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Omaha: Best Starting Hands

Best Omaha Starting-Hands
by Chad Holloway of Predictem.com

The best starting-hand in Omaha (not to be confused with Omaha eight-or-better) is generally regarded to be A-A-K-K double-suited (i.e. Ah-Ac-Kh-Kc). Omaha players believe this is the strongest hand because it has the potential to hit hands along the entire poker spectrum; that is, A-A-K-K double-suited provides opportunities to hit a royal flush, four-of-a-kind, full houses, flushes, straights, three-of-a-kind, and already has the advantage of giving a player top pair. In general, starting with two pairs double-suited is a quality Omaha hand, though the quality goes down as the pairs in the hand lower. For example, if A-A-K-K double-suited is heads-up against Q-Q-J-J double-suited (assuming the suits are different in each hand) there is a 63.38% chance that A-A-K-K will prevail compared to the Q-Q-J-J’s 36.62% chance.

Beginning with the best starting-hand in Omaha is very rare indeed (much rarer than starting with AA in Hold’em), so it is important to know which hands rank among the best.

Players often discuss and debate quality Omaha hands, usually based on preference or past experience; however, Omaha specialists tend to agree that the best hands are those that work together to provide you with multiple opportunities to hit the flop.

In a game where a straight or better tends to win, it is important to hold cards that have a significant chance of achieving just that. For example, Q-J-10-9 provides you with numerous straight possibilities if the flop comes down something along the lines of K-9-x, in which case you would make a straight with any Q, J, or 10. The value of this hand rises greatly if two of the cards share the same suit, but lowers if the cards are all of the same suit (which greatly reduces the likelihood of that suit showing up on the board) or different suits (in which case you have no possibility of making a flush).

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A hand such as 3-4-9-10 still provides you with straight draws, but not nearly as many as if the cards connect or are close to connecting; furthermore, if you do manage to have a straight or a draw with a hand like this, it is highly likely that someone else holds a higher straight, a better draw, or both. By closely examining the previous two hands more closely, you can get a better understanding of the advantage provided by holding connecting cards.

In heads-up play, and assuming all cards are of different suits so as to remove the flush possibility factor, Q-J-10-9 has a 59.19% chance of winning versus the 32.30% chance of 3-4-9-10 (with an 8.51% chance of a tie). This means that even though 3-4-9-10 can make the same straight as the other hand and can make a low straight, it is still a 2-1 dog to Q-J-10-9 which has numerous possibilities of making a mid to high straight, thus the power of connecting cards. Add to this suited cards, or double-suited cards, and you have a high-quality Omaha starting-hand.

In general, when determining quality starting-hands it is important to remember that Omaha is not a game often won with two-pairs. This means that a quality starting-hand contains cards that maximize your potential of making straights, flushes, full-houses, and even better hands.

As a rule of thumb assume that having suited cards (especially double-suited cards) increases your chances of winning compared to a hand with all (un)suited cards, connecting cards increase your chances compared to hands that provide few or no connections, and holding higher pairs provide you with a better chance of hitting a set or full house (although you should be aware that the smaller the pair, the higher the likelihood of running into a better set or full-house when you make such a hand).

Most of all, remember that Omaha is a drawing game, so make sure your starting hand provides you not only numerous draws, but quality draws as well!

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