STRATEGY

Rules of Omaha Poker

Are you getting a little tired of playing Texas Hold’em?  Are you looking for a more challenging mental poker game?  Then you should definitely try your hand at Omaha poker.  If you’re not sure how to play Omaha or what the rules are, you’re in the right place.  Welcome to our Rules of Omaha Poker.  In this article, we’ll go over the sequence of play in a typical Omaha hand, and how to create a hand and determine the winner.  For our purposes here, we will deal only with straight Omaha (high) poker, not Omaha Hi/Lo, Omaha 8 or better, five-card Omaha (Big O), or Courchevel.  When it comes to stakes, we find no-limit Omaha games tend to get out of hand, so our advice is to always stick with fixed-limit and pot-limit tables.

Omaha Poker Gameplay

First, let’s go over normal gameplay sequence in a round of Omaha poker.  The main difference between Texas Hold’em and Omaha is that each player receives four hole cards, instead of two.  After that, gameplay is much the same until it’s time to create your hand.  For this article, we will do a quick recap.  If you want to find out more about the full sequence of play, our Texas Hold’em strategy guide will tell you all you need to know!

Order of Play

  • Determine the dealer by drawing cards and give him the button.
  • The player to the left of the dealer puts in the small blind, say $0.01 for our example
  • The player one position clockwise puts in the big blind, which would be $0.02
  • The dealer then gives each player four hole cards face down
The Deal

Omaha Deal

  • Preflop betting starts with the player to the left of the big blind. He can choose to fold, check, or raise the bet.  If raising, the player must raise 2x the current amount, which would be an additional $0.02 for this example.
  • Each player takes a turn in a clockwise direction to either fold, check, or raise, with the player sitting in the big blind position getting the last chance to act. When all remaining players have the same amount of chips in the pot, it’s time for the flop.
  • After burning a card, the dealer deals three cards face up. This is called the flop.
  • Another round of betting takes place, starting with the player on the dealer’s left. All players get a chance to fold, check, or raise.
  • When all remaining players have an equal amount in the pot, it’s time for the turn.
  • After burning a card, the dealer deals one card face up. This is the turn.
  • Another round of betting follows the turn, with all players getting a chance to fold, raise, or check. If there are still two or more players remaining, it’s time for the river.
  • The dealer burns a card and deals one card face up. This is the river (final) card.
  • A final round of betting follows the river.
  • If there are two or more players left, they must lay down their cards for the showdown to determine the winner.
The Showdown

Omaha Showdown

  • To create a hand in Omaha, the player must use two of their hole cards, and three of the community cards on the table. The highest ranking poker hand wins!

Other Outcomes

Of course, if the field gets down to a single player during any betting round, the last remaining player wins the pot.  Pretty simple, right?  Not really.  In Omaha, there are many more possibilities for creating a hand than most players are used to from playing Texas Hold’em.  Players need to examine all of the possibilities and determine the strongest hand possible, which takes a much higher degree of mental skill.  Gameplay may seem fast and furious when you begin playing Omaha, but once you get used to it, you’ll love the game!

Example Showdown

Let’s take a look at an example of a showdown between two players:

  • Let’s say the community cards on the board are 2♥ J♣ Q♣ K♠ A♦
  • Player 1 holds 10♠ 9♣ 9♥ 2♦
  • Using the 9 and 10 from his hole cards, Player 1 has a straight (9♣ 10♠ J♣ Q♣ K♠).
  • Player 2 holds 10♣ 2♣ 3♥ 4♥
  • Player two uses the 2 and 10 from his hand giving him a pair of twos (2♣ 2♥ A♦ K♠ 10♣).
  • A straight always beats one pair, so Player 1 gets the pot!

The main thing to remember is that you must use two hole cards and three community cards to form your best possible hand.  It takes a little getting used to, but once you learn to do this, it will become second nature. If you need to refresh your memory on hand hierarchy, this article will help!

Omaha Straight

You can see in the example, were we not to have the 10 in the hole, then we would not have completed our straight – despite there being a 10 on the table.  It’s crucial to remember that you must play exactly two of your hole cards, so bear this in mind when forming hands.  It also means having trips in the hole is not nearly as useful as it may first appear – you’ll never hit quads!

Omaha Poker Strategies

There are several strategies to employ when you start to play fixed-limit and pot-limit Omaha.  Here are several of the most basic ones you need to keep in mind:

  • Be patient. When you get four hole cards, it’s easy to get excited by all the possibilities of the draw.  Determine your minimum hand and stick to it.  Use your discipline.
  • As in any poker game, read your competition. Identify who bluffs a lot, who plays aggressive, who calls when they should fold, and who is easily bluffed.
  • Respect large bets. In a game of Omaha, players are much less likely to be bluffing when they bet big.  With more cards, the quality of hands is higher than in Texas Hold’em.
  • Your pair of Aces isn’t much. Unlike in Texas Hold’em, a pair of pocket Aces isn’t that great when you’re playing Omaha.  Keep in mind that this game is a different animal.

Overall, new Omaha players just need to play conservative and get a feel for the game.  Our best recommendation is to play for a while using free or micro stakes games to minimize your risk while learning the game of Omaha poker.

Texas Hold’em vs. Omaha: What’s the Difference?

While both games’ mechanics play very similarly, the addition of two more hole cards changes the complexion of the game.  Here are the major differences between the two games:

  • More players will see the flop. When players receive their four hole cards, they see many different possibilities, so they tend to hang in to at least see the flop cards.
  • Bigger pots. Since more players hang in to see the flop, pots are larger, which leads to bigger bets post-flop, and larger final pot amounts.
  • Better hands. When you play Omaha, that two-pair hand that would have won you the pot playing Texas Hold’em isn’t going to cut it.  Try to get straights, flushes, or better.
  • Less bluffing. It’s not unusual to get a flush or a full house playing Omaha, so if the community cards show a strong possibility, they’re betting big for a reason.
  • Betting is critical. With so many quality hands possible in a round of Omaha, you need to make sure to capitalize on strong hands when you get them.  Don’t be afraid to bet big when you have the cards.
  • Position is different. In Texas Hold’em, the player with position has the best chance of winning the pot.  In Omaha, the player with position only has the power to regulate pot sizes to their liking.

Practice Exercise

Before you go to your favorite poker site to start playing some Omaha poker, here’s a helpful little exercise you can do by yourself to get your mind in the zone:

  • Shuffle your favorite deck
  • Deal two hands to yourself (4 hole cards + 4 hole cards)
  • Deal the flop and check your possible hands for each set of hole cards.
  • Deal the turn and check your possible hands again.
  • Deal the river and create the best hand with each set of hole cards.
  • Have a showdown with yourself, and see which hand wins.

This process may seem a little silly at first, but this exercise will train your mind to start seeing possible hands more quickly and easily.  Once it becomes second-nature, you’re ready to play Omaha for some small stakes, and move up from there!

Warnings

Before you get out there and grow a massive bankroll playing Omaha, keep these nuggets of wisdom firmly in mind every time you play Omaha poker:

  • Don’t play a Texas Hold’em strength hand. It won’t win here.
  • Don’t call when the odds are against you. You’re not likely to get that low percentage draw you need.
  • If your hole cards are junk, don’t stay in the pot to see what the draw is. You can watch that for free after you fold.
  • If you’ve finally got that good hand, be sure to raise pre-flop to jack up the pot.
  • Stick to fixed-limit and pot-limit games.  Here’s an example of what can happen in Omaha, even in a pot-limit game:
    Rules of Omaha Poker Showdown

Rules of Omaha Poker – In Conclusion

If you’re getting bored playing Texas Hold’em, it’s time to switch your game.  Omaha poker is a faster paced, more complex form of poker that many players prefer.  The main difference between Omaha and Hold’em is that with Omaha rules you get four hole cards, while you only receive two playing Hold’em.  It’s a simple change to the rules that brings hundreds of subtle and complex changes to the play.  The game uses the mechanics of Hold’em with the attention to detail required of Stud, making it a very popular format.  Rightly, this leads good players such as Phil Galfond to earn a great deal of respect in the poker world.

Finally, our top tip when playing Omaha: remember, to create your hand, you must use two of your hole cards and three of the community cards.  Be patient, but ready to pounce on the larger pots, and you’ll win big playing Omaha.  Other than that, it’s just poker!  Have fun and good luck!


I'm a tech geek who enjoys extreme sports, computing and, of course, an avid poker enthusiast.


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