How to play Omaha poker

Poker.Org Staff
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Last updated: August 19, 2022 11:25 am EDT

What is Omaha poker?

Omaha poker is a poker variant that plays similar to Texas Hold’em. Players are dealt four hole cards in a game of Omaha and must make the best possible five-card hand using exactly two hole cards and three community cards. Pot-Limit Omaha is the second-most popular poker game in the world, behind Texas Hold’em, and is played in the World Series of Poker.

Rules for Omaha poker

Like Texas Hold’em, Omaha is a card poker game where players try to make the best hand out of their hole cards and five community cards. Omaha poker rules require players to use exactly two of their four hole cards and three community cards to make the best hand.

This differs from Texas Hold’em, in which players get two hole cards and can use any combination of hole cards and community cards.

Differences between Omaha poker and Texas Hold’em

Omaha games deal four hole cards to each player, while Texas Hold’em gives poker players two hole cards. In Texas Hold’em, players can use any combination of hole cards and community cards to make the best possible hand.

The most critical difference to understand in Omaha is that you must use exactly two hole cards and three community cards to make the best hand. As with Texas Hold-em, the best hand wins.

For example, if you hold A♥K♣Q♦J♠ and the board comes out T♥5♥4♥3♥2♠, you only have ace high. You would need at least two hearts among your hole cards to make a flush. You would also need a combination of two hole cards and three community cards to make any straight.

How to play Omaha poker

A game of Omaha starts with the dealer button administering a starting hand of four hole cards to each player. These cards are dealt face down. After that, the first round of betting (pre-flop) begins with the first player to the left of the dealer, with all players getting the chance to call, raise, or fold.

The flop

After the pre-flop betting round is complete, the dealer puts the first three of five community cards on the board, known as the flop. These cards face up. After the flop is dealt, all players still in the hand engage in a second round of betting.

Before the flop, the player to the left of the big blind begins the betting process, which moves clockwise around the table. The person in the big blind is the last to act. After the flop, action starts with the player to the left of the dealer button, the first one still in the hand. 

The first player can check and do nothing, or they can bet. A normal bet here is the amount of the big blind, but players can bet any amount they wish depending upon the format of the game — pot limit or no limit. Pot-limit is the most common, and it caps the possible bet at the amount already in the pot. 

Other players in the hand can then fold, call, or raise.

The turn

The flop betting round is followed by the dealer putting a fourth community card on the board. This card is known as the turn, or fourth street, and another betting round commences after that, with each player either pursuing a better hand or a bluff.

The action after the turn card appears mimics that of the previous round of betting. The first player to the left of the dealer button still holding cards can check or bet. Other players still in the hand can fold to any action, call a bet, or raise. 

Again, in PLO, the raise cannot exceed the amount of money in the pot. The minimum bet is the size of the original big blind, as it is throughout the game.

The river

The fifth and final community card (river card) hits the board next. This card, known as the river (or fifth street), completes dealer action, and then the final betting round takes place. The winner of the showdown is the player with the best five-card hand.

In an Omaha hand, there may be few players remaining after the river, especially if there were bets on every street. Since players must use exactly two of their hole cards to make the best five-card hand, the action is likely more intentional and consequential.

The minimum and maximum bets remain the same. At this point, it can be more difficult to calculate the amount of money in the pot, so a pot-sized bet likely requires the dealer’s assistance in determining the exact size of the pot. Dealers experienced in dealing Omaha are often quick with those calculations.

The showdown

Omaha games often use a pot-limit betting structure, with the maximum allowed raise limited to the size of the pot. Omaha Hi-Lo (aka Omaha 8, High-Low, or Omaha Eight or Better) splits each pot between the high hand and the lowest hand (according to the poker hand rankings) if the low hand is eight-high or lower.

Unlike Texas Hold’em, Omaha is rarely played using a no-limit betting structure.

After the final round of betting, the players reveal their hands if they choose to contend for the pot. 

It is rare for players to hold the same hand, much rarer than in Hold’em, because they each have four cards from which to choose the two that they use with the community cards.

In hi-lo Omaha, there will be two hands to compete for the pot. A player can scoop by holding the best high and low hands, though the most common result is that one player holds the best high hand and another the best low hand. This results in a split pot.

How to bet in Omaha poker

Omaha is much more of a drawing game than Hold’em. Pre-flop play can be loose as multiple players may draw to a hand, waiting to see what the flop provides. That means the range of opening hands is wider than in Hold’em. 

Players can open with a range of starting hands, with double-suited hands making for the best draws. For example, the best starting hand is A-A-K-K double-suited. However, any cards from nines to kings and aces can combine for a good starting hand if there is at least one pair and only two suits.

The nuts

More players may see a flop in Omaha than in other five-card games, but more of them will also fold after the flop. Typically, players only remain in the hand post-flop if they have a set, high flush, or straight. And players drawing to the turn or river are often drawing to the nuts.

If you flop a good hand and want to draw to the nuts on the turn or river, it makes sense to bet bigger to isolate. Pot-sized bets are common at this stage of a hand. Players typically want only one opponent going to the river or at showdown.

Blockers

Blockers are also a key component of betting in Omaha. If you hold a blocker – a card that can prevent your opponent from making a particular hand – you can bet accordingly. 

For example, if you feel that your opponent was drawing to a nut flush but you hold the card that prevents that nut flush from getting there, you should bet accordingly. If that opponent represents the nuts and you know they cannot hold it, it is a prime opportunity to bet big and take the pot.

Omaha poker tips and strategies

Players moving from Texas Hold’em poker to Omaha will need to develop new strategies. Playing a drawing game requires a reset of guidance as it pertains to position and bluffing. And with the added blocker component, there’s a new layer to strategic thinking.

The importance of position

Position is important in any poker game, as the first player to bet post-flop and onward has a distinct advantage. They control the action and, often, the size of the pot.

Playing out of position requires better hands with which to call bets and raises. Bluffing becomes more difficult, as the first person to act can already be bluffing. While being out of position allows players more chances to fold out of bad hands or raise good ones, your decisions will rely on those of others who check or bet first. 

Bluffing in Omaha poker

The ability to bluff in Omaha is a mixed bag. Players have more opportunities to bluff early in the hand due to the possible range of starting hands. Pre-flop play is the best time to bluff to reduce the number of players in the hand.

After the flop, bluffing remains a tool by which a player can prompt drawing hands that didn’t find anything on the flop to fold. It can also be a method to determine if your opponents did hit the flop.

Few players will extend bluff betting to the turn or river. With so many possibilities for players to make hands, bluffing is rarely the way to win a hand at showdown.

Using blockers to gain an advantage

Skilled Omaha players learn how to use blockers to their advantage. While the focus on your own hand is key, knowing when you hold a blocker can be just as important.

If your hole cards contain one or more blockers for one or more opponents, you have more potential. For example, if your opponent is clearly chasing a flush or a straight but you hold the card they need to complete that hand, you will know when he or she is bluffing. If you hold the blocker, you can pick off an attempted bluff. And your own hand becomes stronger

Where To Play Omaha Poker Online

Most online poker rooms offer real money Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) cash games at a variety of stakes. Sites like PokerStars, partypoker, WSOP.com, and many others offer Pot-Limit Omaha games around the clock.

PLO tournaments are harder to find online, but the major poker sites do run multi-table tournaments for PLO somewhat regularly.

PokerStars runs a wide variety of other Omaha variants in cash game format, including Limit Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo. While seats are open for these games at all times on PokerStars, it’s often tough to find enough players to start a game.

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