The game of Omaha is a variant of poker, with many similarities to Texas Hold'em, but also many differences.
This community card game is generally played in two versions – Omaha Hold'em (Omaha Hi or simply Omaha) and Omaha Hi-Lo. For simplicity, this article will focus on Omaha Hi.
Omaha, in a nutshell, requires that players complete the game with the best hand possible and to eventually take home the pot. The hand is made up of five cards – two pocket cards and three community cards.
Limit Omaha Poker - A specific betting limit is applied to each Omaha game, as well as on each round of betting. Betting is pre-determined and structured. In the pre-flop and flop rounds, the bets and raises are the same amount as the big blind. In the turn and river rounds, bets and raises double.
Pot Limit Omaha Poker - The poker player can wager the amount that is in the pot. The minimum bet is the same as the size of the blind, but players can wager up to the size of the pot. The minimum raise has to be at least as much as the previous bet or raise in the same round. The maximum bet is the size of the pot, plus all bets at the table, as well as the amount that the active player needs to call before raising. There is generally no cap on the number of raises that are allowed.
No Limit Omaha Poker - The poker player can wager any amount, capped at the amount of chips he has. The minimum bet is the same size as the big blind. The raise amount needs to be at least as much as the previous player’s bet or raise in the same round. The maximum raise is the size of the player’s stack. Here, too, there is no cap on the number of raises allowed.
The rules for all these Omaha types are the same, except for the different betting structures.
Omaha is played with four hole cards (private cards) instead of the usual two, and the objective of the game is to finish with the best poker hand – and take home the pot! The winning hand is made up of five cards (three community cards and two pocket cards). In addition, the player needs to have at least enough chips to wager a blind bet and a bet.
Betting in Omaha
The blinds in this game are used to encourage players to play a hand and build up the pot. The number of bets allowed per round is limited in Omaha, with three bets considered the maximum.
Players will go through four rounds of betting in Omaha.
As with most forms of poker, the betting actions in Omaha are: fold, check, bet, call or raise.
Fold: To discard cards and give up all interest in the pot.
Bet: To place a wager.
Check: Decline to bet but keep the cards.
Call: To match the amount that the previous player wagered.
Raise: To not only match the previous wager, but also to increase it.
Omaha playing and wagering take place in a clockwise direction around the poker table.
The two players that are situated to the left of the dealer are those who post the big blind, as well as the small blind. The player to the dealer’s immediate left posts the small blind (the equivalent to half the lower betting limit), while the player to the small blind’s immediate left posts the big blind (the equivalent to the lower betting limit).
As such, in a $2/$4 game of Omaha – the small blind will be $1, while the big blind will be $2.
Naturally, all bets have to be in line with the game’s betting limits.
To set a fair standard, all players at the table are required to post a bet that is equal in value to the big blind. Players are allowed to opt to sit out and wait for the big blind to move to their position at the table and then enter the round.
The dealer determines where the game commences and which direction the game moves in. The dealer rotates after every game in a clockwise direction. This means that all players can be the dealer and therefore get a turn to act, play one of the blinds or be the first player to have cards dealt to.
The Sequence of Play in Omaha Poker
The dealer in the game is identified by a dealer button placed in front of him.
The pre-betting round commences. Blinds are used to open the round. It should be remembered that players do not have to ante for every round in Omaha.
Two blind bets are posted. The small blind is posted by the player to the left of the dealer (half the minimum bet). The big blind (equal to the minimum bet) is posted by the player to the left of the small blind.
Four pocket cards are dealt face down to each poker player at the table. Dealing begins with the player who posted the smaller blind.
Round one of betting commences, starting with the player seated to the left of the one who posted the big blind. Betting proceeds around the poker table, with each player is given the option to fold, bet or raise, until it reaches the small blind. The small blind player may call the bet, and betting continues on to the big blind and stops there. Only three raises per player are allowed. During this round, players may not check as blinds are considered live bets and not antes.
The Flop begins. The dealer deals three cards that are placed upwards in the middle of the poker table. These community cards are available to all players and can be used in their game play.
Round two of betting commences, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. Once again, players may check, fold, call or raise.
The Turn begins. The dealer ‘burns’ a card. A fourth card is placed face up in the middle of the poker table.
Round three of betting commences, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. Betting amounts switch to the upper stake should a fixed limit variant of Omaha be played.
The River begins. The dealer ‘burns’ another card. A fifth card is placed face up in the middle of the poker table.
Round four (the final round) begins. Once again, betting amounts are played at the upper stake.
The Showdown begins. Those poker players still in game use two of their pocket cards, as well as three of the community cards that were dealt on the poker table, to make the best possible poker hand. Unlike Texas Hold ‘em, players cannot use just one card from their hand or play the board. The player who bet or raised last in the game, will be the first one to show his cards. The other players then show theirs in turn, in a clockwise direction.
The player who has managed to make the best five hand poker hand takes home the pot. If there are two identical hands, the pot is divided equally between those players with the best hands. (See Omaha Card Rankings below).
Omaha Poker Tips
An Omaha poker player essentially has six times the number of starting combinations than a Texas Hold ‘em player, thanks to the four hole cards dealt to him at the beginning of the game. By learning the different options available, players can use this to their advantage and improve their game strategy.
Experts agree that a few hands should be played in Omaha from early on in the game. This has proven to be beneficial to the bankroll overall.
Folding does not mean failing. Good players recognize that folding at an early stage in the game, if the first four cards dealt do not suit up, is also a good Omaha gaming strategy.
Folding should also be considered a serious option if the player’s hand does not improve after the flop, however well it started.
Go for low cards that have the potential of creating high hands.
Don't be afraid to play aggressively.
Omaha Poker Hand Ranking Chart
Omaha Poker Hand Rankings Descriptions
A straight flush involving Ten, Jack, Queen, King and Ace
Five sequential cards of the same suit with the high card being less than an ace
Four of a Kind
Four cards with the same value
Three cards of the same value and a separate pair of cards of the same value
Five cards of the same suit
Five cards with sequential values (cards of any suits)
Three of a Kind
Three cards with the same value
Two separate pairs of cards with the same value
Two cards of the same value
No other combination, the value of the highest card wins
With the growing popularity of community type of games in the poker world, the number of players attracted to this variant has definitely surged. Online poker rooms are testimony to the millions of players who flock to Omaha, whether to play for free and practice their strategy, or wager against others at a variety of limits available. As with all games of poker, practice eventually makes perfect, and Omaha can be a hugely rewarding (not to mention entertaining) game to play – online or off.