Limit Omaha for the high is a bit of a chicken raffle. Few authors have bothered writing strategy, simply because luck is such an enormous factor. Omaha is best played pot limit (but even then, some players wonder how much real value there is in the game at the end of the day). But here are some good pointers for you to consider about Omaha high.
POCKET ACES IN THE HOLE LOSE THE LARGEST NUMBER OF POTS
Whenever a player wins a big pot, his main opponent is more likely to have pocket aces in the hole than any other hand. This is not to say that pocket aces are a losing hand… far from it!
However, you must honestly evaluate your chances of winning a pot with aces unimproved, especially against a large field. If you have A-A-K-9 and the board is K-Q-8-7-5 it can seem rather innocuous and you may think that there is a good chance of winning the pot with an unimproved overpair, even though there is a remote chance that someone runner-runner’d a straight. But in actual fact, you’ll find yourself on the losing end of many pots in this spot – usually because one opponent (at least) will have two pair.
So in my view, you should be rather nonchalant about pocket aces in the hole. However, there are three situations where playing pocket aces aggressively is warranted.
1) When there is a low pair on the board. If the flop is 3-3-9, then pocket aces is a good chance of both being in front and still being the best hand on the river.
2) You hit a set: This is fairly obvious – play trip aces aggressively.
3) When you have a draw to go with your over pair. For example, if you have Ad-Ac-10c-6s and the flop is Kc-Jd-8c, then it is worth playing fast because you may hit a flush, a straight or alternatively, you win the pot unimproved (or by forcing a smaller two pair to fold with your aggressiveness).
But most importantly, you should never get caught paying off bets and raises with pocket aces unimproved. It’s simply too dangerous when every opponent has four hole cards to work with.
PLAY SMALL FLUSHES AGGRESSIVELY FROM THE OUTSET
If you happen to flop a flush, it is critically important for you to play it as fast as possibly on the flop. There are two critical reasons for doing this. First, if you are the only player in the pot with a flush, another suited card on the turn or river will not ruined you hand (as it would in hold’em). Therefore, if you can establish that you are the only one in the pot with a flush, it doesn’t matter whether you have an ace-high flush or an 8-high flush and therefore, you should play both the same way. The only danger from then on is if the board pairs.
Second, if you are beaten, you want to know as soon as possible. By betting fast, you will encourage someone with a bigger flush to play back at you and as a result, you’ll be able to make a better assessment of your hand’s prospect of success.
The worst thing to do with a small flush in Omaha is to simply check and call. It will usually produce the least favourable outcome.
FLOPPING THREE PAIRS
This is a rather uncommon topic to address, but one that often causes intense debate amongst Omaha players: how do you play three pairs on the flop? You may be scratching your head wondering exactly how you can have three pairs in a five card game. Well this is what we mean: You start with A-Q-J-8 and the flop is Q-J-8. That is a three-pair hand!
Now there is some simple mathematics that applies to this situation. You have nine outs to make a full house. Therefore, if you think that you are behind (for example, if you think your opponent flopped a straight when you flopped three pair), then you have the same amount of outs as you do when you have a flush draw.
But Omaha is a game of many hands and the following are a few factors to consider in your approach:
a) Does the flop give someone a potentially better hand? Making three pairs on K-8-2 is terrific because you know that there aren’t any straights or flushes out against you. As a result, your top two pair may be the strongest hand and you may not need to improve upon that to win the pot. But if you make three pair on a flop of 10-J-Q or Ah-9h-8h, you are in a fairly vulnerable position and I would be inclined to give it up on the turn, if not the flop. This hand is most valuable when it is a good chance to win without improvement.
b) Will your opponents check the turn if you call the flop? This requires some analysis of your opponent. But let’s say the flop is Ah-9h-8h and you have A-K-9-8 in the hole. Your opponent bets. If you think that he will check to you on the turn if you call the flop (ie… playing it safe), then it is worth calling because you may well get a free card to improve to a full house.
c) Is your opponent showing a great deal of aggression on an innocuous flop? While K-8-2 might be a terrific flop for A-K-8-2 most of the time, beware of those occasions where one opponent is ramming and jamming. If there is no clear hand or strong draw that he could have, my usually assumption is that he has flopped set. As a result, I’ll be looking to get away from my three pair as soon as possible.
d) Overcards are killers. If you have Q-J-9-7 and the flop is Q-9-7, there is no reason to believe that you don’t have the best hand. But if the turn is an ace or a king, I would usually give up. Not only is there a chance that you’re behind, there’s also the possibility that he has one of your outs locked up. For instance, if he had A-K-10-9 and the turn is a K, then a repeat 9 on the river will give him a better full house that you.
So in short, you can play three pairs on the flop when the conditions are correct. But I certainly don’t want to take them into an uphill battle with me (ie.. I have to improve to a full house to win the pot).
Now it is true that, if you flop top set against a straight or flush, you only have eight outs instead of nine. However, if the turn card doesn’t help your improve your set to a full house, you have at least improved from eight outs to eleven, whereas, with three pair, you still have only nine outs on the turn. Furthermore, top set will win unimproved in the event that your opponent does not have a straight or flush, but two pair may not necessarily win unimproved in the same circumstances.