PLO has obviously emerged as the game of the big boys in recent years. All the high-profile online poker players with money to burn play PLO these days, and there’s a good reason why they do so. It’s not just that these guys seek to do something new, something different from the masses (although that may be part of the deal too), it’s much more likely that they choose PLO over NLH because they believe they can play most opponents with an edge in PLO. Tom Dwan for one certainly thinks so. He said numerous times (he said it when he issued his famous – and by now infamous – million dollar challenge too) that he felt he had an edge over everyone else at the PLO tables. Obviously, most people playing $500/$1,000 PLO think so too. There was no better illustration of the fact that some players are indeed right to think they’re better than others at PLO than Isildur1’s ill-fated 2009 nosebleed stakes run. The mystery Swede took the online poker elite by surprise (Dwan himself never managed to rebound from the initial punch he took from the Swede), but as soon as they got to study his style of play, they relieved him of all his wins sending him right back into obscurity.
Why such a lengthy rant on Omaha’s newfound popularity? Because the above paragraph answers the question that should be first on the minds of all those thinking about taking up Omaha: Why play Omaha? The reason you should play Omaha is that if you pay a little bit of attention and get a few things right as far as strategy is concerned, you’ll probably be better at it than close to 90% of those playing it. Of course, I’m not taking about the nosebleed stakes here. There’s much stauncher opposition on that level.
First thing’s first when it comes to PLO: in order to be able to read the board properly, you need to remember the most basic rule: you can only use exactly two cards from your pocket hand and exactly 3 off the board to make your 5–card showdown hand. I know you’ll tell me that’s obvious, but as obvious as it is, that is where most beginners slip up. Sure, it’s nice to contemplate all the additional possibilities that the four instead of two pocket cards open up, but please, stay focused and only consider 2 cards from your pocket whenever the flop lands and you assess your hand.
Take a step back and re-assess the importance of starting hand selection. Also known as the game of the nuts, Omaha is highly dependent on the cards you pick up in the beginning. In Holdem, the differences between starting hands are immense. Pocket rockets are huge favorites over pocket Ks. In Omaha, the best starting hand (A,A,K,K double suited) is only a marginal winner over the second best hand (A,A,10,J – also double suited), because of all the redraw possibilities. In Omaha, the edges you’re working with are much smaller, therefore you will simply not be able to afford to play any lousy starting hands. Conversely, if you stick to proper starting hand selection, you’ll have a huge edge over someone who doesn’t.
Take full advantages of the edges you have on the flop. In Omaha, securing an overwhelming advantage on the flop is rare, whenever you feel you’re there, take full advantage of it and value-bet the lights out.
The single best Omaha advice for beginners: only play extremely strong starting hands, and sign up for a rakeback deal at Rakemeback.com for crying out loud. Given that your Omaha edges will be much smaller than your Holdem ones, you’ll need that rakeback deal badly. If you feel you’re up to it, go for a poker prop deal. Many poker rooms have player shortages on their Omaha tables and they’ll be more than glad to accept your application.
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