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Pot Limit Omaha Best Starting Hands Chart & Hands to Avoid

PLO

Your success in Omaha poker lives and dies by starting hand selection. Since you need a very strong hand in order to win, it's rare for a player to sneak through with some random cards as is possible in Texas Hold'em. That's why it's imperative to play tight and to have a good understanding of what makes a good hand in Pot Limit Omaha.

This article is newbie-friendly as it talks about starting hand selection in basic terms, but if you want to put it to good use, take a look at our Pot Limit Omaha From Square One Strategy Part II – Starting Hands. There we explain how to open and defend, how position influences your decisions, how to evaluate starting hands, and how to defend from the big blind.

How many Omaha starting hands are there?

Playing Cards Falling

Omaha has 16,432 starting hand combinations if we ignore the suits. If we'd include the suits, there would be 270,725 possible combinations for your four hole cards in Omaha poker.

This is compared to only 169 starting hands in Texas Hold'em, or 2,652 if we include the suits. Omaha has 100x more starting hand combinations than Texas Hold'em, and, therefore, starting hand charts like the top 30 below can't be used as a strict guide. It is here merely to illustrate the principles of good hand selection in Omaha.

Pot Limit Omaha Best Starting Hands Chart – Ranked from #1 to #30

Top 1011 to 2021 to 30
1. A A K K11. K Q J T21. Q Q A K
2. A A J T12. K K T T22. Q Q A J
3. A A Q Q13. K K A Q23. Q Q A T
4. A A J J14. K K A J24. Q Q K J
5. A A T T15. K K A T25. Q Q K T
6. A A 9 916. K K Q J26. Q Q J T
7. A A x x17. K K Q T27. Q Q J 9
8. J T 9 818. K K J T28. Q Q 9 9
9. K K Q Q19. Q Q J J29. J J T T
10. K K J J20. Q Q T T30. J J T 9

All hands in the above top 30 list must be double-suited, which means that two cards must belong to one suit and the other two cards to another suit. Double-suited hands are always the best.

More differences from Texas Hold'em

Apples + Oranges

If you're coming from a Texas Hold'em background where pocket Aces rule supreme, at first glance, Omaha doesn't seem to be very different looking at the chart above, but it is. We have two more cards, and your edge is always smaller in Omaha than it is in Texas Hold'em. That being said, pocket Aces still represent the entire first tier of starting Omaha hands, as there are six really good ones plus the entire A A x x range.

However, bear in mind that two Hold'em hands combined, such as A K 9 9, don't make very good Omaha hands. In Omaha, it's best for your four starting hands to be connected in some way – hence the double-suited requirement.

Best Omaha starting hands

Black Checkmark

A A K K is the best Omaha starting hand, but right next to it is, surprisingly, A A J T as it has much more straight potential than the third-best hand, A A Q Q.

Almost all the top 30 hands from our chart have at least one strong pair in them: either A A, K K, Q Q or J J. Only two hands don't have a pair – J T 9 8 and K Q J T.

12 of the hands on the top 30 list are two pair kinds of hands. This gives you a lot of full house potential though you must always bear in mind you can only use two of your four cards.

Once again, the hand must be double-suited to be in the best starting hands category. Having three cards that belong to the same suit may seem like a good thing to a novice player, but you can only use two of your own cards, and that third card is actually one less out for your flush.

Three major factors that make a good hand

Since there are so many hand combinations, we need to start using principles to try to identify how good our hand is.

Nuttiness is the first factor as it's very common to have a really good hand (e.g., a flush) only to be beaten by a player who has the absolute nuts. When you play in Omaha, you don't just want a full house, you want the best full house. Play those cards that have the potential to make the nuts.

Suitedness and connectedness are the other two factors that influence your chance to make flushes and straights respectively. Again, there must be nut potential as that's our number one factor.

Omaha poker winning hands

In Omaha, since there are four hole cards, it's safe to assume you need to have the nuts in order to win the pot. It's not enough to have any full house, it often must also be the best full house that can be made with those community cards.

Distribution of equity

In Texas Hold'em, when you have a strong hand, you have a lot of equity. A A has 83% pre-flop equity over the second-best starting hand in the game, K K. In Omaha, things are very different.

The best hand from our chart, A A K K, is 33% to win, 41% to tie, and 26% to lose to the second-best hand, A A T J. This represents a 7% edge while in Hold'em it's 83 – 17 = 66%. It does get much better once you go down the list of top hands, but in essence, edges in Omaha are never very large. It's rare to have equity of more than 60%.

Bad Omaha starting hands to avoid

Unhappy Face

A flush is fool's gold in Omaha unless you (can) have the nuts. Chasing a simple flush in Texas Hold'em is a viable strategy that can win you some big pots, but in Omaha, you can be pretty much certain that another player has the Ace-high flush if you don't have it (or block it) yourself.

All four cards must be working together. Any card that is the odd one out is hurting your hand. It's called a dangler. For example, if you have three strong cards and a 7, the 7 is a dangler. Hands that have a dangler should generally be avoided.

Starting hands that have three-of-a-kind are actually no good in Omaha since you can only use two of your cards. If you have three Kings, that means you can only use two of them, and there's only one more King in the deck. It gets worse if you have four-of-a-kind.

Some hands have no potential at all. Think like an Omaha player and use common sense to identify those hands that can actually win you the pot, and avoid those that cannot even if they look decent.

Worst starting hand in Omaha

If having four-of-a-kind is a really lousy Omaha hand, then 2 2 2 2 is the worst possible starting hand. You've got a pair of deuces, and it's all you'll ever have – since the only other two cards that could potentially give you a three-of-a-kind or four-of-a-kind are right there in your hand.