How to Play Omaha Poker
By Scott, Professional Poker Player, PokerInsights.com
Omaha is a great poker variation that can be played a few different ways. Even so, there are some common elements that are found in all forms of Omaha. The one that stands out the most is how players are dealt 4 down-cards. They must use two of those cards, in conjunction with 3 community cards to make their best 5-card hand.
That’s probably the thing that causes the most problems for beginning Omaha problems--the fact that they must use two and only two cards, not one card and not three cards, but exactly two of their hole-cards.
You get 4 down-cards then the first round of betting begins. The dealer then lays out a flop--3 community cards for everyone to use. The second betting round takes place. A 4th community card is then revealed, with another round of betting, before the 5th card is placed on the board and the last round of betting takes place. For those who know hold ‘em, it’s similar in a procedural sense, except that you have 4 cards to work with in your hand as opposed to only two. Having double the amount of hole cards makes it so there are many more possibilities for you and your opponents as well.
Again, the fact that you can use only 2 of the 4 cards can be a little confusing at first. For example, if there are 4 hearts on the board (the community cards) and you hold the ace-of-hearts, you cannot use it alone. You must have another heart to go along with it or you simply do not have a flush. Or if there are two pair on the board, having one of those cards doesn’t give you a full house unless you have two cards that fit in properly.
But once a player gets a handle of the cards and procedures, Omaha offers a lot as a game. It’s fun, engaging, and potentially very rewarding. At the same time, there are elements of difficulty that don’t exist in games like hold ‘em or even in stud. With 4 hole cards, the odds and probabilities that govern the game become a lot more muddled. At root, winning Omaha hands are better than hold ‘em hands with the extra 2 hole cards to work with. And that applies to gauging what your opponent might have. In hold ‘em, you might not give an opponent as much credit for a hand as Omaha forces you to do.
Let’s look at the different ways Omaha is played:
Different Forms: Omaha can be played for high-only, where the best 5-card poker hand wins. But it is also very common to see Omaha played in a hi-low format, where the pot is split between the best 5-card poker hand and the best low hand. In Omaha, the Ace-through-five is considered the best low. These games are called “8 or better,” which means the low has a qualifier of 8. In other words, no card in a low can be higher than 8. For a low to qualify, you must have 5 differently-valued cards that are either 8 or lower. A 9, for example, cannot be used in an Omaha low hand. Being that you must use 2 of your hole-cards to make a low, a good way to tell if a low is even possible is by looking at the board. If 3 of the 5 cards are 8 or lower, then the low is in play. Otherwise, the high hand just wins the whole pot.
Judging a low is actually quite simple. The A-2-3-4-5 is the best low you can get. It also has upside as a high hand, since it is a straight. If you have this hand or any other winning low that is also a straight or even a flush, you could potentially win the entire pot, which is called a “scoop.” A low hand is judged by the highest cards. If you have a A-3-5-6-7, that is a “7-low” and would lose to a A-2-4-5-6, which is a “6-low.” If the top cards in a low are the same, yo go to the next highest card. For example, a hand of A-3-4-6-7 (a 7-6 low) would lose to a 2-3-4-5-7 (a 7-5 low.)
Betting: Whether you play Omaha for high only or hi-low, you’re looking at two different kinds of betting--limit and pot-limit. They are very different games. Limit allows you to know what the betting will be for all stages in a hand. It has a structure. Pot-limit can involve much larger bets, where players can eventually get all their chips in a pot.
A limit game will be listed with two numbers, like a $10-$20 game, for example. The first two betting rounds (pre-flop and post-flop) would have a minimum bet of $10, with raises going to $20, $30, and $40. Following the turn (4th card) and river (final card), the stakes double with $20 now being the minimum bet. Raises would go to $40, $60, and $80.
Pot limit is a lot different, with far less structure or the ability to gauge how expensive it will be to play a hand. To figure out what a pot-limit bet is, you add all the money that is in the pot, including bets any player may have made before the action comes around to you. You add that amount to what it would cost you to simply call--and that’s the maximum bet.
For example, there is $15 in the pot. A player bets $10 and the action is now on you. You add the money in the pot, which is now $25. Add that to what it would take you to call, which is $10. Therefore a pot-sized bet would be $35. A great place to play Omaha Poker online is Bovada. They offer poker, sports betting, horse racing and casino and they take credit cards for deposits and offer a nice signup bonus!