Omaha vs Holdem: Key Differences You Can’t Ignore if You Want to Win

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Omaha and Texas Hold ’em are, in essence, very similar. But the fact that you get two extra cards in PLO adds a whole new dimension of strategy and fun.

In this article, we will compare the key strategic factors you have to consider to be successful in Omaha, especially if you come from a No-Limit Hold ’em background:

  1. Hand Selection
  2. Hand Value

Because you have two less cards in Texas Hold ’em, draws are very limited, and even low made hands can win at showdown. Having four hole cards in your hand (or more in some variations) make Omaha a big drawing game, where non-made hands can realize their equity on the turn or river.

This is one of the main reasons why variance is so big, and could have a massive impact on your bankroll in comparison to NLHE.

In Texas Hold ’em, the win rates are about half as high as in 4-card Omaha, even though the equities run a lot closer in Omaha. People are making mistakes, deviating from GTO, or getting exploited much more drastically than in NLHE. 

Of course there is some variance involved, but your opponents are making repetitive mistakes that are easier to spot. 

In Omaha it’s harder to understand when you make mistakes because the equities run closer than in Hold ’em, and this makes improving harder for people that are not working with poker tools such as solvers.

1. Hand Selection

One of the most common mistakes Omaha beginners make, even if they are experienced in other forms of poker, is their preflop hand selection.

Most players start off by playing way too many hands. 

Equities run closer in Omaha than in Texas Hold ’em, but it’s no reason to play more hands. In Omaha, equity does not equal to your expected value. 

A lot of hands can seem playable because they look connected, or they have a suit. It’s easy to believe that your hand can enter the pot in a lot of situations when in reality this is absolutely not the case.

Preflop is king in Omaha.

When you have the correct preflop strategy you will end up with a stronger hand postflop, which will make your decisions much easier.

There are over 270,000 hand combinations in Omaha compared to 1,326 in Hold ’em, so knowing more about one hand is not as important as learning more about the overall patterns from groups of hands.

You have to have a lot of different components in your hand to be able to enter the pot. Instead of focusing too much on individual hand combinations, learn the main hand characteristics by heart (rated best to worst).

Connectedness

A connected starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha with no gaps.1. Connected (no gaps)

A connected starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha with 1 gap.2. Connected (1 gap)

A connected starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha with 2 gaps.3. Connected (2 gaps)

A disconnected starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha.4. Disconnected

Suitedness

A double-suited starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha.1. Double-Suited

A single-suited starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha.2. Single-Suited

A trip-suited starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha.3. Trip-Suited

A rainbow starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha.4. Rainbow

Ranks

A high-ranked starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha.1. High Ranks

A mid-ranked starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha.2. Medium Ranks

A low-ranked starting hand in 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha.3. Low Ranks

In the following video, JNandez makes a comparison of preflop combinatorics between Texas Hold ’em and 4-card Omaha.

Nuttiness

It’s important to always be aware of the fact that nuttiness, or the potential to have the highest-ranking hand, plays a an even higher role in Omaha. Being able to have the nuts on the flop, turn, or river is extremely important in many of the situations you can encounter.

If you are drawing to the nuts, you are the one that is capable of inflating the pot, instead of having to do pot control and playing cautiously.

You want to be the one that has the Ace-high suit, instead of the King- or Queen-high suit. You want to be the one that has the highest straight instead of the mid or low straight. You want to be the one that flops the overpairs, instead of the underpairs.

You want to be the one that is dominating your opponents, and not the one being dominated.

The best starting hands in PLO

The best preflop hands have the highest rated hand characteristics: connected with no gaps, double-suited, and the highest card ranks. You want to dominate your opponents by having the nuttiness factor: the highest value and double suits to outdraw them in numerous situations.

Aces will by far earn you the most money. But keep in mind, there is a big range between Aces with good characteristics and Aces with bad ones. Having double-suited connected Aces with high ranks is very different than rainbow disconnected Aces with low ranks.

Additionally, preflop hand strength is not set in stone in Omaha. You have to take the context into consideration. Elements like position, ranges, stack sizes, and players in the pot should influence your evaluation. 

This is a fundamental strategic concept known as calibration.

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2. Hand Value

Preflop Equities

In Omaha, Preflop equities run much closer to each other than in NLHE.

Even though Aces and Kings are favored, they don’t push a ton of equity preflop against any other hand like they do in Hold ’em. They have a lot of equity against disconnected, marginal hands, but even there, it’s unlikely that they have more than 65% equity.

Having two extra cards in your hand makes a huge difference. It’s very rare for one hand to have more than 65% equity preflop, and often it will be around 50%/50% or 55%/45%.

Drawing Hands

Drawing hands can be huge favorites over made hands.

In Omaha, non-made hands that have potential can actually be big equity favorites over made hands. Having additional components backing up your hand is extremely important.

Made hands can be overplayed and overvalued if you don’t really understand how draw-heavy the board is. Be cautious with your bets, as you don’t want to put a lot of money in a hand you could end up losing in the river.

Showdown

You need stronger hands to win at showdown in Omaha

  • Overpairs are much weaker

    Overpairs in NLHE are often strong, but in Omaha they are extremely vulnerable and should have a backup in almost any scenario, like straight draws or flush draws.

  • Small flushes should be played carefully

    If you have a flush in Hold ’em, there’s almost no scenario where you’re going to fold. In Omaha that is not the case, and you should be cautious and play them passively. Your opponent also has 4 cards, and it’s very likely that they could have a higher flush draw.

  • Straights are more vulnerable on flushed or paired boards

    In NLHE, straights are strong even if there is a flushed or paired board. In Omaha that’s not the case, you have to watch out and play carefully and selectively.

Conclusion

Omaha is a big drawing game, and being selective with your starting hands pays off.

Make sure your hands always have different characteristics, like connectivity, pairs and suits. And when your made hands don’t have backups, be careful not to be too aggressive.

In Omaha, low ranked hands are more vulnerable, as they can be easily dominated by better combinations.

And most of all, never overestimate the value of your hand.

Luuk
I am always curious about learning more about the game and really enjoy diving deep into the strategic parts of it. I work together with the PLO Mastermind as one of the coaches, and I am the person behind the PLO Mastermind quizzes.

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