How to Play Omaha Poker
4 Hole Cards Make Omaha Poker a ‘Big Hand’ Game
Omaha poker has a lot of fans. This format is a clear 2nd both online and in live casinos – with only Texas Holdem more popular.
The way that the game is organized is very similar to Texas Holdem. There is a flop, turn and river – and players place a small and big blind. The main difference is that each player gets dealt 4 cards before the flop instead of 2. At showdown, your 5-card poker hand can only be made of 2 cards from your own hand, along with 3 of the community cards.
Omaha is usually played with Pot Limit betting. This means you can bet up to the size of the current pot any time the action gets to you. Fixed Limit betting and even No-Limit Omaha are also spread.
Pot Limit Omaha (high only) is the most popular variation. Omaha Hi-Lo, with Pot Limit or Fixed Limit betting is also frequently played. In the Hi-Lo game the pot is split at showdown between the highest poker hand and a ‘low’ hand, which has 5 unique cards 8 and under. You can also find exotic Omaha Poker variants. These include 6 and 5 card Omaha (high only or high-lo), and Courchevel, which is a 5 card Omaha game with the first flop card dealt along with the player’s hands.
You will find Omaha in all of the online poker formats. These are cash games, fast-fold poker, tournaments and sit n goes. Note that Omaha does not use antes in tournaments.
In order to show how to play Omaha Poker, I have walked through a hand below. This uses the most popular format – Pot Limit Omaha High – as the example. After that you will find some simple tips to help you get off to a winning start.
How to Play Omaha Poker: Before the Flop
The setup involves a dealer button (which moves round the table clockwise), along with a small blind and big blind. The big blind is usually 1% of the max buy-in for the table, for example in a $200 game this would be $2.
Once the blinds are posted, each player is dealt 4 cards. Action starts with the player to the left of the big blind (Under the Gun). That player can call the amount of the big blind, raise up to the pot (assume the current bet is called when calculating this bet) or fold. If someone does raise, then all the remaining players must match that bet, fold or re-raise themselves.
If a player runs out of chips during a hand, their hand is still live. The pot they contributed to is separated, and a new ‘side pot’ created for any new bets.
When the last raise has been called, the flop can be dealt.
Flop Turn and River in Pot Limit Omaha
The flop is 3 cards in the same format as Texas Holdem. This will give players a lot of information on how strong their hands are, and is the defining moment of each hand. Remember that you must use 3 cards from the completed board, along with 2 from your hand. This means that a single ace of a suit does not give you a draw to a flush, unless you also hold another card of the same suit.
Betting begins with whichever player sits to the left of the dealer button. The player closest to or on the dealer button will act last on each betting round. Once again, bets can be anything from the size of the big blind up to the size of the current pot.
The turn and river betting rounds work in exactly the same way. In many hands, a pot that started very small can be huge by the river.
Omaha Poker Showdown Rules
When the final bets are called, the player that made the last aggressive action will show their hand first. In PLO High, the best poker hand which uses 2 and only 2 of a players cards, along with 3 and only 3 of the community cards will win. No other combinations are possible. You will find that you tune into this format very quickly when you play.
Split pots are uncommon in Omaha high, though they do occur from time to time.
If you are playing Omaha Hi-Lo, then the pot is split between the highest hand and the lowest hand. The best low is ace to five (the wheel), and any 5 unique cards under 8 will qualify. If there is no qualifying low hand, then the high hand takes the pot.
Tips for Playing Omaha for the First Time
Showdowns in Omaha high involve much stronger hands than in Texas Holdem. If you get to the river with an over-pair (like aces!) and there has been betting on more than one street, then you will frequently have the worst hand! Ace-Ace-x-x hands are favorite against any other holding before the flop, so if you can get your chips in at that stage you should do so. A big error in PLO is to raise or reraise early only with aces. This gives away half of your hand while the bets are very small, giving your opponents a great price to try and beat you.
The strongest hands in Omaha have cards which work together. Cards close in value are called ‘Runs’ or ‘Rundowns’, and if you have 2 cards of 2 suits your hand is ‘double suited’. A combination of these factors with high cards means you have a premium holding. Many times, a hand with multiple draws will be a favorite against strong made hands on the flop.