By Jason Lake
Imagine if the only thing you could ever eat was bacon. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? But after the first 100,000 slices or so, you're going to get tired of it. Then you'll start dreaming about all the other things you could be eating, like fried chicken, or mashed potatoes and gravy.
As with life, so with poker. Almost everyone these days is playing no-limit Hold'em and very little else. It's a great game, the bacon Cadillac of poker, but you're missing out if you're not playing other variants at least once in a while. Omaha should be the next poker game you try out, followed by Omaha Hi/Lo. Here are five reasons why:
1. Easy Transition
Omaha is basically Hold'em with four hole cards instead of two. Everything else is the same, so if you've already got a solid understanding of NLHE, you're well on your way to mastering pot-limit or no-limit Omaha. Then you can take the next step and try Omaha Hi/Lo, which will give you a foot in the door when it comes to learning the lowball games.
Omaha, and especially Omaha Hi/Lo, are great palate cleansers after you've been grinding away at NLHE for a while. The brain needs new and fresh challenges to stay sharp. Otherwise, you could start resenting poker after a while.
While NLHE emphasizes pre-flop play, Omaha is all about seeing flops and making big hands. It's tremendous fun – if you treat your bankroll with care and make sure you have even more buy-ins in reserve than you'd need for Hold'em.
4. Variance Management
Omaha Hi/Lo is at the other end of the variance spectrum. Many hands end in split pots (half to the high hand, half to the low), so it's a lot harder to go on a major downswing. Mixing in some “Omaha 8” with your Hold'em will help protect your bankroll.
5. Game Selection
It's a lot easier to find loose games when you have more than just Hold'em to choose from. The ratio of “fish” to solid players is higher in Omaha, and higher still in Omaha Hi/Lo. Far less work has been done studying Omaha, crunching the numbers and working out the best strategies, so the games are softer in general.
There are so many other good reasons to play these games, especially if you're thinking about hunting down a WSOP bracelet someday. But allow me to wrap up by giving my own personal stamp of approval to Omaha, and Omaha Hi/Lo in particular. I spent the first three years of my poker “career” playing Hold'em. Then I got into the mixed games. I've never had this much fun playing poker, and my overall game is so much better now. Maybe it'll work for you, too.