Offering an interesting alternative to the routine of the Texas Hold'em Poker
form, Omaha Poker
rules give players a new way to approach this classic community card game. More complicated than the original incarnation of the game that continues to reign supreme at the World Series of Poker - and just about every online poker site
and casino poker room - both professional and recreational poker players
are becoming increasingly attracted to the challenging intricacy of Omaha Poker.
This poker form is often played as Omaha Hi Poker, or Omaha Hi/Lo Split (also known as 'Omaha 8 or Better'). The primary difference is that in Omaha Hi, half of the pot is awarded to the player (or players) with the highest hand, whereas Omaha Hi/Lo awards half of the pot to the player (or players) who form the lowest hand - with eight being the highest allowable rank in a low hand. It is possible that the board will occasionally impede the ability for any player to achieve a low hand - due to the rules of Omaha Poker hand formation - in which case the high hand takes the pot.
The most common betting limits imposed on Omaha Poker games are Fixed Limit, and Pot Limit. Omaha Poker is also routinely played with a No Limit structure. Always played with blinds, fixed limit Omaha poker games are referred to by the small bet and big bet - for instance $2/$4 Limit Omaha - the big blind being the size of the small bet, and the small blind usually half of the small bet or higher at large stakes. Conversely, the dollar amounts in both Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) and No Limit Omaha Poker game titles (such as, $5/$10 No Limit Omaha Poker) indicate the size of the small blind and the big blind.
Once the blinds have been posted, each player is dealt four private hole cards, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer button. Of the four cards each player receives, only two may be used in conjunction with the board (the upturned community cards shared by all players) in order to form their final five-card hand. This means only three of the community cards will be applicable to the forming of the final hand.
The player to the left of the big blind acts first with the option to fold, call the big blind, or raise the bet in accordance with the limit structure (in small bet increments if Limit Omaha; as little as the last bet or raise, on up to the current size of the pot in Pot Limit Omaha; or as much as the total amount of the player's own chips in No Limit Omaha). In clockwise rotation, each player acts until all of the remaining players' bets are equal (or possibly 'all-in' for some players if playing No Limit Omaha).
Three cards are dealt to the board, called the "flop." In a live game, the dealer would "burn" the top card by discarding it, unseen, before dealing the first three community cards. The active player which is to the immediate left of the dealer button initiates the betting round, and may check, bet, or fold. Once a player opens the bet, checking is no longer an option. One must then call, raise the bet within the confines of the limit structure, or fold and irretrievably muck one's cards.
Once the second betting round is complete, the dealer burns the top card (if live) and issues the fourth card to the communal board. This is called the "turn". The next betting round begins - as before - with the nearest active player clockwise from the button. If the game is Limit Omaha, the betting and raising increments are lifted to the big bet amount in this round (ie. if the game is $1/$2 Limit Omaha Poker, player must now place bets and raises in $2 increments).
After burning the card on top of the deck (if live) the "river" card is dealt to the board. This is the fifth and last card to be revealed among the community cards in Omaha Poker. The remaining players commence with the final betting round, starting to the left of the dealer button.
Upon completion of the final betting round, assuming there are two or more participants still active in the hand, the showdown begins. Participants may only use three cards out of the five community cards on the board, combined with two out of four of their own hole cards to form the best possible five-card hand possible. This is where Omaha Poker can get tricky, as the potential to misread a hand is very high among newcomers to the game.
Omaha Poker generally indicates Omaha Hi, in which the pot is awarded to the player who holds the highest ranking hand. In the event of two or more equally ranked "Hi" hands, the players divide the pot evenly.
In the case of Omaha Hi/Lo Poker rules, the pot is split between the highest and lowest (qualifying) hand. Since a low hand cannot contain any card over an eight, it is possible that no player will achieve a low hand. When this occurs, the high hand receives the entire pot. Ties for high and low hands are quite common, and it is not out of the ordinary to quarter the pot.
The Hi/Lo Split aspect of Omaha Hi/Lo rules dictate that half of the pot is devoted to the high hand, and the other half is dedicated to the low hand. If the high hand is won by one player, and two players tie for low, the player with the high hand takes half the pot, and the two low players divide the other half evenly.
It is important to note that straights and flushes do not count against a player's low hand, and Aces are considered the lowest rank. Therefore, the best low hand in Omaha Hi/Lo Split is A,2,3,4,5 - also called "the wheel". The highest hand that can qualify for the Lo half of the pot is 8,7,6,5,4 - which would be defeated by 8,6,5,4,3.