Be careful when first learning Omaha

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By Zack Bartholomew

Recently, I’ve been playing in a super juicy, private pot-limit Omaha game. I must admit, I know little about the deeper math of the game. What I do know, however, is how to play tight and wait for the nuts. Which, is really all it takes to beat this game.

And let me tell you, it’s exciting! The draws you can make in Omaha are just absurd. Getting there on the river with a 13-card nut wrap against top two pair and bottom set is just so satisfying. It’s not hard to play tight and patiently because any hand could be a monster. I fondly remember one session where I was down around $1K and in less than 20 minutes I was ahead $2K. Omaha is nothing but action.

Then I played hold’em later in the week. Hold’em is about as exciting as bingo at the senior center after playing Omaha. And don’t forget, this is coming from a guy who absolutely loves hold’em.

I’ve been just getting crushed in hold’em, though. It has been because of two factors. First, I’m legitimately running pretty bad. I’m not going to bore you with the details because it’s nothing I, nor you, haven’t experienced before. On top of that, my patience has been weak to say the least.

It’s important and extremely challenging trying to switch your mind-set between the two games.

In a great Omaha game, you’re sitting, waiting to make hands and hoping to get paid. In a good hold’em game, you’re essentially doing the same thing. But the hands come around so much more infrequently. After playing Omaha, a hand like Q-9 suited suddenly becomes so much more attractive.

It took me a few weeks to fully realize what was happening. Being aware of mental-game problems is often the biggest step in fixing it.

Now that I’m aware of it, I can make a strong effort to make sure I play the proper ranges for hold’em and it’s easier to keep myself from getting out of line.

All that said, if you have the bankroll for it, you should absolutely give Omaha a shot, especially if you find yourself getting bored with hold’em. Just be aware of how you may be thinking differently about poker once you return to hold’em.

— Zack Bartholomew is an instructor with Big Slick Academy.