The Best (and Worst) Starting Hands in Omaha
It’s been 14 years since Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker. He’s not the only reason for the poker boom (the economy had something to do with it), but ever since his landmark 2003 victory, people have been playing No-Limit Texas Hold’em – the Cadillac of poker. They’ve been playing it, studying it, teaching it, and here we are 14 years later with a lot of very good players.
The same thing will happen to Omaha eventually. But for now, starting a hand with four cards instead of two is proving to be quite a challenge for most people. There are only 1,326 possible starting hand combinations in Hold’em; in Omaha, it’s 270,725 possible hands. Figuring out which four are good enough to open with from each position takes a lot more time. Let’s take the first step by identifying which starting hands are at the top and the bottom of the pile.
Determining Powerful Hands
When it comes to the best hand, you may have heard this old chestnut before: Which is better, AAKKss (double-suited), or AAJTss? Neither, as it turns out. According to the computers, the answer depends on how many people are at the table. If you’re full-ring or 6-max, it’s AAJJss. If you’re short-handed or heads-up, it’s AATTss.
These are all very powerful hands that can be opened from any position. But if you hold AAKKss, you’re removing the opportunity to felt your opponent with a King-high flush when you’ve got the Ace-high flush. The K-high flush is already a suspect hand in Omaha; you’ll have an even harder time getting money out of a Queen-high flush. You’re also blocking a set of Kings, which would pay off your trip-Aces more often than a set of Queens would. This turns out to be more important than starting with the two biggest pairs in Omaha – but you’d still rather have the two pairs than AAJTss, even if the latter hand is more likely to make a straight.
As for the worst hand, you don’t want to be dealt quads in Omaha. The worst of them all is 2222; you can’t make straights, flushes or sets, and you’ve got the smallest pair in the deck. Preflop, quad Deuces has only 9.3% equity versus a random hand. Try to wait until the board comes out before you make quads.
Having three of the same card in your hand is usually pretty bad, too – three Aces are often good enough to open, sometimes even three Kings or Queens, but you’re not going to be too happy seeing any other trips in the hole. The worst non-paired starting hand in Omaha depends once again on how many people are at the table, but if you’re playing 6-max and you get dealt Q732 rainbow (all different suits), you might as well have four napkins in your hand. Play them accordingly.