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Omaha Starting Hand Rankings – Transitioning from Hold’Em

Posted by matthew dougal on

Omaha Starting Hand Rankings – Transitioning from Hold’Em

The high version of Omaha, and in particular the pot limit version, has become very popular. This popularity is likely due to it’s similarity to Texas Hold‘Em which shows no sign of losing its position as the worlds most popular poker variant. Due to this link many of the players now learning and playing pot limit Omaha are coming from a Texas Hold’Em background and as such are bringing with them a few misconceptions about Omaha hand rankings that are not helpful to their success. This article will tell you what to look for in Omaha starting hands as well as which rules of Hold’Em hold true in Omaha and which do not.

Good Hold’Em hand, Good Omaha hand?

The first problem Hold’Em players seem to have when assessing the strength of an Omaha starting hand is seeing good Hold’Em hands as good Omaha hands. A hand such as QQ72 with no suits might seem to equate to QQ in Hold’Em but in reality it is much less valuable. High pairs are still valuable (especially aces) but in Omaha you are looking for hands where all 4 cards are connected in some way.

Two Hold’Em hands do not make an Omaha hand!

Following on from our last point, hands such as AK88 with no suits might look like an attractive starting hand but actually it is really just two Hold’Em hands. The pair of eights is not connected in anyway with the Ace or King. This would change considerably if they were double suited or the eights were tens.

A hand like AJT9 double suited is much better then AK88 with no suits and in fact is ahead in pre-flop equity 58 to 42, despite having no pair and being outkicked when an ace comes.

Omaha – Holding your own outs

Imagine you are playing a Hold’Em hand and are holding a pocket pair and decide to go mining for that set. What if you knew that one of the cards that make you that set is already gone?

In Omaha you must use exactly two of your hole cards and you sometimes get dealt a hand where you are holding your own outs. Hands where you are dealt 3 (or 4) of a kind are examples of this. Say you are dealt JJJK single suited and are considering whether to call a raise. The fact is that part of the value in pairs also comes from hitting your set which is now half as likely, and on top of that your hand really only has 2 combos, JJ and KJ. Stay clear of these types of hand as they will have very low equity when facing a strong holding.

Hands where you hold 4 of the same suit also have less value then hands where you hold 2 of a suit. Not only will a flush draw appear less often but when it does you will have a lower chance of hitting it.

Omaha starting hand rankings

So far we’ve gone through some things that Hold’Em players should be aware of so they can avoid common mistakes but which hands are strong Omaha hands?

As you might expect aces is the best hand in terms of equity pre-flop but because Omaha is a four card game they can vary considerably in quality. It should be obvious that AAQJ double suited is better than AA72 with no suits, and indeed the former has a considerable equity advantage over the latter.

As you step down the ladder of premium pairs in Omaha their power as an over pair diminishes quicker than it does in Hold’Em and by the time you get down to queens you need to have other strength in your hand to make it playable. Hands such as QQJT and JJQK are much stronger than hands like QQ75 and JJK6.

Having connected or suited cards improves the strength of your hand and having both is excellent. A hand such as QJT9 double suited is a monster in Omaha due to its ability to hit many flops hard. It should also be noted that when you have a gap in your run down hands it is better to have the gap at the bottom. QJT8 is better than QT98 for example as you can hit more nut straights.

Omaha starting hand rankings summary

In Omaha you have four cards and must use exactly two. This means you are actually playing 6 combinations of 2 cards. The more of these combinations that are coordinated the better your hand’s equity will be. To get a more complete understanding of the equities of different hand match ups try using an online Omaha odds calculator.


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