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Up to this article we’ve filled your head with concepts, advice about general strategy, and mathematical parameters of the game. We’ve shown you how to calculate the odds you’ll need to make common decisions — the kind that come up all the time in Omaha games. But we’ve been overarching in our view, painting with a broad brush, and we did that for a purpose: to put the game into a perspective that allows you to get the overall picture, and to provide a framework for you to think about as you analyze your play. But there comes a time when one must cut to the chase, and this is it. In the next few chapters, we’re going to get right down to the nub of the game by providing specific advice you can use to quickly improve your play.
While your authors are dead set on developing your own analytic capabilities so that you can quickly and effectively react to changing situations as they occur during the play of a hand, we’re going to give you very specific advice about how to play in certain situations, and also provide a set of starting hands you can use in any Omaha game. We hope your play improves to the point that you can creatively and profitably deviate from these standards on occasion, but for those readers who are Omaha newbies, and for those who may have some experience at the game but have never studied it before, we suggest you stick to the recommendations we provide until you know them cold. After all, if you were learning to play the saxophone, you’d spend a long time playing scales and playing tunes exactly as written before thinking you were as good as Charlie Parker and able to improvise and play jazz with the best of them.
People play Omaha for a variety of reasons, and as you begin to understand this, you’ll see that profitable opportunities abound in this game, perhaps more so than in any other popular form of poker. Some play Omaha because it gives them an opportunity to exercise the mind. After all, there are more variables in Omaha because there are more cards. There are more decisions to make in the game, particularly if you’re playing Omaha/8, and you have to assess your chances of winning the high side of the pot, the low end of it, or scooping all of it.
With hold’em as popular as it is, play in that game, at least, has improved. If you have a table full of Omaha players, it’s a pretty good bet that most have had extensive experience playing hold’em and have a pretty good sense of that game. At the higher limits, such as $15-$30; $20-$40, this is particularly true. Fortunately for you, that skill at hold’em hasn’t always transferred well to Omaha.
You’ll find outstanding hold’em players even at the $4-$8 level. If you were to rate players on a scale from one to ten, the average score at a hold’em table would probably exceed that of an Omaha game at similar betting limits. So if you really learn to play Omaha well, you’ll find yourself with a distinct advantage because your competition is likely to be much softer than in hold’em games. Moreover, most Omaha players seem to think they know the game cold. Just ask them. Why is this so? Perhaps it’s because they’re simply unaware of what they don’t know. And awareness is the first step to learning. After you’ve studied the game, you’ll have a big edge over those who are blind to their own deficiencies.
Having said all that, the biggest reason people play Omaha gives you significant opportunity to win money at it. Many, many players prefer Omaha because it gives them an opportunity — or an excuse, if you will — for playing more hands. If you’re skeptical, try this little experiment and see for yourself: Just stand behind a hold’em player — anyone who looks like he knows what he’s doing will suffice — and out of 30 hands dealt, count how many he plays. Now watch a similar Omaha game and count the number of hands typically played there. We’re betting that the Omaha players will wind up playing more hands than the hold’em players — many more, in some cases.
Ask a poker player why he or she plays and you’ll usually hear something about winning money. But that’s really not the truth. Most people just like to play. They love the action. They crave the competition. They like the mental gymnastics associated with poker, whether those gymnastics are mathe- matical. psychological, or some combination of both. And since they love the adrenalin rush of warfare, the struggle for each and every pot. they hate to fold a hand and sit on the sidelines. Because they’re enthralled with the excitement of the game, the more opportunities they have to actually play the game, rather than just watch, the greater the thrill.
In hold’em. you’re initially dealt one two-card combination. In Omaha your four starting cards yield six two-card combinations. Even if your cards aren’t related, you can always get lucky with all those combos and make two pair or even a full house. That’s why people play Omaha: they want to play more hands. And this is your opportunity come calling: your chance as an educated, savvy, and disciplined Omaha player to take profitable advantage of this situation. Since your competition is looking for any excuse to play a hand, you should look for reasons to fold marginal hands and ways to capitalize on your good ones. The idea is to win more money with your best hands while losing less on those doomed to be second or third best. And most importantly, you want to put yourself in a position to scoop pots whenever you can.
For winners, Omaha is a game of scoops, not a game of splits. We’ve said that before and we’ll keep repeating this mantra until it’s ingrained into your head and into your playing style as well. Consistent Omaha losers are usually happy to split a pot, thinking that proves they’re doing something right. And their egos seem to be bigger than those of their hold’em counterparts too. Those who play Omaha/8 on a regular basis tend to believe they’re much better than they actually are. Hold’em players just seem to have a better sense of their own skill level. You should take full advantage of this distinction. As you develop the skills discussed on this site, you’ll not only play better than the competition, but also be better able to evaluate, modify, correct, and improve your own play.