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Redraws in Pot-Limit Omaha by Barny Boatman

In Pot-Limit Omaha, the best hand on the flop may not be the best hand at all. It's all about the “outs” – the cards that will improve your hand as the board develops. If you have the nut straight and there is a flush draw on board, then any flush draw will hugely improve your hand, but, particularly when playing deep stacked, a good rule of thumb when drawing is to try to be the one who is drawing to the nuts. If you improve and there is still betting, you want to know where you stand or you'll face some hard decisions. At a full table, the pot will very often end up going to the player holding the best possible hand. If there are three flush cards on the board, the winning player will often show an Ace-high flush, and if the board pairs, the winner will usually have a full house. While flopping the nuts is nice, it’s even more important that you have redraws to make the nuts when the board changes on later streets.

Because you have four cards in your hand instead of just two, the starting hands in Omaha are much closer together in value than they are in Texas Hold ‘em. Any four random cards not containing a pair are rarely going to be that far behind any other starting hand. However, unless you are getting most of your chips in pre-flop, this fact is deceptive. Hands where all cards work together have much better potential for a strong fit with the flop and most players would improve their game by playing fewer hands. Hand values start to diverge on the flop and at that point they change dramatically. In Omaha, the best hand changes from street to street. The nuts almost never stay the same and the best hand on the flop will rarely be good on the river; if you’re going to continue on in a hand, you'd prefer to have a redraw that gives you plenty of outs.

More than anything, Pot-Limit Omaha is about straights and straight possibilities. It is worth remembering that every single straight contains either a 5 or a 10. Providing they fit in your hand, these are key cards in Omaha, particularly 10s, which appear in more nut straights than any other card. If there’s a lot of action on the flop and the board hasn’t paired, you really want to have a redraw to make the nut straight. If your hand’s got flush potential as well, all the better.

Unless you have some sort of redraw, one of the worst hands you can have on the flop in Pot-Limit Omaha is a small set because chances are good that you’ll end up losing to a bigger set, a straight, or a flush. For this reason, beginning players should avoid starting hands that feature small pairs like 5s or 7s. It’s more likely that these hands will get you in trouble than make you money – you’d be smart to fold them before the flop.

Having a redraw to make the nuts is so important in Pot-Limit Omaha that folding the nuts on the flop is often the best play if the board is scary and your hand has no chance of improving. This might sound crazy to Texas Hold ‘em players, but this situation occurs all the time in Omaha. The best way to combat this is to play starting hands that have all four cards working together so that if you do make a hand on the flop you can play it aggressively, knowing that your hand has a chance to improve on the turn or the river.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Let’s say you’ve got A-9-8-7 and the flop comes 6-9-10. You’ve flopped the nut straight, but you can’t celebrate too much because if a 7, 8 or any face card falls on the turn or the river you won’t have the nut straight anymore. If there are two flush cards on the flop, you’re in even worse shape.

This is a very difficult situation to be in because any change that occurs on the board can ruin your hand. If the board pairs, you may well lose to a full house and if a flush comes, you’re probably going to lose. Even if the straight you flopped somehow remains the nuts on the river, there’s a good chance you’re going to have to split the pot.

When you pick up a starting hand that has the potential to make a straight, it’s fine if the hand has a gap in it. Just remember that it’s far better to have a gap at the bottom of the hand than at the top. For example, J-10-9-7 is a better hand than J-9-8-7 because the first one allows for more upward development. If the flop comes 8-6-5, you’ve made the nut straight with both hands, but if a 9 falls on the turn, only the first hand allows you to make a higher straight. Ignorant of this concept, many players who are new to the game tend to overvalue a hand like 6-5-4-3. Even though the cards are perfectly connected, this hand is not as pretty as it looks because it doesn’t allow for much upward development.

As you can see, it’s not always enough to flop the nuts in this game. You also need to have a redraw to make the nuts when the board changes; because in Pot-Limit Omaha, it always does. 

Barny Boatman 

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