How To Play Omaha Poker
OMAHA is a game type popular with many poker players. You may have seen professional poker players on TV shows like Poker After Dark, playing a strange variant of poker with a fistful of cards – this is Omaha poker. Omaha has also come to prominence as players like Patrick Antonius and Viktor “Isildur1” Blom play Pot Limit Omaha online, leading to some of the biggest pots in online poker history. Pot Limit Omaha (abbreviated as PLO) is the most popular form of Omaha poker played in both tournaments and cash games among poker pros. When it comes to high stakes cash games, Pot Limit Omaha rules supreme with players like Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein and Joe Hachem all favouring high stakes PLO tournaments and Heads Up cash games. While it may seem daunting at first, for most poker players, the jump from playing Texas Hold ‘Em to Omaha poker is an easy one, and can be picked up in just a few short sessions.
The game of Omaha Poker is similar to Texas Hold ‘Em, but with a key difference: after the blinds have been posted, with Omaha rules, each player is dealt four hole cards instead of two. So your starting hand is four cards, of which you may use only two as your hole cards in the making your final five card hand. There’s still a flop, turn and river, and the aim is still to make the best five card hand – but each player may only use two of their hole cards, as well as three community cards from the board in their final five card hand. Omaha can have anywhere from 2-10 players at a table, although 6-max is the most common format if playing Omaha online.
Omaha Variations and Betting Limits
When it comes to betting structure, there are three main variations of Omaha Poker:
- No Limit Omaha (NL): As with No Limit Hold ‘Em, there is no limit to what you may bet (and therefore players can go all-in pre-flop, or at any time after on subsequent betting rounds).
- Fixed Limit Omaha (FL): In Fixed Limit (FL) poker, the betting amount is fixed. This is good for new players as it minimises the amount that can be bet, and therefore lost.
- Pot Limit Omaha (PLO): In Pot Limit Omaha, the most you can bet or raise is the size of the pot on any given street. Thus In Pot Limit, bets are restricted to the size of the pot on the street being bet on. This is the most popular betting structure of Omaha games.
The betting limits will depend on the game type being played.
Omaha Betting Rules
The betting structure is the same for all three above formats – the only difference is the size of the bet you can make. Before the cards are dealt, the two players to the left of the Dealer button must pay the blinds – the small blind and big blind respectively. The dealer button rotates clockwise, indicating the position of play for all hands. The small blind (SB) is equal to half the minimum bet, and the big blind (BB) is equal to the minimum bet. Once all the players have their cards, the first betting round begins. The first player to the left of the big blind (BB) may call, raise, or fold their hand. Action continues clockwise around the table. There is a maximum of one bet, followed by three additional raises in each betting round. After the first round of betting is complete, three 3 cards are dealt face up on the table – this is the flop. Cards dealt face up are known as the community cards. These will be used by all players at the table. Each player must use three of the community cards in their final five card hand. After the flop has been dealt, another round of betting begins. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer button, the first player may either check, or bet. The next player must either call, raise, or fold if there have been bets before their turn. As stated previously, in PLO, bets and raises are always limited to the size of the pot. Betting continues until each player has called the amount previously bet or raised. Again, there is a maximum of one bet, followed by three additional raises in each betting round. After the second round of betting is over, a fourth community card is dealt face up on the table. This is called the turn. After the third round of betting is over, a fifth community card is dealt face up on the table. This is called the river. This is followed by the fourth and final betting round. After the final betting round is completed, remaining players show their cards to see who won.
Omaha Poker Hands
The hands in Omaha poker are the same as in Texas Hold Em.
- Top Pair – When you pair the highest card on the flop with one of your hole cards, you have top pair. When determining the winning hand after the river, in the case of two or more players having equal top pair hands, the highest card outside the pair (referred to as the kicker) wins.
- Two Pair – Two cards of the same rank, two cards of another rank and one card of a third rank (the kicker).
- Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same rank. Also known as “trips”.
- Straight – Five consecutive cards – e.g. A2345 or 6789T If it is an Ace-high straight (i.e. TJQKA), this is also known as a “Broadway”.
- Flush – Five cards of the same suit.
- Full House – Three of a kind, as well as two cards of a different rank making two pair. Also known as a “boat”. FYI: You will always need a pair on the board to make a full house!
- Straight Flush – Five consecutive cards of the same suit
- Royal Flush – A straight flush including Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten all in the same suit. The holy grail and absolute nuts in poker.
Best (and Worst) Starting Hands in Omaha Poker
The Worst starting hand in Omaha Omaha is a game in which you can theoretically have four aces as your starting hand – but unfortunately this means that you have lost all your outs for those Aces! If you have all of them in your hand, you have no chance of pulling trips or better from the community cards. This is why Omaha poker is considered a game of outs.
Omaha: Poker Strategies for Omaha One of the first things new players will notice is that top pair just doesn’t cut it in Omaha. Also, since players can only bet or raise the size of the pot, pre-flop all-ins are less frequent. Think of Omaha poker as a ‘drawing game’ – it is more likely that there will be straights, flushes, and full houses by the river. Due to this increased likelihood of trips, straights, flushes and full houses, you really want to be holding the nuts in Omaha. Since Omaha is a game of outs, players tend to see more flops as they are trying to draw to get a better hand. The good news is that more players seeing flops means more chips in the pot overall.
As with Texas Hold ‘Em, to win at Omaha, you still need to know when to play a hand, when to bet, when to bluff, and when to fold. Also, position is still important. You’ll still want to play position like you would in a regular game of poker. If the players before you are behaving passively, try a little aggression, especially if you’re in late position (on the cut-off or the button) – make a bet to see if you can steal the pot, or at least get some people out of the hand.
As with Texas Hold ‘Em, there is no perfect strategy for Omaha, but here are a few tips to help you gain an edge when you begin playing:
Evaluate you starting hands. Pocket Aces aren’t the nuts in Omaha – while this hand is still worth playing, don’t rely on top pair to take down the pot, especially in a hand with multi-way action. Your pocket Aces are definitely more likely to get busted post-flop!
- Be patient with the hands you choose to play. As with Texas Hold ‘Em, don’t just play any hand. Remember: Tight is right!
- There tends to be less bluffing in Omaha, so you really want to be holding the nuts at showdown.
- If you have made a very strong hand, and especially if you are holding the nuts, you want to draw as many chips out of your opponents as possible. Instead of telegraphing the strength off your hand with big bets, try to draw more value out of your hand by just calling – let your opponents pay you off!
Betting Strategies for Omaha
If you are playing Omaha online, it is easier to keep track of the pot size as it is displayed on the board. Also, you can simply click the “pot” button which makes betting the maximum easier. If you are in a live game of Omaha poker, you can say “pot” before betting, and the dealer will help you work out the amount that is in the pot.
It is important to be aware of bet sizing in learning how to play the game of Omaha. Learning and studying bet sizing when learning how to play the game of Omaha is important because bet sizing is an important part of Omaha online strategy.
Remember: Just because you can bet the pot, doesn’t mean you always should!
Considering the majority of hands are won with flushes and straights, it is harder to get opponents to fold by simply betting on the flop. Most players will still be drawing to a better hand on the flop and are therefore more likely to call or even raise with a draw. This is a good betting strategy, and one which you should also be employing.
Depending on the stakes you’re playing, when playing Omaha online, players generally tend to be more loose with calls and see more flops. This is because of the amount of draws any given hand has on the flop. Overall playing Omaha online is a great way to see a lot of hands and get used to the play style of this complex and exciting poker game variant.
Glossary of Omaha Poker Betting Terms
Since Omaha rules are the same as Texas Hold ‘Em poker when it come to blinds and order of play, the terms used are the same and should be familiar to Texas Hold Em players. For new players, these terms may be a bit confusing. This glossary provides a quick run-down of the most common poker terms:
- SB: Small Blind The Small Blind is paid by the player in the position to the immediate left of the dealer button. The small blind is equal to half the minimum bet.
- BB: Big Blind The Big Blind is paid by the player in the position two places to the left of the dealer button. The big blind is equal to the minimum bet.
- Ante: The ante is a stake put up by players in poker before the cards are dealt. Both blinds and antes are forced bets, but all players must put antes in the pot before cards are dealt. The ante is there to give players an incentive to play, as well as to help build the pot.
- Straddle: A straddle is a voluntary bet made by a player after the blinds have been posted, but before the cards are dealt. The only player with the option to straddle is the player who would be first to act, i.e. the player to the immediate left of the big blind. The best way to think of it is an optional ‘third blind’.
- Under The Gun (UTG): The player to the immediate left of the big blind, who is first to act after the blinds have been posted.
- Cut-off: The player in the position to the immediate right of the button. Button: The player sitting in the position on the Dealer button. This is the last player to act before the small and big blind players.
- Street/s: A very confusing term for new players. The term “street” is used to describe which part of the hand the game has progressed to. The best way to understand it is that the number of cards you have been dealt equates to the street that you are on – i.e. three cards = the flop, and both the flop and the subsequent betting round is known as “third street”. It can be confusing as there is no first or second street! Fourth street is the dealing of both the turn card and the betting round that follows. It represents the third round of betting. It is called the fourth street as it is the fourth community card to be dealt. Fifth street is both the dealing of the river card and the betting round that follows. As with fourth street, fifth street is so-called as it is the fifth community card to be dealt.
- Gutshot Draw: When you have draw to straight that requires an inside card, e.g. holding 45 as your hole cards on a 668 flop – requiring a 7 on either the turn or river to make the straight.
- Open-Ended Draw: When you have four consecutive cards, and only require two different value cards to make a straight – e.g. hole cards 45, with a 369 flop – you need either a 2 or a 7 to be dealt on the turn or river to make the straight.
- Backdoor Flush Draw: When you have three cards of the same suit on the flop (using both hole cards and community cards), but need both the turn and river cards to make a flush.
- Runner Runner: This term is used to describe a hand which was made only by catching the necessary cards on both the turn and the river