Part 1 – General rules and the play before the flop
I have heard once that to play Omaha (play it good of course) you need to have the mind of a nuclear physicist. In fact it is a more complicated game than Hold'em and in brief, it looks as if we had a few two-card hands to choose from. It would sound great if our opponents didn't... . Omaha is a game in which you must assess the value of you cards immediately as well as try to predict the hands of other players, and possible hands that they can receive before the flop, on the flop, on the turn and the river. You must also know the number of your out's, try to predict what hand your opponents are trying to draw for, and when to raise while you have the Nuts. It is also essential to know how to manage your bankroll, when to bluff, and calculate the pot odds. You should assess your opponents, their abilities and skills, as well as monitor the cards on the table. All that at once. In other words, there are plenty of activities that you have to undertake at any given moment during the game.
It looks like you have to be just like Albert Einstein, but does it really? In my opinion, you don't. On the contrary. Just knowing a few basic rules and being disciplined as well as being a good observer of your opponents, you may make Omaha a profitable source of income. Perhaps that's why it looks so complicated (and it is such). Why? Because it's easier to have advantage over an average player in the game that is more complicated than one that is much simpler. Here are a few pieces of information, which will help you to better understand Omaha secrets... .
A short explanation first. I'm neither a genius nor the best Omaha player in the world. I've read a lot about it in books (I especially recommend the chapter in SSII by Lyle Berman and Phil Hellmuth's “Play Poker Like the Pros”) and analyzed the game myself while playing it. There are no secrets here; you will receive a set of information that will help you with your game, at least in my opinion.
For those less experienced, I will remind a few rules of the game. We will be talking only and exclusively about Omaha High Pot Limit. The word “high” means that the high hand wins, which is the opposite of Hi-Lo, where both the high and low hands win. Pot Limit means that the amount of betting is limited to the amount of pot. In my opinion both Omaha High Limit and no limit are pointless. The pot limit seems to be too complicated but it's easy to learn it even for those who are extremely lazy to do so. They may still play the game online where a computer will make all the calculations for them. It comes down to the following: to bet the amount of pot plus your own standard bet.
If you play pot limit 1-2 and it is your turn to make the first move and you want to raise, you have to make the following calculation: 1+2 (Blinds already in the pot) plus your call at 2 (1+2+2) plus your raise by 5. If a next player wanted to raise by the amount of the pot, he would have to call at 7 and raise it by 7, for a total of 14. The pot would be equal to 21. Simple? Of course not always you have to raise by the entire pot, sometimes you can call or fold. And now the Omaha rules: players are dealt 4 cards each, out of which they can use only 2. There are 5 communal cards placed on the table that are shared by all the players. Each player can use only 3 communal cards. This means that four Clubs among the communal cards and one Club in our pocket hand don't produce a Flush. Similarly, four Aces on the table don't give you Four of a Kind. Players who have some experience with Texas Hold'em very often forget that.
Many players have problems with assessing the value of their hand that they are dealt before the flop. Since you get four cards, you may think that every game is worth of trying. Of course nothing can be further from the truth. Like in Texas Hold'em, you will fold without any hesitation hands like 7-2, 8-3, Q-2 (assuming that the game is tight) the same in Omaha you may fold your hand without any hesitation. Remember that you get four cards but you can use only 2 of them. What does it mean? It means that in fact you will have six different two-card hands at your disposal. What type of hand should you be looking forward to in Omaha then before the flop? Such, which in the end may produce the most favorable combinations. If you see a hand that consists of K-8-6-2, all of which belonging to different suits, you have to consider what possible combinations you may get in the end. Correspondingly K-8, K-6, K-2, 8-6, 8-2 and 6-2.
Does it look promising? I don't think so. Unless you get Four of a Kind (e.g. 6-6-6 on the table) or a Full House (e.g. 8-8-6 on the table; which still might be a losing hand if one of the players has an Eight and a card higher than Six for a pair with his kicker), your cards aren't worth a lot. Note that only 2 hands on the table (5-7-9 and 4-5-7) will give you the highest Straight. It is a different story if you have A-A-K-Q double suited, for example, Ah-As-Kh-Qs. Now you can calculate how many out's you have. In other words you have to look for a hand, which can produce many combinations that stand a chance of winning. Sometimes your hand may be spoiled by just 1 card, for instance, K-Q-J-2, which in fact spells K-Q, Q-J, K-J, because hands like K-2, Q-2, J-2 are mostly useless.
Most players like hands like J-T-9-8 or 8-7-6-5, combinations of pairs: J-J-10-10, K-K-Q-J or A-x suited, for instance Ah-Ts-9h-8d. You have to also remember that because of the Omaha nature, high pairs lose a little bit of the value. A good player will without any hesitation discard K-K-8-3 before the flop, because in Omaha it's not a very valuable hand. Omaha is the game of Nuts and Nut-draws. A high pair in 99% will not win the pot. If you have J-J-6-2 and on the flop you'll see K-J-10 (2 cards suited) and there's a big bet posted plus a call or a raise, your pair of Jacks will probably need a lot of help to win.
Because in Omaha you play 6 different hands, with which you can win in many different ways, you don't have exactly the same situation as in Hold'em where certain pre-flop hands have a gigantic advantage over others (for example, A-A against 8-2 off). Here no combination has a greater advantage than 65 to 35. A pot limit will add additional restriction – before flop it is not easy to considerably cut the number of players in the game. Remembering that there are 6 combinations in each player's hand, you realize how complicated the game really is.
The only hand that you want to get all-in before the flop is like in Hold'em a pair of Aces. Of course it's also better to have A-A-K-Q double suited than A-A-7-2, because it so often happens it's those 2 cards that win the game for us. Each hand consisting of Aces has an advantage over those without. Sometimes this advantage is not that great but it's always there. Of course, we're talking about a pre-flop game. After the flop, discarding Aces should not be a problem if the communal cards are disadvantageous. Players who are obsessed about their hands lose most of the time. They may get A Flush without an Ace, a Straight that is not the Nuts, or a low Full House. Those are hands that most frequently lose in Omaha. You have to know when to quit. So-called calling stations (players who call to the bitter end in Hold'em) are dream opponents in Omaha.
Since you know that Aces are the best cards before the flop, there comes a question of how to play them. Especially when there is a Pot Limit restriction. According to Phil Hellmuth, there is a very simple rule there: “don’t raise with Aces, reraise!”. The first raise in Pot Limit Omaha is usually very small and it will not scare a great number of players away. If you are in early position and you double the pot, the pot is still very small and you'll find a few eager players who will want to call, and your Aces will have a difficult task ahead of them. If you call first and wait for someone to raise, then a reraise will have a much bigger impact. Generally, you should reraise any time when you are in a late position and there are a number of players in a game. If despite of a huge reraise some players continue to play, then you have to be prepared to double the pot when your turn comes regardless of what cards have come on the flop. It is a very difficult task but you will benefit from it in the long run. Remember that it is your opponent who's got more difficult task. If one of you opponents calls after the flop, you will have to start to play extremely carefully. At this point a lot depends on how well you know your opponents and how they play. It's probably easy to guess what tactics is used against players with Aces or other strong hand who decided to reraise before the flop. On average, these bets will not be very high, that's why you have to be prepared for a greater number of calls than in Hold'em. Of course, it's always better to call when your hand has a great potential: J-T-9-8, Ah-7h-J-J or Q-Q-T-T. Later on, on the flop you should be able to assess whether your hand is worth anything. However if you are playing only against one opponent whose play suggests that he's got a pair of Aces, the strength of your hand considerably goes up on the flop. If you are sure that these are Aces that you're up against (a single opponent), there's a pretty good chance that you might win with a low Flush or Straight. Remember that sometimes you may take your chances and call a big reraise together with a few other callers, even with at first weak hand. It is possible that some players who have called will use the same out's. As a result, the strength of hands like 7-7-6-5 or 6-6-5-5 goes up. But this is a you're right or you're wrong type of play.
Now when you know what to be looking for and how to play before the flop, it's time to get to actual play on the flop. The real game is about to begin.