Starting hands in Omaha

We would all like to have a list with all the initial hands of Omaha in order of strength. Unfortunately, it is not possible to do so. As in other poker variants, the strength of our hand varies with the situation. Factors such as the size of the stack, the position and the type of opponent we are facing will influence the valuation of our initial hand.

So, are we totally lost in relation to what kind of initial Omaha hands are better? Not at all, we can use some principles to understand the strength of our hand.

Image result for Principles of hand selection - a team of 4 cards

Principles of hand selection – a team of 4 cards

The most important principle for hand selection in Omaha is that the four cards have to work together to be playable.

But do not we have to use two of the four cards of the hand to form the play? Why do you say all four have to work together?

Let’s look at the following hand:


This is one of Omaha’s best starting hands other than ApAdKpKd , which is usually considered the best.

First, notice that the hand has two cards of each suit. This is known as “double-suited” in Omaha. The “double-suited” hands are always the best.

Let’s compare ApAdJp10d with a similar hand as ApAdJp10p .

For the inexperienced, it may seem that ApAdJp10p is stronger because it has three spades instead of two. Do you realize why this maso is much weaker than ApAdJp10d ?

What happens is that when we have ApAdJp10p , we are really blocking our color. We must remember that we can only use two particular cards to form the hand. A mistake of beginners is to see a flop as 6p7p2d and with ApAdJp10p in the hand and believe that they have color because there are five spades.

No. They have a color project because only two of the four private cards can be used.

Having a third pike means that there are fewer pikes in the deck left in the center, reducing the options to get color.

Danglers and Blockers

From the first principle we can deduce other initial hands that we will not like very much.

One of the terms used in PLO is dangler. A dangler is a low card that does not help anything on our four card hand.

Imagine that you have been given:


Do you notice the dangler in this hand?

The ApKpJd all work reasonably well between them. The two pikes help us to form color, and the A, K and J are worth to get stairs or ladder projects. The 6c is not worth anything. It does not help us in any way.

Hands that are not coordinated, that is, hands with dangler, have to be discarded preflop. The exception may be when we are in last positions and we feel we have an opportunity to steal the blinds.

Even when 6c turns a hand with potential into a mediocre hand, it can be worse. With what we have said previously, can you change one of the sticks of the previous hand to make it even weaker?

OK if you said: ApKpJd6p

Again, at first glance, it may seem that the hand improves, but not really. It is the same hand except that we have reduced the possibilities of linking color, so the hand is weaker. The 6s “blocks” our color project outs. We can refer to this letter as a negative blocker .

Let’s look at another example of how blockers can weaken the strength of our preflop hand: QpQtKpKt

This is a good preflop hand, there are no blockers of any kind. We can make stairs, colors and maximum trio. Not bad.

Let’s change a letter: QpQtQcKt

Trio of ladies! Well, not? No. This hand is trash. One of the advantages of having QQxx is two ladies in the deck that can make us flirt. With this last hand we only have one card in the deck that gives us a trio. In addition we have stopped having a “double suited” hand.

If we extend this a bit more, we can deduce Omaha’s worst initial hand: 2p2c2t2d

Poker. Do not?

Of course it’s not poker. You just have a pair of deuces with all our outs blocked. We have no option to get a trio and in many cases we will not get anything more than a pair of twos.

Sometimes we can get double or full pairs, but it will be a very weak hand that will rarely win in the shodown.

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Differences with Hold’em

Seeing so many players at the Omaha tables that have started playing Texas Hold’em without limit, it is worth emphasizing the most important differences between the two games.

AAxx, and KKxx are not always nuts. If we come from Hold’em, we will be used to playing all the cards preflop with KK and AA regardless of the situation. In Omaha, this can be a big mistake, if we are playing pot limit or no limit.

First, we must know that AAxx and KKxx are more common in Omaha because they give us four cards instead of two. This means that playing everything with KKxx is almost always dangerous and that AAxx is not always the nuts.

Something of the type: ApAt9d4c is a mediocre hand in Omaha. Notice the little coordination between the four cards.

A hand like the one we mentioned: ApAdJp10d is a much better option to go all-in preflop.

Be careful with the trios . In Hold’em, having something like a pair of twos is having a playable hand and our main objective is to link trio. When this happens, if we are playing with 100 blinds, the usual thing is that we put all our chips in the center. In Omaha, this can be a big mistake . The ideal is to play everything only with a maximum trio, and it means that something like 88xx is better to look for a trio than something like 22xx that can never get a maximum trio.

The same can be applied to complete dominated colors. Since players have four cards, it is normal to form strong plays. Having the second color is a strong hand in Hold’em, but in Omaha it is a medium hand and you should not play all the chips, if possible. This has to be taken into account to form our initial hands selection.

A hand of type 10p2d10d3p may look good because it is double-suited. But in fact it can cause us many postflop problems because if we form color it will be dominated almost always.


We must mention another important concept in Omaha: the rundowns .

Rundowns are the equivalent of Hold’em color connectors. They do not have as much equity as high cards, but they have potential and can win big pots.

Like the rest of Omaha’s hands, they are smaller if they are double-suited: 10p9d8p7d

Rundowns can flop wraps . the wraps in Omaha are ladder projects with many outs. Since we have four cards in hand, we can flop a wrap with 20 outs.

Rundowns do not have to have the four consecutive cards, they differ according to where they have the hole.

For example, 10p8d7p6d is a type of rundown that has the gap between the two highest cards.

The rundowns with the hole in the low cards are considered stronger than those with the hole above: 10p9d8p6d

However, specifically in this case the rundown with the hole above is slightly stronger than the one with the hole below.

Principles and not tables

The principles, like the ones we have described in this article, should be the first thing we think about when analyzing our poker hands . Having a table is not very useful, since there are 16,432 initial hands in PLO. If we take into account each of the suits, it would be 270,725.

So, rather than memorizing initial hand tables, it is better to make decisions based on these principles. And we must never forget the most important rule of Omaha: the four cards have to work between them .

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