Friday, November 25, 2005


It's a simple question really, what is the best starting hand in 4 card Omaha?

This question has been on my mind over the last few days after reading an interesting line from Hellmuth's 'Play Poker Like The Pros' where he suggests that A-A-K-K double suited is the best possible starting hand.

Technically, this is quite possibly true. Your aces are backed up by the next highest pocket pair. 4 cards for a top set and two nut flush draws. Sounds great.

However, this doesn't necessarily make it the most profitable hand.

Firstly, if you hit one of your flushes, what's the chance of you actually being paid off. Well, of course you've always got a chance of being paid by 2 pair, trips, or even a stonecold bluff, but who's gonna call with a queen high flush. You have both aces and both kings, so the next highest flush is 3rd nuts, which is not a hand you want to be pushing too often.

Secondly, from my experience, a lot of fish like to push pocket kings prefop, therefore maximising the chances of your aces being paid off. If you already hold two of those kings however, then the chances of someone playing the other two kings is slim to none.

Some may say that the kings provide the best possible kicker for your pocket aces if you were to run into another couple of rockets, but how much impact does that have? Remember, you can only use two cards from the hole, which will more often than not be the aces. Therefore, the kings make very little difference unless you are fortunate enough to spike a set.

Thirdly, in many games, more than two people see a flop, which makes your aces that much more vulnerable. A called bet on the flop and you could be in trouble. If it was me, I would much prefer my other two hole cards to be soemthing like TJ or 9T, so I had straight possibilites aswell as the flush potential. I'd still have the nut flush draws, but I wouldn't be so dependent on hitting a third king.

Too often, it is assumed that the aces are playing heads up and all the money is in the pot. Of course, if this is the case, then A-A-K-K is a massive hand. However, the reality is that this is often only going to occur against another aces holding, in which the majority of pots will be split. Personally, I'd rather look down at the start of the hand and see A-A-J-T double suited. If I can get all the money in preflop, then great! But if I find myself involved in a mutliway pot, then I have a few alternative, and slightly more deceptive, ways of taking the pot.

I'm sure there's no definite answer, and it may just be a case of perosnal style and taste, but, like T.J. Cloutier, I'd go with the J-T. Still a strong holding, but with the added bonus of having the flushes paid off and the potential for making a cheeky straight.


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