Omaha enjoys a thriving existence as one of the most popular types of poker games in the world. In structure and style, it is quite similar to Texas Hold'em. So, if you're looking to change things up a bit, read on to find out how to play Omaha.
Omaha enjoys a thriving existence as one of the most popular types of poker games in the world. In structure and style, it is quite similar to Texas Hold'em, so if you've played Hold'em, learning Omaha poker rules shouldn't be that much of a stretch. If you haven’t played Texas Hold’em before, the best advice we can give you is to learn below. The vast majority of poker variations take their lead from this incredibly popular game, so knowing your Hold’em how-to's will provide you with the perfect place to build your basis of poker knowledge in general.
Like Hold’em, Omaha poker rules share both the similarity of using community cards and stipulating that the best five card hand wins. Also like Hold'em, Omaha is played with three distinct betting structures: Pot Limit (the max amount a player can bet = the total sum of the pot), fixed limit (the pot may only be raised a max of four times and the bet or raise must be equivalent to the blind amount) and no-limit (no-holds barred; players are able to bet/raise as much and as often as they'd like during betting rounds.)
Most of the big similarities between Hold’em and Omaha end here, though. Let’s take a look at what makes Omaha unique.
How to Play Omaha: Basic Rules
1. Every player is dealt four cards face down (unlike Texas Hold'em, where players are dealt 2).
2. Once players have their four hole cards, five community cards are dealt, which are available for everyone to see and use to complete their best five card hand. The streets of action are the same as Hold’em: three cards are dealt in the flop, then a round of betting, then one card is dealt in the turn, then another round of betting, then the final card is dealt in the river, then one more round of betting and the showdown to determine the winner.
3. Players can only choose two of their four hole cards - and BOTH of the chosen cards must be utilized (plus three of the community cards) to make the best five card hand.
Omaha: Game Variations
There are a couple simple variations of Omaha that make (and keep!) the game even more exciting.
Omaha Hi: This is the most basic version we've already discussed; the Omaha poker rules stay the same, with the highest five card hand winning.
Example: Your hole cards are Q♥, Q♠, Q♦, K♣ and the board shows 9♦, 9♥, 4♠, 6♣, 2♥. Since you cannot use all three of the Queens you have in your hand, your best possible hand is two pair - Queens & 9's.
Omaha Hi/Lo (also called Omaha ‘8 or Better’): The Omaha poker rules vary a little in this version of the game, with the pot being split between the very best high hand and the very best low hand. So, the pot is divided between the person who has a standard high hand and the player who would (in almost any other game) have the lowest ranking hand. To win the entire pot - and to have the best possible hand in Omaha Hi/Lo - both the highest and lowest hand must be held by the same player.
Example: You are dealt A♠, 2♠, 4♦, K♦ in the hole and the board shows 2♣, 3♦, J♦, J♥, 5♦. Your best low hand (and the best nut low, period) is A-2-3-4-5.
A few notes:
1. To even qualify for the lowest hand, a player has to be able to make a hand using 8-7-6-5-4-3-2 or an ace (which can count as a '1' or an ace in hi/lo). A ‘wheel’ (A-2-3-4-5) is the best possible nut low hand.
2. It is also important to know that when it comes to Omaha poker rules for the hi/lo variation, straights and flushes do not count against your low hand, which means a low hand that is also a flush or straight is a phenomenal hand which could very likely win the best high and low hand, giving you what's called a 'scoop'.
3. Sometimes (40% of the time), there will be no low qualifying low hand (8 or lower), in which case the high hand will scoop the whole pot. This is because in order for anyone to get the low, the board has to show at least 3 cards of differing ranks that are 8 or lower. This means a board of Q-9-J-8-5 will not make any low hand for anyone. (Remember, you can only use two of your four hole cards to make the best five card hand!)
4. In the event that hands tie (e.g. two tied low or high hands), the pot is still split evenly between all the winners.
Of course, the very best way to learn Omaha poker rules is to actually jump in a play a few games. As always, it’s best to stick to low stake or free games until you get yourself familiarized, and then you can challenge yourself as you see fit.
Photo Credit: Arnaud Fraioli | Flickr