Double Board Omaha Strategy

How to Play Omaha Double Board

Double Board Omaha"Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps."
-- Karl Marx

Double Board Omaha is most commonly played high-only with limit betting, though some Pot Limit High and Pot Limit High-Low/BigO games exist. This article is primarily about Limit Double Board High-Only, but many of the concepts carry over to pot limit and high-low games.

Some concepts specific to pot limit and pot limit high-low are at the end of the article.

The betting rounds are the same as normal Omaha High, except for the obvious difference that two boards of community cards are placed on the table.

Like all split pot poker, there are levels of complexity to Double Board that don't exist in one-winner games. However, Double Board is even very different from a split pot game like Omaha High-Low in that in High-Low there sometimes is no qualifying low. Every Double Board pot has a winning hand on both boards.

Sometimes you will have the nut hand on one board and nothing on the other, and other times you will have a mediocre hand on both boards. These are completely different circumstances, but in both cases we should normally bet and hope our opponent(s) fold. We are not bluffing, but scooping a $100 three-way pot (profit about $66, depending upon rake and blinds involved) is preferable to splitting a $300 three-way pot (profit about $50).

The key concept of Double Board Omaha then is: if you can bet and take the pot, you usually should try and do so. The times before the river that you should slowplay hands are when you have a very strong complete hand on one board (top full house or better) but no-pair, no-Ace on the other. Oftentimes it will be very clear when one of your opponents will be betting a hand that works on the other board. If you have no-hand and no-draw on that other board, normally you wouldn't want to raise and drive out a third player. If they fold, you have nothing to split with the winner of the other board. On the other hand, if you have a nut hand that is vulnerable to draws, then usually it will make sense to raise to drive out the other players. Better to split a small pot than lose a big pot.

The reverse is also true. When you can get free cards when you are behind and drawing, especially when drawing to a nut hand on one board and next to nothing on the other, take the free cards.

Sharing is critically important in Double Board, and to say the least, many poker players are hideously bad at sharing. Greedy, self-absorbed players are ideal Double Board opponents, even if sometimes their foolish actions cause you to split smaller pots with them. Greedy players make the pots they win smaller. You have to love that.

The standard philosophy of all split pot poker is to focus on playing hands that will scoop both parts of the pot. While this is also true in Double Board, there are some types of hands that might be good single board Omaha hands, but by their nature are weak Double Board hands. For example, pairs like JJ and TT with two not good cards are very weak in Double Board. The way to usually win with JJ or TT is hitting a set. But while flopping a set becomes easier when the flop is six cards, three for each board, it is a very rare thing to spike a Jack on both boards.

That's not to say that you should fold JJ or TT. Rather, the point is you want to play multi-dimensional hands. For example, J♢J♡T♡8♢ is far stronger than JJ75. It's similar to the concept of why TT32 is a sucker hand in Omaha High-Low. T3 and T2 are nearly worthless Omaha holdings, just like J5 is, and J7 and 75 aren't very good either.

Suitedness and doublesuited are important to the strength of your hand, even with non-nut flush cards. This is because while you would play A♢A♡4♠5♠, and bet a flop where the boards are AK7 and T98, they might run out to be AK7JT and T♡9♡8♠J♠6♠. You may end up getting half the pot with those 5-high spades you paid zero attention to on the flop.

The point is, you want to be able to look at a hand and see six different decent Omaha holdings. AA is the only two card holding you can play regardless of the other two cards. KK72 offsuit would be fine to call in the big blind against one opponent or to play on the button if passed to you, but if facing a raise and a reraise, what two flops are you hoping to get? What flop besides King as the top card gives you anything at all? Big pairs will win unimproved on one board lots of the time, but they seldom will win both boards unimproved against two opponents.

Playing hands where you need to get lucky to win one board is to set fire to money in a game called Double Board.

While doublesuited low straight cards are a reasonable Omaha High hand, low cards need to be played with caution in Double Board, because again, if you make the nuts on one board, you need to make something on the other one. An eight high straight may be the nuts on one board, but a #3 pair of sevens isn't likely to win the other. So, bigger cards are better. Don't think reraising 8765 is some sneaky secret way to play. KQJT is better. KQJT makes better pairs; it makes better flushes; it makes better straights. Double Board paupers try to be sneaky. The foundation of successful Double Board players is playing hands that can pound the pot with betting or stand the heat of others betting -- hands that can make the nuts but also make something that might win your weaker board.

Double Board is most commonly played as part of a mix of games, meaning it is typically seven-handed maximum. While that would suggest you can play weaker hands than you would in an eight or nine-handed Omaha game, it also uniquely causes problems for some weaker hands. One of the biggest conudrums of Double Board is what to do with weaker suited-Ace hands. Suited-Ace hands are a staple of nine-handed Omaha games. Making the nut flush is one of the easiest, most straightforward Omaha plays. But Double Board actually works against a hand where a suited Ace is the main feature since obviously it harder to make a flush come on both boards. Hands like A♢9♢6♠4♣ have one powerful holding, but a bunch of crap to go with it. Sports teams of one great player and a bunch of stiffs seldom beat teams with all solid players... but the one-dimensional teams do score big wins sometimes too. The first time you play Double Board, you should fold hands like this if anybody has raised in front of you, but as you get more experience, this hand can be played sometimes, in some positions, against some opponents.

On the other hand, better suited-Ace hands like A♢J♢K♠T♣ are very powerful.

A good rule of thumb is to look at what your second and third best holding are. What is the third-best aspect of A♢9♢6♠4♣? The 9♢6♠? Well, that's pitiful. The third best aspect of A♢J♢K♠T♣ is A♢T♣. That's going to make a winner on an Omaha board more often than 9♢6♠ is.

Paying attention to the flow of the action is especially important in Double Board. If a flush is made on the top board, while an offsuit deuce brick comes on the bottom board, and a new bettor fires out, well, duh, he probably is not betting now because of the deuce. Very often two opponents will reveal that they are both focusing on the top board, allowing you to call with a weaker holding than you normally would to try to win the bottom board.

The risk of playing proper split pot strategy, aiming your play to win both boards, is that often the best looking hand, say #3 flush on one board and #2 full house on the other, will lose to one player with the nut flush and another with nut full house. The type of hand that will often scoop a pot head-up will often be scooped multiway. If you can gauge the action via the betting that you are between two players playing their own nut boards, you can get out of the pot early, but sometimes you will just have to learn to handle losing with very good hands that would be good enough to scoop most of the time.

Double Board Pot Limit High (both Four or Five Card Omaha): There are two conflicting concepts to be particularly aware of. First, "bet and take" it becomes easier than in limit when you have the nuts on one board and nothing on the other. Second, on the flip side of it being easier to "bet and take it", sometimes you will either be raised or reraised by the person who has the nut hand on the other board, but also has some sort of draw on your board. In this case, you may trap yourself into having to put in a huge amount of money to split a relatively tiny pre-flop pot. Sometimes you might even face a situation where you flop the nut flush on your board, but your opponent flops four of kind on the other board. In this case, your opponent can more comfortably raise or checkraise to build a big pot. They don't have much to fear in terms of being drawn out on, but any board pair, where they now bet the pot into you, can cause you to sometimes laydown the winner and sometimes get called and get scooped.

Sometimes when you have a very strong hand on one board, like holding KK on KK2 flop, but the other board is 789, you may want to play this hand slower and not raise someone else's bet. Instead wait to bet when that other board pairs or puts up a flush card.

Suited aces become more of a prime Double Board hand in Pot Limit. In Limit, you can call bets with mediocre hands on both boards, but in Pot Limit, if you have the nut flush draw on one board, you can be in the pot to make your gutshots and other weak draws on your other board. In Five Card Double Board especially, a suited ace can be the glue that holds a collection of semi-related cards together, like A♣T♣8♡7♡5♠. This hand is nothing to get excited about, but in position or if you can get in cheaply, there are numerous nut boards than can be made, even if making the nut flush is your primary holding.

Beware of "doublesuited shit". Non-Ace doublesuited cards can win nice pots, but usually in a backdoor way. The nut flush draw is the only flush draw to actually draw for, especially in Five-Card. You do prefer to be doublesuited every time, but non-nut flush draws ideally should be your draw on your secondary board, not the primary reason you are in a hand. On the other hand, love to play against opponents who commonly preflop raise with junky doublesuited hands. These players do not understand Omaha value and will often overplay second, third and fourth best hands (of all kinds).

Most weak players think that when they have the nuts, they should greedily jam the pot, hoping someone with the second nuts or a draw will just give them money, but this is suicide in Pot Limit Double Board. You aren't just trying to win the pot. You are trying to play to maximize your expectation. Obviously you would rather win $200 than $100 if you can do so by manipulating the pot while taking the same risk. Don't just try to win the pot. Try to win the most you can under the circumstances of who your opponents are and the value of your hand on both boards.

Double Board Pot Limit High-Low (Four, Five and even Six Card Omaha): Now we are commonly splitting the pot four ways. Sometimes even more (splitting the low three ways on one board gets you 1/12 of the pot). The most critical concept in Double Board High-Low is... sometimes you have to fold the unbeatable nuts right on the flop! Suppose you are playing Five-Card High-Low in the unraised big blind and get K♡Q♡J♡T♣9♣. The flop come down 5♢4♢3♠ and 8♣7♣6♣. You flop a straight flush... and if you have only one or two opponents, you should check/fold immediately. There are two low boards made, and you have no plausible winning draw for high on the other board. You flopped a straight flush, but only for 1/4 of the pot, and are (almost certainly) drawing dead for the rest of the pot. Putting in any money is foolish, especially head-up. Even if action starts six ways, you might end up head-up on the river facing a pot size bet.

The beauty of Double Board Pot Limit High-Low is most players are simply incapable of laying down the nuts like this, and in fact are more likely to commit suicide by betting and raising their straight flush. There might not be any other poker variant where misplaying the nut hand can be so toxic to your bankroll.

A typical Hold'em player's brain would explode if forced to confront the much more complex game of Double Board (you get to use 14-16 cards!), especially the complexities of High-Low, but Double Board offers great opportunities for thoughtful players, especially if you keep in mind another poker guideline: the more cards you get, the more selective your range of playable hands should be under whatever the circumstances. You have two boards to coordinate with, but so do your opponents.

See also How to Play Dramaha