What Is Omaha Poker?
Perhaps you are, or at some point have been, what is known as a lurker. You have watched on as others play the game, curious enough to maintain interest but without trying the game out for yourself. Nobody likes a lurker, Jeffrey (Daniel, Thomas, Mysterion, or whatever your name may be). Omaha is now widely accepted to be second only to Texas Hold’em in terms of global popularity. It is considered the thinking man’s version of poker and is certainly a game that every poker enthusiast should try at some point.
The most popular version (Omaha Hi) is the Omaha Hold’em type, which is a game commonly compared to Texas Hold’em. As such, it is regarded as something of a relative to its Texan cousin. There are certainly similarities between both games, which we will look at below. Omaha Hi/Lo is a variant of Omaha poker with slightly different rules. Effectively, it is the same game, but there are two potential pots to win. These minor differences mean that players need to develop varying strategies for playing this version.
We have outlined these differences below, which will explain everything. So do not fear – we have you covered, and you will be clued up in no time!
Omaha Poker History
Sometimes, trying to wade through the myths and legends of casino and card games can be a pretty amusing exercise. With Omaha poker, the history of the game is not as long, cloudy, or disputed as other games like blackjack or baccarat. Given its name, Omaha poker is believed by many to have its roots in the “Wild West,” which could not be further from the truth. The romantic notions of gunslingers playing into the early hours in rugged saloons in the 1880s may be cool to imagine, but the game actually originated in a more civilized setting.
The four-hole-card version developed quickly, with poker games like “Nine Cards,” “Fort Worth,” and “Oklahoma” becoming common among players. These games were essentially the same version of poker. The commonly accepted theory is that Omaha was the name which was agreed on by casinos arranging these games for players.
Differences Between Omaha Hi and Omaha Hi/Lo
It is important to know the differences between Omaha Hi and Omaha Hi/Lo before you start playing. In fact, it is a good idea to read through the entirety of this guide before you play. Simply throwing yourself into a game without knowing the way it works is not advisable!
When it comes to the fundamental rules and ways Omaha Hi and Omaha Hi/Lo are both played, they are similar games. There are differences at the showdown that make them unique from one another, however, and we will look at these below.
Omaha Hi is also known as Omaha Hold’em. As we mentioned above, it is very similar to Texas Hold’em in the way it is played. There are community cards with a flop, turn, and river. The aim of the game is to put together the strongest five-card poker hand of anyone at the table.
When comparing Omaha to Texas Hold’em, there is a glaring difference: players begin with four hole cards in Omaha. From here, players need to take two of their hole cards from the four and put them with three community cards on the table to make their hand. In other words, players in Omaha have four hole cards rather than the two in Texas Hold’em.
The top starting hands in Omaha Hi are as follows. These need to be double-suited:
In cases where the pot is not won when betting all others out pre-flop, flop, turn, or river, all remaining players will engage in a showdown. From here, the competitor with the best hand will win the pot.
This variant is also known as “Omaha 8 or Better” or “Hi/Lo Split.” We mentioned that Omaha Hi and Omaha Hi/Lo are very similar. The most obvious difference, however, is that there are two pots per hand to be won: the high pot and the low pot (hence, the name “Hi/Lo”).
Players can win one-half of a pot by putting the best high hand together and/or the other half by winning the best low hand. Low hands are required to be comprised of five cards with values of 8 or lower with a wheel. In Omaha Hi/Lo, it is possible to take the entire pot by having the strongest Hi and Lo hands, or in cases where there is no qualifying low. When playing Hi/Lo, the strongest starting hands will differ from those of Omaha Hi. This is due to the lower card values which are important in the game.
The top starting hands in Omaha Hi are as follows. These need to be double-suited:
Cards are double-suited, much like in Omaha Hi, and ensure that players have more than one hand to draw. The cards may also look a little weak if you are used to playing other games, such as Texas Hold’em. This is down to the importance of the low pot.
A player cannot win a low pot without the low cards, granted, but must also have the ability to win the high pot into the bargain. The player can win the high pot with the cards above if they draw to a wheel or a flush, so these are the cards you will be looking to draw when playing Omaha Hi/Lo.
Other Key Differences
Things get super interesting in Omaha Hi/Lo. Players can split either of the pots with another player, which is referred to (unsurprisingly) as a “quarter.” This comes into play when there are, for example, three players playing, and one player wins the high pot, but there is a tie on the low pot. The tie will determine that the low pot (50% of the combined pot) is split. Both players earn 50% of the low pot, which is 25% of the combined pot.
Fancy yourself as a bluffer? If this is your forte, then you may need to add another string to your bow when playing Omaha Hi/Lo, as there are effectively two pots to play for. This makes the gentle art of bluffing a little more difficult (or pointless, depending on your perspective). As the chances of a player having the cards to win a high or a low pot are increased, you could be called down and put in your place pretty quickly.
Yes, they are very similar games, for the most part. There is a reason why they are both classed under the “Omaha” banner. They are both nut games, so don’t invest too much in the strongest hand on the flop. Pairs don’t hold the same currency, for the most part, than in other similar games. They are also two games which are very interesting to play. With games like Texas Hold’em, we can all be guilty of getting bored after a few hands, which can lead to our minds wandering a little. In Omaha Hi or Omaha Hi/Lo, there is certainly more skill involved.
How to Play Omaha Poker
Omaha poker is action-packed and has enough room to satisfy the strategists and cerebral players among us. There is no doubt that the game is more appealing to advanced poker players than other games like Texas Hold’em are.
When it comes to playing Omaha poker, the “Hi” version is the most popular. As such, we will concentrate on Omaha Hi in this section. Below, we will break down how to play Omaha Hi poker, using examples of what you can expect in an average game.
Playing a Game of Omaha Hi Poker
The game starts with all players on the table receiving four cards, with anywhere between two and ten players involved in one game. Players are only permitted to use two of their cards to make the strongest hand they can in order to win the pot available.
How to Win
There are two ways to win in Omaha poker:
- All of the other players must be played out of the game by folding. This means that the last player to remain in the game takes the pot
- You have the best hand at the showdown
The object of the game – as with any community card game – is to put together the best hand possible.
The Deal and Blinds
The game begins when there is a final number of players at the table. Players, as mentioned above, should number anywhere between two and ten. Once all the players are ready – and have their chips on the table – a high card should be drawn to determine the dealer. All players should have one card, provided (or taken from the deck) face up. The player who has the highest ranked card – from ace down to 2 – will deal. If two or more players are tied on the highest card, a tiebreaker should be performed.
In casinos (or the man caves of those who mean business), a button is typically assigned to the dealer. This button is usually a white disk but can be anything, really. In the instance where you are putting on a poker game and don’t have a dealer button, use your imagination. For instance, you could place a saucer, cup, salt shaker, or a bucket of fried chicken next to the dealer. Get creative! Just make sure you trust them with your wings.
Prior to cards being dealt, the two players sitting closest to the left of the dealer will put the blinds down. The player to the immediate left of the dealer is responsible for the small blind, while the next player puts out the big blind. The dealer will then distribute the cards to players, starting with the player to their immediate left and working clockwise. The dealer will give each player one card (face down) at a time until everyone has four.
Pre-flop is the first betting round and will be completed once each and every player has reacted. Players can fold, call, or raise.
Fold: This means that they are counting themselves out of the game. They will exit the game by discarding their hand and waiting for the next deal to bet.
Call: A player calls by betting the same amount as the big blind.
Raise: This is when a player chooses to bet more than the big blind (calling). The minimum a player can bet by raising is double the amount of the big blind. For example, the big blind is $0.50, so a player must raise by $1.
Once all players have folded, called, or raised, the small blind will have their turn. They have already placed their blind, according to the rules, so they must make a decision on whether to call, raise, or fold. To call, they will add the amount required minus the price of the small blind.
Once all players have had the chance to fold, call, or raise, the flop will be initiated. In Omaha, there are five community cards in total if the game reaches showdown. The flop will see the first three cards dealt.
The first player to the dealer’s left who is still in the game after the pre-flop round will either check or bet. Checking does not require a player to contribute any chips or fold if they do not wish to. This applies to all players in this round. If a bet is placed, then other players can match or raise.
The turn is initiated when the dealer takes the burn card at the top of the deck and places it face down. Another card will then be added to the flop, making four in total.
This penultimate round will then trigger a higher betting limit which is usually double the size of the big blind but can otherwise be a percentage higher than the big blind in some games. Once everyone has had their turn, the game will move on to the next stage of the game.
The river is when the final community card is placed down, following the discard of the burn card from the top of the deck. The river works exactly the same as the turn. When the river has been completed, the last remaining players will move on to the final part of the game, which is the showdown.
In this round, the player who has been judged to have the strongest hand will win the pot! Bragging rights will ensue. You might even see the sore losers (and sore winners) reveal themselves to one and all!
Omaha Poker Strategy
The first step towards greatness is learning the rules. Those who have experience in playing any form of poker will know that once the rules and order of hands are learned, position is the most important aspect to master. Players should be playing as tight as possible, aiming to put together hands that can flop big with something behind them.
Knowing when you have the nuts will be integral to your strategy. This knowledge is essential for getting the most out of your hand. When you are in the late position, you will have the added benefit of knowing players’ moves. Conversely, being in the early position requires patience and demands a smarter way of playing. In order to develop a strategy worthy of taking to the table, learning these fundamentals is crucial to your prospects.
Always Be Prepared to Fold
Making the nuts is one of the most important parts of Omaha poker. Players used to winging it in a Texas Hold’em setting should be extra careful when trying to bring this strategy to Omaha poker. In fact, it is probably a good idea to take your head to the nearest tap and wash everything you know of Texas Hold’em out of it, period. Not literally, Jeffrey! Waterboarding yourself is not the way to win…
It is difficult to emphasize just how much the additional cards and combinations influence this game. If you are not entirely confident in having the best hand out there, at least one of your opponents will be. As a wise man once said, “If in doubt, shout ‘I’m out.'” Sometimes we just have to swallow our pride and fold. That’s life.
Perhaps the biggest mistake novices will make when playing Omaha is overvaluing hole aces. Put simply, they are not always a guarantee of a win. Remember, Omaha is a different game than Texas Hold’em, with requirements, combinations, and rules that are different from any other version of poker. Given that there are more cards to play with, you can expect a higher number of flushes and straights. Standalone aces will, therefore, need some support in the form of other strong cards. Aces on their own, while visually exciting, do not spell immediate victory.
Keep Your Eyes on Your Bankroll
If you are even relatively new to Omaha poker, you will probably be carried away by the current every now and again. It is a very high-paced game, so the psychological aspects associated with poker come into play that much more. Think about it: there are four hole cards. If you are used to playing with two, it can be twice as fast, in theory. There are a higher number of hands played, so the pot size can grow pretty quickly. As the game gathers pace, so does the risk involved.
If you are not accustomed to being naturally smart with your bankroll, you should do your best to change this before playing Omaha. The game is known for being a particular favorite of those who understand playing smart and keeping discipline. Managing your bankroll, therefore, is a skill that is very valuable in Omaha poker. You can practice your bankroll management on free or low-stake games.
As a game with four hole cards, some novice players used to playing poker in a different fashion may be a little taken aback at first. As you can see from the information we covered above, it is not a game that deserves to be branded as a difficult one to master. In Omaha poker – much like any other game you will play – understanding the rules before you play is crucial to your chances of success. In a game where the momentum and pace build up in no time, learning how to adequately manage your bankroll is always a good idea.
Those bored of the same old games will surely welcome a chance to try Omaha poker, with anywhere between one and nine of their friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. It is truly one of the more exciting versions of poker out there. So, with this in mind, maybe it’s time for you to graduate from lurker to participant!