Big-O is quickly becoming one of my favorite non-NL games to play. It’s a great game that can be played with 8 or less people, and has a ton of gamble baked right into the format. If you’ve never played Big-O before, it’s 5 card pot-limit Omaha 8-or-better. So not only do you get 5 cards per hand, but many pots end up getting split between the high hand and the low hand…so it’s common for pots to grow quickly.
If you’ve never played O8 before, watch this video first and get the basics so that you understand how the high and low hands work (or if you already understand the basics, skip below the video).
Getting 5 cards in Big-O vs the 4 cards of traditional O8 is a huge difference which allows you to get dealt more interesting hands. Let’s first start by understanding good hands vs deceptive hands:
Good hands have scoop potential:
In any hi/lo game your goal is to scoop the pot, meaning you win both the high and low (or just the high if there is no low possible). The big hands people wait for are AA2xx, A23xx, AKQJ3, etc. Hands with all broadway cards can perform very well when the board has no possible low, and hands like A23xx can catch a wheel and safety into lows when other people get negated.
AA isn’t the same as hold ‘em:
In NL games you wait around for pocket Aces and pounce when you finally get it. In Big-O you want to be very aware of how your AA hand is composed. There is a huge difference between AA2QJ and AA67K. The latter is a gross hand that doesn’t offer much in terms of scoop potential unless the board starts pairing quickly.
Omaha is a game of flushes:
To be specific, full ring Omaha hands tend to be won by NUT flushes where second/third best flushes are often left crying. This means hands with suited aces, especially with wheel cards, can be big money makers when played correctly.
The most important elements of Big-O, in order, are:
- Hand selection
- When to play aggressively
Since we already discussed the basics of hand selection, let’s look at position for a moment. Like NL games, position is king. Being on the button makes your life a million times easier since you can see how people react to new board cards, you can take free cards when you want, etc. Pots in this game are typically multi-way to the flop, so having position gives you maximum flexibility when creating postflop lines. That being said, being on the button doesn’t mean you should start limping behind with hands like J9762 or KQ854…hand selection is still a priority.
The last big is when to play aggressively, and this means both preflop and postflop. There are typically two kinds of Big-O players preflop. Players that raise a lot (often times these are NL players that are only used to raising whenever they play a pot preflop) and players that only raise nuttish hands like AAxxx or great low starters like A235K. Both players are easy enough to play against, but you should be paying attention to figure out which strategy your opponents employ.
One of the big decisions you’re going to come across in Big-O, be it preflop or postflop, is when to play fast and isolate a pot and when to play slower and let people with dominated hands get involved. A good example is you are in the CO with A23QQ and there is a raise + 3 callers in front of you. Of course, you could 3bet and play the hand aggressively trying to get just a heads up pot…or you could call and play the pot out. Consider your edges, stack depth and estimated SPR, how often they’d all fold preflop, and how strong you are postflop….not just your exact hole cards when deciding whether to 3bet or not.
The same goes for postflop. Say you have:
and the flop is
Q♥ 2♠ 7♠
and there is a pot sized bet and 1 caller in front of you. You could raise which likely gets people to fold A4xxx and A5xxx low draws and likely gets hands like T♠8♠xxx to fold as well. So raising now folds out all of the hands you could nab a few big bets from later in the hand. Since many pots will be multi-way you really need to know when to play aggressively with your draws, vs when to call and let those dominated hands improve to second-best and pay you off later.
The worse they are, the less you want to raise the flop and only get it in against QQxxx or A3Q7x. Sure you have huge equity, but you likely could generate a bigger edge by taking a different line, especially if you can maximize value from two players who are both drawing to second-best hands.
My last note, and possibly the most important, is to avoid drawing to second/second in multi-way pots. One of the big spots that gets people in trouble in checking their option in the BB vs 4 limpers, they hold
and the flop is
A♥ 6♦ 7♦
It looks pretty, right? You have the second-best low and a draw to the second-nut flush…BUT WAIT! Remember earlier when I said this is a game of NUT flushes, and a game of nut draws? Don’t be the guy that calls down when the turn is a diamond and acts shocked when your money is being chopped up by someone with 32xxx and someone else with the nut flush. In multi-way pots there are people drawing to the nuts and people drawing with dominated hands asking to be punished. Punish others and avoid spewing off with second-best draws especially once actions gets heavy on later streets…
Is this the complete strategy for beating Big-O games? Most certainly not. But this is a great primer to make sure your mentality is correct, that you better understand good vs bad hands, and that you understand what to look for when playing hands fast or slow. Keep these tips in mind the next time you sit in a Big-O game and enjoy stacking the old guy in seat 9 who keeps complaining that his King-high flush is no good!