The ability to make solid folds in Omaha will define a long term winner. It is easy to get caught up with your own hand and disregard what your opponent is likely holding in the process. Even if you do have a full house it won’t matter if your opponent clearly has a better one. Omaha players generally struggle with making folds when they have flush or straight type hands. All that they think about is that they have a flush or a straight, they don’t consider the possibility that the other player might have a better flush or straight. The reality of Omaha is that a flush or straight is beaten quite often. Two pair is another hand that players will often get too caught up with. This isn’t to say that straights, flushes, or two pair hands are weak, not at all. There is a distinct difference between a hand that is weak in and of itself and a hand that is weak relative to others’ holdings. Would you be happy that you are holding top two pair if your opponent showed you that they had a set? Of course not, you would want to throw away your hand as soon as possible. So why don’t Omaha players really consider the possibility that they are beat when they are playing a big pot? Well, that is a good question.
The Nuts in Omaha
Having the second or third nuts in Omaha is very different from having the second or third nuts in Texas Hold’em or most other forms of poker. Where in Hold’em you will almost always have the best hand when you are holding the second nut flush, in Omaha you will be behind a large amount of the time. This is why it isn’t optimal to play starting hands like Ks 7s Qd 7d. Your best possible flush with this starting hand will either be K high or Q high, neither of which is going to be the nuts unless the over cards are out on the board. Second nut type hands are incredibly difficult to play in Omaha. On one hand you will want to extract the most value possible from your hand, but on the other hand you don’t want to end up losing a massive pot. This is why you will need to learn how to make solid folds when playing Omaha.
Using Context Clues
When reading a book or an article you might take a look at the surrounding sentences in an attempt to understand what might be a confusing line. Omaha is the same way. You can look at the community cards (the board) as well as the action when you are trying to determine what you think your opponent is likely holding. If the other player was very passive and check called every street until a flush was made possible, would it be smart to call a big bet from them when the draw hit? The odds are that they were check calling in hopes of completing their draw. If you called off in a situation like this it would be due to a complete disregard for the context clues in the hand. If your opponent speeds up the action in a hand it is likely that they have really improved their hand’s strength. By contrast, if a player starts to slow down they may have become apprehensive. An apprehensive player will be weary of his hand. There is no use in calling big bets from a player who has suddenly turned super aggressive if your hand is somewhat weak. Calling a small bet from an apprehensive player, however, would be much more acceptable.
Reading the board is another important Omaha skill. Since the game is so heavily based on draws you will often find players chasing with their hands. It is important that you try to determine what they are holding early on in the hand. If you are confident that they are on a flush or straight draw you should take the appropriate action. If someone is on a draw you should be aiming to do two things. The first thing you need to do is really make them pay to see any other cards. When you let a player on a draw see cards at low cost you will only be hurting yourself. The second thing that you need to do is be prepared to make the fold if their draw does indeed hit. Once you decide that they are on a draw you should be ready and willing to fold once the card comes that makes their draw. There are plenty of players who can read others quite well, but the winning players trust their reads and act accordingly.