NFL back to LA could bring new life to Omaha poker

February 02, 2016 3:08 AM
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40 years of observing OmahaI have been trying to get the world to play Omaha poker for the past 40 years. I have been playing the game for so long around the country and all over the world, and I have made a few observations I would like to share with new and beginning players of $4/$8 and $6/$12 Omaha Hi/Lo games.

I have spent the past year consulting with Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles to establish a $4/$8 Omaha Hi-Lo game and a $6/$12 Big O game. It has been successful so far, and the future looks even brighter, especially now that the St. Louis Rams announced they are moving back to Los Angeles to the Hollywood Park property.

Can you imagine 20,000 fans tailgating a few yards from these Omaha poker games? When legendary golfer Lee Trevino became eligible for golf’s Senior Tour, he said something to the effect that, “They just gave me the keys to the golden city!” He also said he had been waiting over 30 years for this chance. I feel the same way.

Now let’s talk about a few strategy tips that might help you. First, I believe it’s time for hold’em players to add Omaha to their arsenal.

For you hold’em players who look at Omaha as a foreign language, it’s just hold’em played with four cards in your hand.

Simply pick two of your four cards to make your best hand, just like in hold’em. In Big O, the only difference is you are dealt five cards, but you still must play only two of your five cards.

What really seems to confuse hold’em players is the concept of Omaha being “a game of the nuts,” meaning you don’t call on the river with the second or third best hand. The nuts is the nuts, and there is no guesswork. In hold’em you are never sure if your hand is strong enough; in Omaha you know exactly where you are. If you don’t have the nuts, fold.

A challenge for players transitioning from hold’em to Omaha is learning how to deal with the added element of the low in a split game. In order for the game not to have so many split pots, the qualification for the low hand is five cards lower than an eight. What that means is three cards below eight must be on the board, otherwise there is no low, and the high-side winner gets all of the pot.

Another challenging aspect when first learning Omaha Hi/Lo is the situation that often arises called “counterfeiting your low.” It’s confusing even for the best players, and it is even harder to write about. Say you are trying to make the lowest possible hand using your two best low cards, an ace and a deuce. If the board reads 3, 4, 5, you have a five card-straight or a “wheel,” the best possible low.

On the other hand, say you have the same ace deuce in your hand, and the board reads 5, 6, 8 and a deuce comes on the river, your deuce got counterfeited, and now you have a bad low.

Because of all of these possibilities, Omaha gives bad players many opportunities to chase and make mistakes, and Big O gives them even more. It is your job to capitalize on players’ weaknesses and tendencies.

There are two more tips I want to share for low-limit Omaha games. One is never raise pre-flop unless you have a premium hand like double ace, two, three, and you’re in position. Instead, save these chips to see the turn, then step up your game aggression. By raising pre-flop, you think you are pot building, but Omaha is entirely different from hold’em. Save your chips for monster hands that you’re a lock to win either part or all of the pot. My last tip is that although Omaha is called a game of the nuts, you can still bluff. If you are new to Omaha, just get in a game.

Why do you think Peyton Manning yells Omaha at the line of scrimmage?

He is trying to tell poker players especially holdem players change your game. You can even bet on the Super Bowl prop bets how many times he will yell Omaha.

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: @thechipburnerEmail: robertturner@gamingtoday.com.