Before the game of Texas Hold’em dominated the brick and mortar and online casino landscapes, another version of poker was being played all over the world. Omaha Poker differs from its Hold’em cousin in many ways, but the most notable difference is the fact that players are dealt 4 cards apiece as opposed to 2. The fact that players are given so many cards is the driving force behind why anyone who knows what they’re talking about tells beginning players to try out Omaha before delving into Hold’em. It is thought that if someone can master the basics of Omaha they will have a much easier time learning how to play any of the many other poker variations.
There exist a multitude of other differences and similarities between Omaha and other poker variants, and they will be discussed in the following sections. Keep in mind that, during this extrapolation of Omaha poker, we will be using poker terms that you should take time to learn. Words like “flop”, “blinds”, “fold”, and other similar terms will all be referenced over and over again in the sections herein.
Omaha – A Basic Summation
Played with anywhere from 2 to 10 players, Omaha is like many other poker games in that it is considered to be a community game. Prior to play actually beginning, a dealer must be established. In games between friends or those at casinos that are just starting, a dealer is often established by drawing high cards. Whoever at the table draws the highest card will be determined to be the dealer.
In the wake of a dealer being nominated, all players at the table that are participating are forced to pay their blinds. Blinds are paid out as follows:
- The first active player sitting to the dealer’s left will pay the small blind
- The first active player sitting to the left of the small blind will pay the big blind
After blinds have been paid, every active player around the table will be dealt 4 face-down cards that are only able to be viewed by the person to whom they are dealt. Now, the action can finally begin via the first active player to the left of the big blind. This player, after viewing their own cards, has the option of matching the big blind, raising, or folding their cards, thus eliminating them from further participation in the current hand. Once this action has been repeated the whole way around the table (and assuming not everyone has folded) there will be three face-up cards laid in the middle of the table; these cards are known as the flop.
Once the flop has been laid down and viewed by everyone, so begins the 2nd round of action. This round of betting is commenced by the first player to the dealer’s (or button’s) left. Once every still-active player has either made their wager or folded, a 4th community card, also known as the turn, will be laid down in the center of the table. The 3rd round of action plays out in the exact same way as the round before it, and a fifth and final card (the river) is laid down in the center of the table. This concludes the dealing of face-up community cards.
After the river has been dealt one final round of betting ensues with everyone that is still active and has cards in front of them able to participate. Once this round of betting is completed, the showdown, where a winner is determined, occurs. Before the winner is determined, but after final bets have been placed, players are forced to forfeit half of their 4 card holding. Using the 2 cards you have remaining in conjunction with the 5 community cards, the player who holds the best 5-card combination will be determined to be the winner of the hand.
Though this is the bare bones of what makes Omaha the game that it is, this particular variation of poker also has its own variations.
Pot Limit Omaha
Pot Limit Omaha is, in every way, identical to the game of Omaha as described in the previous section. The only way that this game really differs is with regard to how bets are able to be made. While in traditional Omaha bets of any size can be made at any given point in time, Pot Limit Omaha works a bit differently. In this version of the game, wagers cannot be less than the total amount of the small blind and can never exceed the value of the current pot.
In a game of Pot Limit Omaha where blinds are $5/$10, the minimum bet that can ever be placed is $10. To continue this example, let’s say that the current pot totals to $300. If this is the case, any wager that is made cannot exceed that Dollar amount. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the current pot is determined by totaling the pot that has been laid down in previous rounds as well as the bets that have been laid down in the current round.
No Limit Omaha
No Limit Omaha is, as its name implies, a game where there is no minimum or maximum amount you are able to wager at any given time. Of course, thanks to the existence of blinds, the minimum bet will always be at least the size of the big blind. No Limit Omaha also places no limits on the number of wagers that can be placed in any particular round. If there is an infinite amount of money held by players, a single No Limit Omaha betting round could, in theory, go on forever.
Fixed Limit Omaha
Fixed Limit Omaha requires bets to be made only in specific quantities, or in fixed amounts (hence the name Fixed Limit Omaha). Immediately before and immediately following the flop, wagers made can only be made in terms equaling exactly the value of the big blind. During every other round of betting, that value is doubled and the fixed betting limit is re-established at that doubled value. For example, in a $10/$20 Fixed Limit Omaha game, bets made before and after the flop must be no more or less than $20 while all bets made subsequent to that must be made in increments of $40.
The final rule of Fixed Limit Omaha is that a single player can bet no more than 4 times during any single round of betting.
Omaha Hi-Lo has many different names depending on who you are playing with and where you are playing, so the game is most easily discernable via its unique gameplay rules. In most every way the game mimics tradition No Limit Omaha in that every player is dealt 4 hole cards and will be able to utilize a maximum of 5 community cards.
The biggest difference between Omaha Hi-Lo and any other variation of the game is that there are two winners for every hand. Another major difference is that all 4 of a player’s hole cards can be used to determine a best hand, however they must be split up into 2 sets of 2 hole cards. Once the showdown is reached, the person with the best Hi hand and the person with the best Lo hand will split the pot.
The 8 or better rule is something that comes into play in Omaha Hi-Lo and is something that close attention should be paid to. The 8 or better rule mandates that any 5-card Lo hand must see every card rank below 8 (meaning the only qualifying cards for a low hand are A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). It must be mentioned, however, that there may not always be a qualifying Lo hand, in which case the winning Hi hand will win the entirety of the pot.
The California rule is used in Omaha Hi-Lo and this is nothing more than a rule that says the Ace is always a low card when a player is attempting to put together a qualifying Lo hand. In addition, things like straights and flushes are not considered when a Lo hand is being determined. This means that the best possible Lo hand one can have is A, 2, 3, 4, 5. Because Hi-Lo ignores the suit and order of the cards, there are times when 2 or more players may be forced to split the Lo pot between them.
With regard to Hi hands, there are no special rules. Straights and flushes are always considered and, unlike the Lo hand, there will always be a Hi hand winner.
Omaha Hi-Lo Hand Example
An example of an Omaha Hi-Lo hand is as follows:
Let’s say that the 5 community cards laid on the table are 2♦ 3♥ 4♦ A♠ and K♥. If 1 of 2 players holds a hand consisting of A♥ Q♦ 4♠ J♦ and 10♥ and the other player holds A♦ 5♠ 7♦ 8♠ and 6♥, which hand is the Hi and which hand is the Lo?
The answer is that the first player would win the Hi hand with a 10-A straight. The second player would win the Lo hand with a A, 2, 3, 4, 5 hand.