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Omaha Poker shares many characteristics with the better known Texas Holdem. However, there is a major difference with 4 'hole cards' being dealt to each player instead of just 2. This in turn means that the hands shown down are, on average, far stronger - and requires some adjustment to the way that poker players think about their starting hand selection.
This article looks at how players new to this form of the game should approach the decision as to which hands to play and which to fold.
The key hand selection strategy for Omaha poker is to choose hands which contain cards that work well together. At showdown each player must use exactly 2 cards of their own and 3 from the 'community cards' board to make a winning hand. This means that the number of 2-card combinations is an important factor.
For example, you are dealt 4 cards before the flop A-B-C-D. There are 6 potential 2 card pairings here:
A-B, A-C, A-D, B-C, B-D and C-D
With 4 cards close in rank, having 2 suits or all being ranked 10 or higher you have the possibility of all 6 combinations working for you. On the other hand if 'D' is an off-suit 2 then the potential showdown pairings are immediately reduced to 3 - now only A-B, A-C and B-C work in your favor.
Reduce this to a single pair and 2 'rags' and you will see that you only have a single combination working for you. Omaha Poker hands are usually won by nut straights, flushes or a full house - making sure that your hand contains cards which work well together will ensure that you maximize your potential to make a hand strong enough to win at showdown!
High pairs are playable before the flop in this form of the game, however caution is advised with holdings such as an over-pair - particularly if the flop shows possible straights or flushes. Holdings such as A-A-x-x (where the 'x' indicates an unrelated small card) are powerful but not a huge favorite against many coordinated hands that your opponents might play.
For example A-A-2-7 of 4 different suits is actually a small underdog to 5-6-7-8 of 2 suits - the latter holding is known as a 'rundown' and is a potentially strong hand in Omaha due to multiple possibilities to make straights and flushes.
There is considerable debate concerning which is the strongest starting hand in Omaha. Some people believe that A-A-J-10 double suited (that is or 2 suits with the potential to make 2 ace-high flushes) is the best. Others argue that A-A-K-K double suited is even better - since a 2-pair holding will flop trips approximately 1 time in 4.