of Crown Digital Games. Twitter @thechipburnerRobert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.