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Making the move to Omaha

Nowadays it’s more obvious than ever: when it comes to nosebleed stakes online poker, PLO is where the real action is. PLO has overtaken NLH as the leading high stakes poker variant over the last couple of years, which means that if you want to roll with the big dogs, you will have to make the move sooner or later yourself.

If all these players like Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, Patrik Antonius and Cole South prefer PLO over NLH, there’s got to be a solid reason for it, right? Right. Although on the surface Omaha looks a lot like Holdem, below it, it’s everything but. The main difference between Omaha and Holdem is about the edges involved. Holdem tends to be a game with loads of black/white situations, If you start out with pocket rockets for instance, you’re a pretty big favorite against any of the other players, regardless of what they hold in the pocket. In such black and white situations, it’s easy to make the correct decision (although rookies do sometimes manage to botch even such straightforward moves).

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The interesting thing about Holdem is that the most successful players are not those who master black/white decision-making to perfection, but rather those who do well in the “grey area”. The grey area is where the big lay-downs and big calls are made. Believe it or not, there are people who can fold a hand on the short end of a perfect hand situation (and they do get cocky about it too shouting “I can dodge bullets” – you know who I’m talking about…), and there are people who can call an all-in with top pair over the other guy’s high card. It’s these people who are most successful in poker, not the ones who know to shove on A,A and to fold a 7,2o. The thing about Omaha is that the whole game is pretty much a grey area. The black and white parts characteristic of Holdem are missing. People who do well in the grey area in Holdem, do well in Omaha too. That pretty much explains why highly skilled professionals like Omaha more than Holdem: they rightfully consider that it’s a game where they’re fully capable of securing an advantage over most of their opponents.

In Omaha, you’re never too far ahead, nor too far behind. That doesn’t mean however that a solid player won’t enjoy a hefty advantage over a beginner at the Omaha tables. As a matter of fact, the advantage a skilled player will have over his less skilled opponent will be much bigger than any advantage he could secure at the Holdem tables.

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Omaha starting hands reflect this grey-area nature of Omaha too. In Holdem, the best starting hand (which is A,A) holds a massive over 80% advantage over the second best had (K,K). In Omaha, A,A,K,K, the best starting hand, carries odds of only 33% to win over the second best hand (A,A,T,J). Preflop equity is stretched out in Omaha, and in most cases it stays that way past the flop too. Omaha can indeed be beaten by a good player, but it will be a rough ride: the variance is truly shocking. If you keep an eye on the high stakes PLO action, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

What should you focus on as an Omaha beginner? Sign up for rakeback by all means. Poker rakeback will represent a point of stability in an ocean of variance for you if you do. A poker prop deal would work even better, but you can try just about any poker cashback setup: the results should be roughly the same.
Be extra keen on your starting hand selection: it’s much more important in Omaha than it is in Holdem. Learn the top 30 Omaha hands by heart and always remember that flush and straight possibilities in your starting hand carry more value than in Holdem.
You cannot afford to play weak starting hands in Omaha. The game of nuts as it’s also known, is particularly unforgiving with Holdem-based gamblers who like to play any starting hand. In Omaha, you’ll find it much too difficult to make up for your initial handicap.
Don’t be afraid to value-bet your hands. Because in Omaha you’ll come across more “perfect hand” situations than in Holdem, value betting your edges will be more profitable too. Also remember that if you do reckon you have a decisive edge, you need to protect it. With every player who stays in the hand past the flop, you’ll be going up against 4 drawing cards rather than 2.

Focus on controlling your losses. Of course, this is usually easier said than done, but you need to do your best to keep your downswings as small as possible. Grey area poker can be very hard on the nerves, so arm yourself with plenty of patience and be prepared to shrug off your frustrations.

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