Reading The Board
And you thought it was hard in Hold 'em...
Reading the board in Omaha-8 is more challenging than Texas Hold 'em because of the fact that you have four cards in your hand that can be combined six ways to form both a high and a low hand and you must use exactly two cards from your hand for the high and the low (a big departure from Texas Hold 'em where you can use a single card or even no cards at all from your pocket cards to form your final hand), yet reading the board is a critical skill which is worth investing some time in.
Reading high hands is very similar to Texas Hold 'em, again with the caveat that you must use two of the cards from your hand. For example if the final board in Omaha-8 is:
then no one at the table has four of a kind. The highest possible high hand here is:
likewise, if the board shows
and your hand is
you did not make a straight. What you have is a pair of 4's--good luck!
For Holdem players it can be a difficult transition because in Holdem you can player 2, 1 or 0 cards from your hand combined with the board to make your five card hand. In Omaha you must always use EXACTLY two cards from your hand with EXACTLY three cards from the board. Every time. No exceptions.
Reading lows can be confusing at first especially when there are multiple counterfeited cards in your hand, for example on this board:
when you hold
your low is 65421, where the 1 is an Ace.
When there are several low cards on the board and you have several low cards in your hand it can be confusing to read the low. The technique you should use is to first create your low from the bottom up (meaning list the lowest cards that are either in your hand or the board first. Then when you have five cards the low is actually valued from the top down meaning you list the values backwards from the highest card to the lowest.
If the board is:
then the nut low is
you can probably see why A2 is a very strong holding for low, however A2 gains a huge amount of strength if it is combined with a 3 and/or 4. For example if the board was modified slightly so the last card was a deuce:
and you've been calling or raising all the way with:
then you are now in very bad shape, however if you'd been holding
then not only did you keep the nut low at the end but you also managed to turn it into a five high straight (a wheel) so there is an extremely good chance that you will take most or all of this pot.
A general gotcha in Omaha is that when a straight flush is possible there is a much higher chance that someone has it than in Hold 'em. This doesn't mean someone probably has a straight flush if one is possible but that it is much more possible. For that reason it is very important to note straight flush possibilities when you are betting an ace-high flush so you can avoid a raising war that you will ultimately lose for a bundle of chips.