When I first started to play Omaha coming from a Hold em back ground it seemed to me that the nature of a four card hand was different then the nature of two a card hand. It seemed that at a very basic elementary level I had to adjust the way I looked at the cards. Someone said whenever you get two good hold em hands that you should play, while this helped, it seemed to lack.

We know in Holdem that AA is better then KK, because AA has a better weight then KK. It is also very obvious that AA is better then KK in Holdem. But with Omaha nothing is that obvious. So how do you know a good Omaha hand from a bad one?

3 Answers 3


If one is a hold em player, after playing Omaha as a serious student for a time you will notice that with starting hands you will be playing less hands than in Holdem, and if you are playing 8 or better you will be playing even less hands then in Omaha high.

Omaha is a drawing game. It is rare for pocket pairs to win straight out at showdown. Big pairs really do not have enough value to make a hand all by them selves. Indeed any two holdem cards that may rank well on a starting range table, do not have enough value by themselves to give positive expectation to an Omaha hand.*

*Comments about expectation are general, things like if your playing limit or PLO, or the nature of your opponents that would effect EV are not within the scope of the question. I am using the term EV (Expected Value) loosely, as a ratio of value between hands, rather then the more standard way that assigns a actual money value to a hand.

The EV of all Omaha hands falls within a much narrower range then the EV of all holdem hands. The EV of the worst starting hand in holdem is more negative than the worst starting hand in Omaha and the EV of the best starting hand in Holdem is more positive then the EV of the best starting hand in Omaha.

On the flop the lose of EV is more pronounced then it is in holdem. In holdem you don't often hit or miss a flop with some hands like big pairs, or you may hit a flop with middle pairs and back door outs. Missing a flop in Omaha you are virtually drawing dead. Hitting weak you are generally drawing much thinner then you would be with Holdem. In other words what ever cards you have in your hand need to have a stronger piece of the flop in Omaha then in Holdem.

Whatever that piece of the flop is, the real quality of an Omaha hand unlike most holdem hands, is determined by what that hand can become, and what those cards in your hand defend against other players cards becoming.

To give you a simple example: your hand is 9945. Flopping a set of nines with the flop 789, is not really that good of a hand. Your straight draw is worthless, it is a gut shot and your drawing to the bottom end. If their are any suites on the flop, more players have cards to beat you. If the game is eight or better your value is even less.

Lets consider why you might play this hand as a holdem player. You have two reasonable holdem hands, pocket nines and 4-5. Pocket nines you would play from any position, and also have lots of scenarios were you might raise or call a raise. 4-5 a reasonable hand to play in late position when there is no raise, even more reasonable if it is suited. If your 4-5 suites hit either of the nines or bravo double suites with the nines, that is even better, and you just had your first "thinking like an Omaha Player moment", congrats.

If a holdem player is aware of outs they may consider playing either of these two hands in a mathematical context, that may go something like I have this many cards to make two pair, this many to make a straight, so many to make a flush, add those all up, and say to themselves that I have 18% chance of winning this pot, add a little EV for position and maybe even a little more EV because calling station Joe has called. In Omaha the holdem player might go through this and speculate that one hand has EV of 18% and the other hand has EV of 22% so they will give the EV of the Omaha hand 20%, and be the fifth limper in.

The problem here as any Omaha player will tell you is that there is no way this hand has an EV of 20%, this hand is junk.(Not to say it might not have an ev of 20%, the real EV is not known because you don't know what everyone else is playing). You cant really think in those kind of holdem calculations. In holdem the complexity of the hand as a benchmark is (2x2), in Omaha the complexity benchmark is (2x2x2x2). When you look at how the Holdem player came to his conclusion, the bench mark formula was (2x2+2x2/2). One is not accounting for the complexity of the hands and can never come to a correct assessment of the hands EV.

If you consider this benchmark relative to the holdem benchmark, in a practical sense it presents some problems. Hand rankings and ranges are especially problematic. It is not practical to memorize the hands in rankings or to memorize the hands in ranges. It also makes counting outs simply impractical as a consideration and outs are not really all that valid like in holdem, post flop in Omaha.

Typing hands in Omaha is the basic nuts and bolts of figuring out the ranking of an Omaha hand on the fly. We know the ranking of Holdem hands through card sense or memorizing of ranking tables, but in Omaha you need to understand what makes a hand rank, because it is not simply about the value of the cards, it is also the value of the how the cards relate to each other, and how they relate to your opponents hand. In Omaha saying your cards must work with each other is a severe understatement and saying your hands should consist of high ranking cards is also a severe understatement.

A really great hand in Omaha high, much less great in eight or better is A-A-K-K. In holdem, any AA,KK,AK hand has a very high likelihood of success. These are all rank one hands in every holdem ranking table. Hard to play them bad, even harder for any player to think they may have played them badly when they won with them. All you really do when you play these hands is think about maximizing the pot size until you have reason to believe that may not be wise.

In Omaha like all Omaha hands, this hand is simply not that great until the flop. All Omaha hands sit within a very narrow range of value compared to all holdem hands. Typing any hand before the flop is relatively simple and mistakes do not have near the impact as misjudging your hands value in holdem.

There is lots of information about Omaha starting hands in books and online. Bob Caiffone wrote the Omaha bible and that is were you should start. Starting hands are generally good if they start as wrap arounds or pairs with kickers that wrap near the pairs. Suits marginally improve the hand, if your a strong player. Large suits improve the hand. A hand like 8,9,10,J has more outs then a hand like AAKK. Two pair or OK, much better if the pairs connect to each other, a little better if they are suited. But the real conversation about what makes a starting is about what makes that hand work (or fail) on the flop.

In Omaha the flop is were your hand becomes! That subject is complex and deep. Way beyond the scope of the question. But this complexity is directly related to ones starting hand, making that a large part of the discussion. In a very basic way many starting hands are a lot more trouble after the flop in Omaha then they are in Texas Holdem. Counting your outs after the flop in holdem is a reasonably accurate way to assess the value of your hand, in Omaha it is only a small part of assessing the value of your hand. You determine the value of an Omaha hand according to its type rather than according to its rank.

I would like to say to the OP that I hope you have a little better understanding of starting hands in Omaha compared to starting hands in Holdem, but I am the OP and that would be strange.

  • As someone who came from network hot topics, it might be useful to define EV the first time you use it. Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 8:20

I think that you got a very long, drawn out answer above that doesn't really give you any info.

So, here it is succinctly - a good Omaha hand gives you a shot at both the high and the low . Period.

That makes the ideal Omaha hand something like A23K with suited cards in between, like the A2 and K3 being of the same suit (each pair of the same suit, but both pairs of different suits).

A hand like this gets you a chance at the low, the wheel for a scoop, some high-hand combinations as well as some flushes.

Realize that a hand like this is valued for the draws, not for the AK. You should basically NEVER show down in Omaha with top pair and think long and hard before you showdown with two pair. With more cards for each player, the winning hands are usually much higher than that - sets, straights, flushes, boats, etc.

  • It is not about what a good Omaha hand is, it is about the nature of a good Omaha hand. I think you might consider reading it again because A23K is far from premium in O8,, and would play even worse in Omaha high. The succinctly example is not quite the approach to the game the best players take.
    – Jon
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 16:46
  • @Jon I'm sorry that I don't spoon feed. The nature of a good Omaha hand is in my post. If you can't draw it out then maybe poker isn't for you? Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 17:10
  • I think part of the problem is in the title of the question: "what is the nature of...' That just sounds overreaching and self-important. I think a better question would focus on a more targeted issue, such as some of the concerns you might have with a doublesuited AK23 when you get reraised on some specific flop. The question as it stands sort of invites hand-waving and misunderstanding. Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 21:48
  • It is a question about the model, not the data in the model. The question is about the form of the thing, not the thing. The question is not about Omaha hands, It is about then nature of Omaha hands. Mr. Beams answer is off topic. Its like he is answering the question of "Why is the sky blue?" by saying "Because Blue is the best color for the sky" If you have something to add about the nature of Omaha hands, add it as an answer, If you don't understand the question be specific and ask for clarification before you answer. But please no hemlock.
    – Jon
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 22:57
  • 1
    I'm not going to delete any comments here guys, but please, keep it friendly, or sadly I might have to ;). Remember, we're ALL here to learn. Breaking down strategy via an Omaha "model" as Jon puts it has similarities to this question about Holde'Em, I think, What is a wet board?. That said, using examples of hands is incredibly useful to elucidate a point, don't dismiss it's benefits, even in this case.
    – Toby Booth
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 13:42

Yes, you can use tables and special software, but there are several basic principles. The best starting hands in Omaha will be those that:

  1. Have suited cards, especially a suited Ace.

  2. AAxx hand needs to have the possibility of making the nut low.

  3. It's definitely not middle cards.

  4. Cards that work together and have good potential of winning the entire pot.

    The full article is here: Best Omaha Hi Lo Starting Hands

But in practice, of course, everything is not so simple. You need experience, observation of opponents and smaller rake.)

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