It's no secret that Team PokerStars Online's Adrienne "talonchick" Rowsome enjoys the game of Omaha.
Her player bio highlights some of her Omaha tournament accomplishments, and she even won the $1,000 Omaha/Stud Hi/Lo tournament at the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Her personal website often chronicles her experiences with poker, too, such as her recent success in a higher-stakes Omaha Hi/Lo Split cash game.
Adrienne's love of mixed games also took her to victory at the 2013 PCA, as she took down the $1,000 Triple Stud tournament.
Most of the women who play on PokerStars enjoy Hold'em, but the ever-growing popularity of Omaha has them interested in pursuing another poker variation. It can be intimidating to start playing a new game, though, and taking on the challenge of learning new strategies. We sat down with Adrienne at the 2013 PCA to talk Omaha and ask for some advice.
PS Women: Let's start with your progression of poker games. You began with Five Card Draw when you were younger and came to love Omaha. Can you tell me how that came to be?
Adrienne Rowsome: I started with Five Card Draw when I was very little. I was certainly very lax on the rules; I think my father let us draw until we made a flush or something exciting. When I started playing poker, casinos only offered limit games, so I played $3-$6 limit. You played a half hour of Omaha and a half hour of Hold'em, so I never played poker without Omaha. When the boom hit and No Limit Hold'em came crashing in, it wasn't a game that I enjoyed playing. I found that there was much more fun to be had in the limit games; the pots were a bit splashier and you weren't always out to take somebody's last dollar. In the end, you'd be happy if you did, but you'd do it gradually. I really wanted to stay in the limit games as somebody who was working and who enjoyed the fun in the game more than being so cut-throat.
I was working part-time and looking for a daytime game to play, and I found one in Edmonton that was a dealer's choice game. Twice a week, they played mostly Omaha Hi/Lo Split. I thought, how hard can it be? I've played Omaha High, and with two ways to win, it seemed easy. This should be a cinch! I was not. (laughs) I certainly lost. But I found I really enjoyed the game. It was at that time that I started playing online as well. I was playing Limit Hold'em mostly online but not having the success that I had live in that game, so I started looking at the Hi/Lo Split games as a home for me. I wanted to see if I could work the math and the strategy. That's where I ended up, and it's been a good run so far.
PSW: Why do you prefer Omaha?
AR: In Omaha, you have four cards. With most people, you hand them four cards and they're overwhelmed with the opportunity of the hand. I find that the pots are bigger, people play a little bit more optimistically. I remember playing in a live game. The flop came something like 6-J-Q maybe, and on the river, somebody rolls over 3-4-5-7 for the runner-runner straight. Their response was, quite seriously, "I was wrapped around the six." People choose to call flops so they can try to pick up a draw on the turn, which I do not advise. However, it does make for some exciting pots and some upsetting rivers.
PSW: Why should players consider a new game? If they've always played Hold'em, is there a reason to consider a new game like Omaha?
AR: Ultimately, the more games you know, the more well-rounded you are as a player. It also gives you a getaway. I enjoy Hold'em, but it can become very mundane, very mathematical, very tough. And there are a lot of really exceptional Hold'em pros. They are a little fewer and farther between in the mixed games. I think the challenge of learning a new game is good for even reenergizing your poker game and makes you start thinking of approaching situations in a different way. I would expect that Stud players, for example, would have more success in learning Open Face Chinese, which is just all the rage, than someone who just plays Hold'em because Stud players are used to looking at the up cards, what's been dealt, what I am drawing to, what flush draws do I have, and those sorts of things. I think that gives them an advantage in those sorts of games.
PSW: Do you think women have any advantage in Omaha?
AR: I think in Hi/Lo Split, there is a higher percentage of women than in Hold'em, at least in the games that I play. But I think the limit variety draws a more conservative type of player. Limit mixed games appeal to women a little more. Have I ever felt that I had an edge being a woman in the games? Not any greater than I do in my Hold'em games. People underestimate women all over the place. (laughs)
PSW: For first-time Omaha players, what are some basics of the game?
AR: The ultimate one is that you must and can only use two cards from your hand. No matter what comes on the board, you have to use three cards up there and two from your hand. It's such a common mistake that people, for example, see four hearts on the board and think they have one heart in their hand, but you have to have two to make the flush. That's the most basic mistake that gets made, and it can be very defeating.
Otherwise, you want to play hands in which four cards are working together. Hands like A-2-3-4 are good in Omaha, cards that are consecutive or double-suited, but high cards that are double-suited because you want to be drawing to the nuts.
PSW: What's your favorite variation of Omaha?
AR: Certainly, it's Hi/Lo Split because I believe that people misplay their hands far more than they think. People look at it as a game that can't be fun because you're always splitting pots, when in reality you need to be playing hands that can win the high and the low. Players put too much emphasis on one side of the hand, like they might have the high only and be raising and raising, but you might be there with the nut low and the redraw. If the board pairs, you could beat their flush only. Players tend to put in too much money without hands that can scoop. It's all about making that nut.
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Jennifer Newell is a PokerStars freelance contributor.