Hand Selection in Fixed Limit Omaha H/L
by Daniel Johnson of Predictem.com
Hand selection and discipline always go hand in hand and are keys to success in all limit poker games. Omaha H/L is no exception. This is a game where you want to play hands that can scoop pots or play to the nuts of at least one half of the pot. There are probably more showdowns in this game than any other, so you need to make sure you have a hand worth showing down once you get to the end.
When I say discipline is important concerning hand selection, what I mean is you need to understand the potential value of your hand and don't force your way into pots with mediocre holdings. In games like no-limit hold 'em, good players can get away with playing weak hands because they can make up for it with their ability to bluff opponents and represent stronger hands. Like I said earlier, there will almost always be a showdown in Omaha H/L since there are two pots to fight for and also since it is a fixed limit game where players can get to the end of the hand more cheaply. Since showdowns are so frequent, bluffing opponents out of pots and winning uncontested pots pre-flop is a rarity. Most of the time you will be up against multiple opponents who will likely chase draws and call with weak pairs.
This game being loose, however, can only be looked at as a good thing. If you hand select well you can make good money in this game. You have to come in strong and be aggressive when you have the best of it, but be able to give up on the hand if you aren't drawing to at least the nuts for half of the pot.
If you're going to try for a flush, you better have the nut flush draw and if you are aiming for the low half of the pot, you are going to need the nut low draw. Aces are extremely valuable in this game as they play both high and low, so really strong hands are going to include suited aces and low cards like 2s and 3s.
Think of your Omaha H/L hand as a 4-man team. You want it to work well together. Each card, or member of the team, should contribute to you making the nuts for half or all of the pot. Hands like A 2 4 5 are great because there are a lot of flops where you can make both nuts, especially if you have a suited ace, and scoop the pot.
Chopping the pot is nice when there are many opponents sticking in to the end, but your goal should be to win the entire pot. That's why hands like AAK10 are not as good as they look. They are good to see flops with because they do have a decent chance to win high, but remember this is limit. Many players will call pre-flop and diminish your chances. If the flop comes low you have to be able to let go of this type of hand even if you have an overpair. It's better to have draws in this game because of the number of players that will showdown. One of them is likely to crack you. Another thing to think about before playing high-only hands is that there are 8 cards that qualify for low while there are only 5 high cards. This means the likelihood of the flop containing low cards is much higher.
Then there are the sucker hands. Middle cards are absolutely terrible in this game and will lose you a lot of money in the long run. Hands like 7 8 9 10 look pretty nice, especially when they are suited, but they only lead to disaster. These hands will almost never win low and even if you make a middle straight, you are always vulnerable to higher straights, higher flushes and boats down the line. If you are in a heads-up pot, it's a different story, but like I said earlier, this doesn't happen much in Omaha H/L. People look at their hand and see possibilities, kinda like your 7 8 9 10, but many people that play these hands end up getting scooped.
Another common mistake in this game concerning hand selection is playing hands like A 4 9 10. People look at this hand and think: Well, I could make a pretty good low or maybe a straight with my 9 10. Remember, your cards are a team. What is the 9 going to do for the 4? They can't help each other at all. And many times players get trapped going for the second or third best low between players going for the nut low and nut high. Let's say the flop comes 2 6 K. You have the second best low draw here and really no chance at high. This is a pretty bad spot because the best you can do is get half and a large portion of the time you might get stuck in between two players raising, one will have something with A 3 and the other will probably have a set. What will happen is you will get pot committed and end up losing a ton of bets when you could have just folded the hand pre-flop and lost nothing, except maybe your blind.
Omaha H/L is not a complex game, so don't make it so. The game all starts with hand selection. After that, it is about figuring out where you are after the flop and if you want to continue to the end or not. There will be virtually zero spots where you will be folding on the turn if you called on the flop, just because of pot odds and the possibilities to make some kind of winning hand for half of the pot. So you want to be drawing to the nuts or better yet, already have it. And believe me you will make it more times than not if you chose your starting hands wisely. Just stay patient and wait for good cards. Then punish your loose opponents when you get them.
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If, after the first twenty minutes, you don't know who the sucker at the table is, it's you.
Cards are war, in disguise of a sport. ~Charles Lamb
Poker's a day to learn and a lifetime to master. ~Robert Williamson III
Most of the money you'll win at poker comes not from the brilliance of your own play, but from the ineptitude of your opponents. ~Lou Krieger