Anyone who has seen poker on TV or even ever shown the slightest interest in poker will have heard of Texas Hold’em – the most popular form of poker – but that’s not the only option that’s available.
Omaha is also very well-known and can be seen as Texas Hold’em’s little brother. It is the second most-played variety of poker in the world and there is an ever-increasing number of players that are turning to this equally exciting card game on a continual basis.
If you’re new to this type of poker, learn how to play Omaha and how to win using Omaha poker strategy and tips in this comprehensive guide.
The Rules of Omaha
Omaha poker rules are not entirely dissimilar to those used in Texas hold’em. A player is dealt ‘hole’ cards and there will be five community cards dealt on to the table which all players can use to form the best Omaha poker hands.
The fundamental difference is the number of cards each player is dealt. Instead of the two hole cards of Texas Hold’em, players of Omaha will be dealt four hole cards each. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage as you must use exactly two hole cards and exactly three community cards to form the best possible hand.
The advantage is it offers a player many more ‘outs’ (potential cards that can form a winning hand) and gives the possibility of changing the hand which you are aiming for during the course of a hand. For example, if you have two Aces and two Kings as your hole cards it gives you the chance to chase three or four of a kind of either.
The disadvantage in only being able to use two hole cards is that being dealt four Aces is effectively worthless as the best you can manage is a pair.
Omaha poker strategy is therefore very different to that which you would employ in Texas hold’em or other variations of poker.
In order to decide which player will play first, each player (from 2 to 10) chooses a card and the one with the highest will start. In the event of a tie, new cards are drawn. A dealer button is placed in front of the player who will go first, and they will put in a small blind – this is usually $0.10 in small stakes games. The player immediately to their left will put in a big or large blind which is generally double the amount of the small blind, although for ease in keeping amounts as whole dollars as the game progresses the blinds are often $0.10 and $0.25.
The dealer will then deal the hole cards, starting with the player with the dealer button and dealing one at a time in a clockwise fashion, until each player has four.
Omaha Poker Hands Ranking
One of the main things that you’ll need to know when learning how to play Omaha is the hand ranking order. The good news is, if you’ve ever played any other kind of poker before, then you’ll likely already be familiar with Omaha hands as they have similar ranking to most other forms of poker. Starting with the lowest ranked, they are:
Three of a kind
Four of a kind
Betting in Omaha Poker
When you have your four hold cards the hand is at the ‘pre-flop’ stage and you can decide whether you wish to fold or continue. With five cards still to come, folding might not be an easy choice, but if you have a very small chance of fashioning a winning hand based on what you have it is often the best option. If you decide to stay in the hand then you will either call or raise.
The player to the left of the player who put in the big blind will play first. Calling means matching the amount of the big blind and raising at least doubles the amount of the big blind. Once every player who hasn’t folded has performed an action and everyone has put the same amount of money in the pot, the first round of betting is concluded.
The terms in Omaha are the same as in Texas Hold’em and the dealer will then deal the flop – the first three of the five community cards. Players will now be in much better shape to determine whether it is worth remaining in the hand or not. If you were ambiguous about which of your hole cards would amount to anything you’ll have a much better idea at this point.
The first player to the dealer’s left will bet first, but they have the opportunity to ‘check’ which costs nothing and can keep them in the hand for at least long enough to see what the other players decide to do. Bets at this point are equal to the big blind.
The turn is the fourth card to be played by the dealer and a new round of betting follows, generally with minimum bets being twice the size of the large blind. As with every other round of betting, it ends once every play has performed an action and contributed exactly the same amount of chips to the pot.
The river, or fifth street, is the final community card to be dealt and now you’ll know if you’ve managed to form a good hand. Betting intensifies for one final round and concludes according to the same Omaha poker rules as the previous rounds. Players might raise more than previously during this round and it’s not uncommon to see a player go ‘all-in’ and bet all the chips they have left.
Once each player who is still in the hand has bet for the final time then the only thing left is to see who has won.
The player immediately to the left of the dealer will lay out their cards for all to see and anyone who can beat them will also display theirs. If you have lost there is no rule which says you need to show your cards and you can simply discard.
The dealer will determine who the winner is and push all the chips from that particular pot towards that player.
The dealer button is then moved one position clockwise on the table and new hands are played until there is one victor with the complete amount of chips from the game.
Omaha Poker Tips
When playing Omaha poker, strategy is a little different from that which you would employ in Texas hold’em or other poker variations.
For instance, there are good and bad starting hands you can be dealt. Most of the top 30 hands in Omaha involve two pairs of high ranking cards – two Aces and two Kings is considered the best starting hand you can possibly have. Three of a kind or three cards from a straight flush are not considered great hands to start with and folding could well be the best option.
Knowing when to fold is even more important in Omaha than it is in Hold’em.
Four Aces is unbelievably bad because the best that can give you during the hand is a pair. It might pain you to do so, but cards which seem fantastic can hinder your victory in a hand of Omaha and you will need to fold with cards that could see you win in other poker games.
The best Omaha poker tips are ones which can be applied to all poker games. You must know your ability and you must always keep a level head. Don’t call yourself an amateur player when you’ve been playing for a week and enter games which you have little chance of winning against players with much more experience than you – you’re still a beginner and will remain so until you’ve logged thousands of hands’ worth of experience. A calm composure is a must for any gambler and you should never make rash bets, they should always be calculated.
As with Hold’em, Omaha can be helped with mathematical calculations. You won’t remember it all at first but given time you will instantly recognise good or bad hole cards and you’ll know exactly how many outs you have.
You will also learn how to calculate the probability of winning using a simple formula based on the outs at any point of a hand. It would surprise you how many players don’t use math to ascertain when it’s a good time to play and if they’re getting a value bet or not. Attention to this sort of detail along with a willingness to keep learning the game are what will make you a great Omaha poker player and a winning Omaha poker player.
If you follow our Omaha poker tips it’s not a guarantee to a lifetime of poker riches, but it will set you on the right path to becoming a more experienced and more profitable player.