Omaha - all you need to know + Omaha Hi-Lo and Courchevel
Omaha poker is the second most popular poker variant, especially when it comes to online play. All poker rooms offer Texas Hold'em poker, and most – if not all – poker rooms will offer you the opportunity to play Omaha poker as well, including the most popular variant, Omaha Hi-Lo. If you're new to online poker, it's perhaps best to start with Texas Hold'em poker, as both Hold'em and Omaha follow very similar betting rounds, and Hold'em is the simpler game. Why not head off to my Texas Hold'em poker section first and see how that works, before you return here to understand how Omaha poker differs.
Once you've played a few hands of Texas Hold'em poker, you'll instantly be more comfortable in playing Omaha. In this article about Omaha poker you will find:
If you have played Omaha before and are just looking for some tips, then feel free to skip ahead and use the links about the get to the section that interests you. Don't forget to read my reviews to find the best casinos at which to play Omaha poker before you sit down for your first deal.
About Omaha Poker
The full name of Omaha poker is Omaha Hold'em poker, but the “hold'em” part is dropped more often than not to prevent the game being confused with Texas Hold'em poker. The “hold'em” aspect of the game refers to the community cards that are dealt face up in the centre of the table. Nobody really knows how or where the game was invented, but like most poker games it owes its popularity to Las Vegas, and the Golden Nugget Casino where it was first played. It was originally called “Nugget Hold'em”.
About The Game
In the United States and Canada “Omaha” poker refers to a number of similar games. The original game is known as “Omaha High” - although in Europe it is simply known as “Omaha”. The high-low split version (where the pot is split equally between the highest ranked hand and the lowest ranked hand) is “Omaha Hi-Lo” or “Omaha eight-or- better” or “Omaha/8”.
Omaha is called a game of “the nuts” as due to the high number of cards available from which to make the final poker hand (nine) it usually takes a very good hand to win the showdown. This is opposed to Texas Hold'em poker where only seven cards are available for the hand. It is much more difficult to work out the probability of your hand beating an opponents' hand in Omaha as your opponent has four hole cards to chose from to make his hand, as opposed to two in Texas Hold'em poker. In addition, you have to use exactly two of your own cards and three community cards in which to make your hand. This means that if you are dealt four aces as your pocket cards, you only have a pair, as you cannot use all four aces to create your final hand.
As with Texas Hold'em poker, there are three main types of Omaha poker:
Limit Poker: There is a limit to the size of any bet that can be made
Pot-Limit Poker: No bet can ever be made that is worth more than the current value of the pot (the total amount of chips that have been bet by all the players)
No-Limit Poker: There is no limit to any bet that can be made
Gameplay and Rules
The Deal, and the Blinds
Usually, there are between eight and ten players playing in a hand of Omaha poker. For the first hand, some method is used to select the dealer (usually dealing each player one card each – highest card is the dealer, or the first to be dealt a Jack). They receive the dealer's button and play commences. The two players to the left of the dealer play the blinds, as in Texas Hold'em poker. Once the blinds have been played the deal commences.
The dealer deals four cards face down to each player in turn, clockwise around the table. As there can be forty cards to deal, this can take some time. Once the deal has completed all players look at their cards, and betting begins.
As the blinds have already made their (forced) bets, play begins with the person seated to the left of the big blind. They can either fold, call (match the big blind) or raise. Each player in turn can either call or raise. Remember that when it comes to the blinds they already have money in the pot which counts towards this round of betting. If the betting reaches the big blind and nobody has raised, he can check (i.e. stay in the hand without adding more to the pot).
Once the betting reaches the last person who made a bet or raise that was not raised or re-raised, then the betting round is complete.
Here in our example hand, Alex1974 is the dealer. BusyBeth posted $1 as the small blind, and C*H*I*C $2 as the big blind. The cards were then dealt. Dangerboy was the first to act and folded. EdPokerK immediately raised to $8 from $2 (the big blind). F10N4 folded, and GazMan called. Harry 99 and IceQween folded, but both JuicyJay and Alex1974 called, as did BusyBeth - tossing in seven chips to raise her bet to $8. C*H*I*C folded, abandoning his $2 as the big blind. The betting now ends as it is back with EdPokerK and he was the last person to make a bet that wasn't raised.
The flop, turn and river
The dealer deals three cards face up in the centre of the table to form the flop. A second round of betting takes place, beginning with the small blind. If the small blind has folded the person still in the round closest to his left makes the first decision. They can either fold, check or bet. Betting continues around the table in the usual manner. If at any time all but one of the players folds, then the pot is won by the last player to stay in the round.
In our sample hand the flop comes out as Q♠7♠A♣. BusyBeth is first to act and check. EdPokerK, happy with his three queens, bets $16. GazMan calls, but JuicyJay folds. Alex1974 also calls, but BusyBeth now decides to fold. The betting is back round to EdPokerK, who was the last person to make a bet that was not raised, so the bettting round is complete.
Just like Hold'em, the next card dealt is the turn:
In our deal the turn is 7
The final card is then dealt face up. This is the river, or the fifth street. Another round of betting takes place, and then any players who remain in the hand show their pocket cards. Remember each player must make their final hand from exactly two of their pocket cards, and three of the community cards. You cannot use all five community cards, or three of your pocket cards and two community cards, for example.
In our sample hand EdPokerK has a full house queens and sevens. He bets $100. GazMan raises to $200. EdPokerK calls, leading to the showdown.
In our hand, GazMan reveals he has a pair of aces, and he uses three community cards to make a full house, aces and sevens. EdPokerK also has a full house, queens and sevens, but GazMan takes the pot!
That should be enough to enable you to play Omaha poker. Make sure before you head to the tables you check out my poker room reviews first.
The hand rankings are exactly the same as in any form of poker – head to the Texas Hold'em page if you need a full explanation of them, or check this handy graphic.
Omaha is often seen as a step up from Texas Hold'em poker, as it is a much more strategic game, with far more possibilities for winning hands than in Hold'em poker due to the nine cards that are available, along with the added complication of having to use exactly two of your pocket cards to create your final hand along with three of the community cards.
Also with Omaha you are far more likely to play a starting hand than in Hold'em. The best starting hands in Omaha poker are high crossed pairs in two suits, for example A♠K♠A♦K♦. Such hands give you a high probability of completing a set, a flush, a straight or even a full house on the flop, turn and river. Other strong starting hands include those that lead to good flush or straight draws.
The best hands are those that enable you to get plenty of money into the pot before or during the flop. This is because a good or bad flop can either make or destroy a hand, and most people will know that likelihood of them getting to the showdown with the best hand. A♠K♠A♦K♦ may seem like a great hand, especially if you are used to playing Hold'em, but don't forget that you are playing with people who have four hole cards to choose from. This makes the likelihood of them also having any pair in their hole cards much more likely, and if your A♠K♠A♦K♦ doesn't improve on the flop, you are vulnerable to any card on the flop completing a player's set, which of course will hammer your pair of aces.
My advice is that if you really want to give Omaha poker a try – particularly if you've been playing Texas Hold'em poker for some time – is to play on the micro stakes tables first so you can get used to this similar, yet very different game.
The main variant of Omaha is Omaha Hi-Lo, which is also called Omaha eight-or-better. Omaha Hi-Lo is possibly the most popular variant of any main poker game, as it makes the game more interesting and even more complex. In Omaha Hi-Lo the pot is shared equally between the best hand and the worst hand. To complicate things even further, flushes and straights can be ignored when determining the worse hand, meaning that A2345, either suited or non-suited, is the worse possible hand as it is “five-high” (ignoring the A -to-5 straight). Such a hand can also be the best hand, as it can be a five-high and an A-to-5 straight at the same time! In Omaha eight-or-better only hands worse than eight-high for the “low” half of the pot qualify at the showdown. If no hand qualifies the highest hand takes the pot.
Courchevel is a variation of Omaha poker that is popular in France, and slightly popular in the United Kingdom. The only difference between Omaha poker and Courchevel poker is that for the deal, each player receives five hole cards, and one card of the flop is dealt, face up, at the same time. Following the first round of betting the flop is completed by two other face up cards, and then play progresses as in normal Omaha. Courchevel Hi-Lo is played as well.