The Flop

“Life can be tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” – John Wayne

Omaha has a reputation as a game where hands are decided on the River. I’m going to let you in on a secret – it’s a lie. Omaha is a game of starting hands and flops. After the flop you know 78% of your cards.

Let’s take a very good Omaha hand, A234. You’re playing in a low-limit game (say $4/$8), and a total of five players have seen the flop: KQ7. You’re last to act and you have the nut backdoor low draw. The first player bets, and everyone else calls. Should you call? (We’ll get back to this hand a little later.)

Three things can happen to your hand on the flop: you can totally miss the flop, you can hit the flop, and you can hit a bit of the flop. The decisions are easier in the first two cases than the last.

When You Totally Miss the Flop

Let’s look at another good hand, A245. You, along with five other players, have seen a flop of KK9. Playing this is simple: fold at your first opportunity. If you have a high hand (e.g. AKKQ) and the flop is three low cards, you’ve missed the flop even if the flop contains a pair. Let’s say the flop is 233. You have two pair with no low draw. Do you really want to call any bets with just a draw for half the pot? There’s a simple rule: if you don’t fit the flop, fold. Every so often you’ll have a hand, such as AKKQ, and the turn and river will come running Kings, and you would have scooped. Ignore those extraordinarily rare occurrences and remember that if you play every hand to the river, you will go broke.

When You Hit the Flop

Let’s look again at the first good hand (above), A245. Now let’s change the flop to 38K. You have the nut flush and the nut low draw. In hold’em, if that were the flop and you held A2, a case can be made for slow playing. You should rarely slow play in Omaha because of the number of draws that may be out against you.

When you hit the flop, bet (or raise). It’s that simple. I see players slow playing their monster hands and then watching as the board pairs and the player who would have folded bottom set now takes half the pot with a full house.

When You Hit a Bit of the Flop

It would be nice if on every hand you hit the flop. On most hands, however, you’ll hit part of the flop. You need to ask yourself on all of these hands the following questions:

  • How does my hand fit the flop?
  • If I make my hand, will it be the nuts?
  • How much of the pot am I drawing for?
  • Who am I up against?
  • How much money can I win?

Let’s look at a couple examples of what you should look for. Assume (again) that you hold A245. The flop is 677.

The first question is how does my hand fit the flop? In this case, you have the nut low draw (with back-up, but it is possible someone else holds A23), a straight draw, and a backdoor flush draw. You definitely have hit part of the flop.

The second question is if I make my hand, will it be the nuts? If a low comes you will either have nut low or second nut low. You can never make the nut high, though, as any full house you would make would not be the nuts. Additionally, only if a three falls will you have the nut straight; your backdoor flush draw is nowhere near the nuts.

The third question is how much of the pot am I drawing for? In essence, you have a very good low draw (to the nuts) and a very weak high draw. This is certainly a hand I’d continue to play but whether I would bet or not would depend on my reading of the other players.

The fourth question is who am I up against? How many players? Do they have low hands, high hands, or random hands? If all you’re drawing for is the low and you are certain that another player has the nut low draw, it may be right to fold because your best case scenario is winning – of the pot.

The final question is how much money can I win? This relates to how much of the pot you’re drawing for and how much money is in the pot.

An Interlude: Types of Flops

One method of evaluating whether you fit the flop is to look at the character of the flop. Flops can be:

  • Low (three low cards; a wheel flop is three wheel cards flopping)
  • High (three high cards)
  • Suited (three cards of one suit)
  • Paired (a pair on the flop)
  • Straight (three cards in sequence)
  • Random (three unrelated cards)

If you, for example, have the nut diamond flush draw and the flop has three hearts, one attribute of your hand has become worthless. This does not mean that you have to fold your hand; you need to evaluate the remaining attributes of the hand and see if they fit the flop. Just remember, fit or fold!

Some Additional Examples.

You have KK109. You and six others have seen the flop of J87. Let’s answer the questions.

How does the flop fit my hand?

You’ve flopped the nuts, but you’ve flopped a trap hand. A club will put a flush on the Board, another low cards will put a low on the board, and if the board pairs you are unlikely to get any part of the flop. Indeed, whatever card comes on the turn will cost you part of the pot!

If I make my hand, will it be the nuts?

Only if two low cards come (or the board pairs and one of the two other Kings comes) – in which case you will be splitting the pot.

How much of the pot am I drawing for?

Half, in the best case; none in the worst case.

Who am I up against?

Six players, some (if not all) of which must have draws that will hurt your hand.

How much money can I win?

Not as much as you’d think. Again, the best-case scenario is that you’ll win half the pot. Here’s another example. You were in the big blind with AAA3 and got to see the flop for free (along with six others). The flop is 278.

How does the flop fit my hand?

Almost perfectly (change the 7  and the 8  to diamonds for perfection). You have the nut low and a backdoor diamond flush draw.

If I make my hand, will it be the nuts?

Unless a three comes on the turn or river, you will have the nut low. Running diamonds will give you the nut flush.

How much of the pot am I drawing for?

Right now you have half the pot (your three Aces make it unlikely that there is another A3 out against you), with a draw for the other half.

Who am I up against?

Well, one of your six opponents should have a better high than you. Every so often, though, a pair of Aces wins high (but with six opponents it is not likely).

How much money can I win?

Half the pot in the most likely scenario; all of the pot if you get lucky. (Of course, if a three comes you will most likely win none of the pot.)

When in Doubt, Fold

It’s hard for an Omaha hand to completely miss the flop – you have four cards and you will usually make a pair or some sort of draw. Of course, many (if not most) of these draws will not be the nut draws. In low limit Omaha you will be, most of the time, playing against many opponents. Usually, the nuts will be out there! Thus, you need to have draws to the nuts (or the second nuts). Drawing for the fourth best flush is usually a good way of giving money to your opponents.

At first, as you play Omaha, you may be uncertain of what you should do. It looks like a close decision. My recommendation is that when in doubt, fold. Every so often you will fold a winner; however, these losses will be more than made up by the times you would make your hand and lose to a better hand. (This is, by the way, the opposite of the advice I’d give in low limit hold’em.) As you play more hands of Omaha you will begin to get a better feel for the game. On the hands that you are not playing, watch the other players (not the television, etc.). Observe what the other players are playing. Begin to characterize your opponents into categories such as loose, tight, wild, aggressive, only plays the nuts, etc. Remember, you should only be playing around 10 to 15% of your hands, so you will have plenty of time to observe!

The Opening Hand

Remember the hand I started this lesson with — A234. The flop was KQ7. If you’ve been paying attention you should know what to do with this hand: fold. You have a backdoor draw to half the pot – this is not a hand you want to play. Remember, fit or fold!

In the next lesson we will look at playing the turn. We will also look at the concept of pot odds and how it impacts Omaha.