Poker is known as a game which has multiple variants, in fact it is hard to find a card game which has more variations than poker. And there are even variations within a variation. Some games are accepted more widely, others are limited to a smaller circle of players. It is safe to say that Omaha, also called Omaha Hold’em, is one of the most popular poker games.
Omaha is very similar to Texas Hold’em poker, but there are certain differences between the two variants. Omaha is offered both at land-based casinos throughout the world, as well as at many online poker websites.
Basic Characteristics of Omaha Poker
In Omaha each participating player is dealt 4 hole cards instead of 2. The point is to create the best possible hand using 2 of the 4 hole cards that have been dealt to the player and 3 of the 5 community cards. And that means exactly 2 hole cards and 3 community cards.
In Omaha you must use exactly two of your four hole cards (and thus 3 of the 5 community cards) to form the best 5 card poker hand.
It is not possible to use, for example, three of the player’s cards and two community cards, or any other combination. So if you are to be dealt 4 aces in the hole it actually isn’t that amazing a hand as it would entice you to think!
In Texas Hold’em to contrast a player may use just one of their two hands and four of the community cards to form a winning hand, or even none of their hole cards to then possibly split a pot.
A standard deck with 52 cards and no jokers is used for Omaha.
It is unsure when the game was first played or who invented it, but it can be said that Robert Turner is responsible for its popularisation after he introduced it to Bill Boyd, one of the leading poker players at the time, who then introduced it at the Golden Nugget Casino in Vegas. The name that was initially used for Omaha Hold’em was Nugget Hold’em, after the casino. Between two and ten players can play Omaha. The cards can be dealt by a player who doesn’t participate in the game, or by one of the players.
As soon as the dealer is decided, the two players left of the dealer need to place the small and the big blind. The big blind is usually twice the size of the big blind. If the dealer is permanent and doesn’t participate in the game, in the next round the circle of rotates clockwise, and the player who was supposed to put in the big blind in the previous hand, will now put in the small blind and the player next to them the big blind.
After the blinds are placed the dealer deals the cards, one card at a time, until all players have four cards each. Then the first betting round, or the pre-flop starts. The betting round ends when all players had the chance to act and all have wagered the same amount of money. With the exception of the two players who have to pay the blinds, the rest can fold at this point without paying any money to the pot. Players can call, fold or raise at this point.
Then, when all the players are done with their pre-flop action, the flop, i.e. the first three community cards are dealt, after the dealer first discards the top card from the deck (which is known as the burn card). Then the players get to wager again, starting with the first player left of the dealer who is still in the game.
At this point, all players have the same options, they can fold and lose the money they’ve wagered up to that point, check and continue the game or call if someone has raised before, or raise and add a wager which all players will have to follow if they want to stay in the game. When all players have had a chance to act and all of them have wagered the same amount of money and a circle has concluded, the betting round is over.
Then the dealer discards another card, dealing it facing downwards and then deals one upward placing card, adding it to the flop. After this fourth card has been dealt, the players complete another circle where all players have the same options available. If there are at least two players left, the game continues, before the dealer draws the fifth and final community card, after discarding the first card in what’s left of the deck.
After the last community card is dealt and all players had their chance to fold, raise or call, the betting part of the game is concluded and players are supposed to open their cards. All players who are still in the game show their cards, starting with the last player who raised during the final round. If nobody raised during the final round, then the player left of the dealer. Then other players are supposed to follow. If a player knows that they have a losing hand, they don’t have to show their cards.
The player who has the best hand wins the whole pot, as it is the case in practically all variants of poker.
Winning Hands and Their Ranking
Royal flush is the strongest hand in Omaha poker. For those who don’t know, royal flush is a combination of the 5 most valued cards of the same suit – 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace. A straight flush is a combination of a row of five cards of the same suit of any value. Four of a kind comes afterwards, as the name suggests, it is a combination of four cards of the same value. Then we have full house – three cards of the same value, combined with two cards of an equal value, for example 3 Jacks, and two 9s.
A flush is a combination of cards of the same suit which don’t have to be in a consecutive order. A straight is a combination of consecutive cards which are not all of the same suit. Its rank is right below the rank of the flush. Three of a kind is a combination of three cards of the same value. Two pairs is a combination of two separate pairs of cards of the same value.
One pair, obviously is ranked below two pairs and three of the kind and the last combination is called a high card and is any combination which contains neither of the abovementioned winning hands. If two players have the same combination, that the one that has a combination with a higher valued card wins.
For example, if two players have four of a kind, the one whose card is of higher value will win. If the two combinations are of the same value, then the one who has a higher fifth card will win. The suit doesn’t matter in poker. If the players have identical combinations where the only difference is the suit, then they’ll split the pot, although that happens extremely rarely.
When it comes to wagering limits, there are three variants of Omaha:
- Fixed Limit
- No Limit
- Pot Limit
Fixed limit is when the bet sizes are predetermined. The size of the small and the big blind are determined and then the maximum raise during the pre-flop and the flop betting round are the same as the big blind. In the subsequent betting rounds the raise value is doubled.
In no limit Omaha there is a minimum amount that each player is supposed to bet or raise, usually equal to the amount of the big blind, but there’s no maximum limit. If a player wants to re-raise after a previous player has raised, they have to raise by at least as much as the previous raise.
In pot limit, each player is only allowed to raise as much as the current value of the pot, whereas the minimum bet and raise limit is equal to the value of the big blind.
Unlike Texas Hold’em, where no limit is the most popular form nowadays, no limit is not that popular here, but rather pot limit actually. So be aware of the nuances to this rather than no limit.
Tips on Playing Omaha Poker
If you’re new to poker, or not very experienced, then it is based to play fixed limit Omaha. That way you’ll know exactly how much can a hand cost you and you’ll be able to plan ahead. The strategy that you employ depends on the number of participants. But, remember that when you’re not one of the two players that need to pay the blinds, you can fold without losing a penny. If you don’t have a strong hand, there’s no need to go through, why risk it. Of course, you always have the option of bluffing, but make sure that you understand the risks.
If you play in a stable manner and only raise when you have a strong hand, other players may feel that you’re predictable, so they won’t be able to judge whether you’re bluffing or not, when you actually decide that you should be bluffing. If you have a very strong hand initially, you should be careful not to be too obvious which will cause other players to fold.
If you’re one of the first players that should act and you have a strong hand, don’t raise too high, perhaps just call the bet, hoping that somebody else would raise. You want to keep as many players in, so that there’ll be more money in the pot.
Many players, especially rookies get too confident after few winning hands, especially if they manage to win in a row. That is one common mistake. There’s no such thing a stroke of luck, and if you get too confident and start betting too much on average hands, you’ll soon lose all the money that you’ve made. Be confident, but play it smartly.