date 2 May 2023 update Upd: 9 June 2023 reading time 33 min views 200 views

Omaha is one of the most dynamic poker games, where players never get bored at the table. The situation on each hand changes drastically on every street, demanding constant engagement in the gameplay and altering tactics.

The rules of Omaha are similar to those of Texas Hold’em: the same betting rounds, the same deck of cards, and comparable combinations. If you already have experience playing the familiar Texas Hold’em, learning Omaha will be considerably easier. However, the optimal playing strategy differs significantly because each player receives four cards, resulting in noticeably increased chances of forming combinations.

These aspects of Omaha contribute to its distinctive dynamics and aggressiveness, driven by the higher probability of obtaining nut hands and the sizes of the pots.

What are the similarities and differences between Omaha and Texas Hold’em?

The rules of Omaha poker and its rounds are analogous to Texas Hold’em:

  • Blinds are posted.
  • A flop of three community cards is dealt with, followed by the first round of betting.
  • The turn card is revealed, followed by the second round of betting.
  • After the final community card, the river, is unveiled, and betting occurs, the showdown reveals the opponents’ cards.

The objective of the game is to form a standard five-card combination, similar to Texas Hold’em combinations. However, unlike the seven-card Texas Hold’em, this game uses nine cards. In Omaha, each player is dealt four hole cards along with five community cards. The complexity of Omaha lies in the fact that each player must use only two of their hole cards only in conjunction with three community cards to form the best possible combination.

The number of cards in Omaha

The primary distinction between Omaha and Hold’em lies in the number of hole cards each player receives at the beginning of the game. In Texas Hold’em, each player receives two cards, whereas, in Omaha, they receive four.

Many players are attracted to Omaha because it is easier to form a high-ranking combination. Without complicated mathematics, it is clear that having four cards instead of two increases the likelihood of achieving straights and higher combinations. However, it is worth considering that your opponents possess the same prospects.

This feature fills Omaha with thrilling actions, providing more intense and vibrant gameplay. Participants often engage in post-flop play and rarely consider folding. This is because such players are unaware of the relative strength of their cards.

For example, a hand with two aces is considered a strong pre-flop in Hold’em, whereas, in Omaha, the other two hole cards are more crucial. It is worth noting that the hand AA is much stronger in Hold’em than the hand AAxx in Omaha. Consequently, inexperienced players overplay such hands in Omaha, creating that vibrant action you mentioned.

Take note that in Omaha, you must always use two-hole cards. In both Omaha and Hold’em, any hand consists of a combination of 5 cards. That is a combination of hole cards and community cards. However, in Hold’em and Omaha, the use of the private cards to form a 5-card combination differs.

In Hold’em, to create the best combination, you can use both, one of the hole cards, or none of them. In Omaha, on the other hand, we are obliged to use exactly 2 out of the 4 hole cards, no more and no less. Thus, while in Hold’em, you could make, for instance, a flush using only one of the two-hole cards, in Omaha, you must always use two out of the four-hole cards in combination with three community cards. On the other hand, if there are four hearts on the board, your opponents still need to have two hearts to make a flush (not just one).

Be cautious when playing your strong but non-nut hands; often the best course of action is to stop fighting if the odds are not in your favour.

Being able to calculate the probabilities of different combinations in Omaha is more crucial than in Hold’em. There, you mainly calculate the likelihood of your opponents “beating” you rather than your own chances of obtaining the necessary card. For example, if you have the top flush with the ace high, and there are no pairs on the board, but your opponent remains in the game, it is highly likely that they are waiting for a card to complete a full house. If you learn to calculate the odds, you will have a significant advantage over other players at the table.

Notice that in Omaha, you must always use two pocket cards. Both in Omaha and Hold’em, any hand is a combination of 5 cards. That is a combination of pocket and community cards. However, in Hold’em and Omaha, the use of the private cards to form a 5-card combination is different.

In Hold’em, to gather the best combination, you can use both, one of the pocket cards, or none of them. In Omaha, on the other hand, we are obliged to use exactly 2 out of the 4 pocket cards, no more and no less. Thus, while in Hold’em, you could make, for example, a flush using only one of the two pocket cards, in Omaha, you must always use two out of the four pocket cards in combination with three community cards. On the flip side, if there are four hearts on the board, your opponents still need to have two hearts to make a flush (not just one).

Exercise caution when playing your strong but non-nut combinations; often the best course of action is to cease the struggle if the odds are not in your favour.

Being able to calculate the probabilities of different combinations in Omaha is more important than in Hold’em. There, you mainly calculate the likelihood of your opponents “beating” you rather than your own chances of obtaining the necessary card. For example, if you have the top flush with the ace high, and there are no pairs on the board, but your opponent remains in the game, it is highly likely that they are waiting for a card to complete a full house. If you learn to calculate the odds, you will have a significant advantage over other players at the table.

Comparison of Omaha and Hold’em – Betting Structure

In both Hold’em and Omaha, you can play with any betting structure: no limit, pot limit, and fixed limit. However, there are commonly played betting structures in both variants. No-limit Hold’em and pot-limit Omaha are the most frequently played.

Many players prefer no-limit games purely for the thrill. In the past, fixed-limit betting was more prevalent in poker. But the realisation that you can go all-in at any moment enticed thousands of players to the side of Hold’em, which is typically played without betting limits.

The betting structure remains one of the reasons why Hold’em is still more popular than Omaha; most players enjoy the no-limit format of Hold’em. It is possible to find online tables for playing pot-limit Omaha, but they are scarce.

Which is harder: Omaha or Texas Hold’em?

Players still argue about what is the most challenging aspect of both game variations. On one hand, in Omaha, you have four cards, but on the other hand, Hold’em players have a wider range of bet-sizing options. It could be said that pot-limit Omaha is much more challenging than no-limit Hold’em, and when it comes to playing PLO, drawing a definitive conclusion is even more difficult.

Considering that most players do not fully utilise the range of possible bet sizes, Omaha is much more challenging for a new player. We can understand how two cards interact with the flop in Hold’em, but when it comes to four cards, everything becomes more complex.

For a new player, it can sometimes be difficult to even determine their final combination. You may miss a combination or mistakenly believe you have it by choosing the wrong cards. Problems with forming combinations are one of the reasons why Hold’em remains the number one poker game in the world. Learning the rules of Hold’em and hand rankings is not difficult, but it is much more challenging in Omaha. Some players enjoy the additional complexities, while others struggle with them.

Comparison of Omaha and Hold’em – Standard of Play

The standard of play in no-limit Hold’em has been growing exponentially over the last 10 years. It is possible to win at the highest limits, but it requires a lot of determination and discipline. Beating high limits in pot-limit Omaha is also not an easy task, but it is still easier compared to no-limit Hold’em. In other words, an average Omaha player is much worse than an average Hold’em player. This means that the learning curve in Omaha is less steep if you want to win big.

In most cases, this is straightforward since Hold’em is much more popular than Omaha. There are more learning materials available for Hold’em, which means the competition is fiercer: you need more skills and abilities to stay ahead.

If we simply want to earn money from poker, it is better to choose Omaha. The downside is that there are usually fewer tables available for playing Omaha. If, for example, we go to a casino, we might not find a single table for playing Omaha, but there will always be an opportunity to play Hold’em.

It is better to know how to play different types of poker, even if specialising in one of them.

Importance of Postflop Play and Playing Style

There is another characteristic of Omaha – it is difficult to determine the favourite on the preflop. Let’s say you have a strong hand, but even in such a position, the probability of being ahead against a single opponent is only 65%. The game gains momentum after the flop. Bets increase, and the size of the pot on the turn and river will significantly exceed the size of previous bets. Hence, Omaha is more of a post-flop game.

Regarding the game strategy, it is recommended to apply a tight playing style in Omaha, as premium hands are the main protagonists in this discipline. A solid middle hand does not guarantee success. It is better to be cautious on the preflop and post-flop if you don’t want to pay a lot of money for mistakes.

Bluff in Omaha

The art of bluffing in Omaha is a subject that perplexes many. It is widely regarded as one of the most challenging disciplines to bluff in. The reason for this is that weak or mediocre hands are not folded as frequently as they have a higher potential to improve into strong hands. On the other hand, Texas Hold’em enthusiasts are more inclined to get rid of cards that don’t connect with the flop. Consequently, these players are more susceptible to being bluffed.

Variations of Omaha

Omaha has several variations that differ in their initial conditions and gameplay objectives.

The distinctions in Omaha variations are primarily driven by the betting structure. The most popular form of Omaha is “Pot-Limit Omaha,” where each player can bet up to the size of the pot in any round of betting. There is also “No-Limit Omaha,” which, similar to its Texas Hold’em counterpart, allows each player to bet their entire chip stack at any point in the hand. Finally, there is “Limit Omaha,” where predetermined bet limits are set for each round of play. In Pot-Limit and No-Limit Omaha, there is no restriction on the number of raises a player can make in each betting round. In Limit Omaha, a maximum of four raises can be made in each round of betting.

Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO)

PLO stands for “Pot-Limit Omaha.” Pot-Limit Omaha is the most popular variation of Omaha. If the most popular hold’em variation is “No Limit,” then the most popular Omaha variation is “Pot Limit.” The reason for this is that in Omaha, pre-flop hand equities are closer to each other. Therefore, it makes sense to reduce variance by seeing more flops and, consequently, limiting pre-flop raises. In hold’em, pre-flop spreads between hands can be as wide as 80%-20%. In Omaha, even with a very strong hand, you will rarely have more than 65% equity.

The main difference between this discipline from the no-limit variant is the betting size restriction. The maximum bet size cannot exceed the current size of the pot. Hence the name.

The maximum bet size in PLO is calculated using the formula:

Max bet = Bets in the current round + Pot size + Your call, where:

  1. Bets in the current round – the sum of all bets that players have made during the current round of betting.
  2. Pot size – the sum of chips in the centre of the table formed from previous betting rounds.

Your call – the number of chips required to call your opponent’s bet.

Let’s break it down with an example. On the pre-flop, a pot of $400 has been collected. On the flop, a player bets $100, and the next player bets $200. We plug the values into the formula:

  • Bets in the current round – $300
  • Pot size – $400
  • Your call – $200
  • Max bet = $300 + $400 + $200 = $900

The maximum raise size you can make is $900.

Omaha Hi-Lo

Another popular game is ‘Hi-Lo’ poker or, as it is sometimes called, Omaha 8. The possibility of winning here is determined by the presence of two types of combinations – the strongest and the weakest. Each player forms two different combinations: a 5-card “high” and a 5-card “low” hand. The pot is divided between the two winners.

The goal of the game is to create a winning combination of your own and the community cards on the table. The winner takes the cash pot. These are the main rules of Omaha Hi-Lo.

Features of Omaha Hi-Lo rules:

  • Players are dealt 4 pocket cards.
  • To form a hand, you must use 2 of your own cards and 3 community cards on the table.

The possibility of splitting the pot between the strongest (high) and the weakest (low) hand.

Combination rules in Omaha Hi-Lo:

  • The combination must include cards from Ace to Eight inclusive. That’s why the game is often called Omaha 8.
  • The hand must not contain a pair.
  • The highest low combination is Ace, Two, Three, Four, Five.
  • Types of bets in Omaha Hi-Lo:
  • Fixed Limit – the raise is limited and cannot be more than one or two big blinds, depending on the betting level.
  • Pot-Limit – the maximum possible bet is equal to the size of the pot.
  • No-Limit – you can raise by any amount. The bet size is limited only by the number of chips you have.

Types of Omaha by betting structure:

Omaha Pot-Limit – The most popular format. The maximum bet is limited by the size of the current pot. For example, if the pot on the flop is $10 and no one has shown aggression before you, you can bet up to the size of the pot – $10.

Fixed Limit Omaha – The bet sizes are limited. For example, playing at a limit of $10/$20. The minimum bet will be $10, and the maximum – $20. The blinds in this game will be $5/$10. On the turn and river, you can make a maximum bet. In our example, it would be $20, and a raise – of $40. Fixed Limit Omaha implies a maximum number of re-raises (cap). The most common cap is three re-raises, but some rooms have a cap of four re-raises.

No-Limit Omaha – In this format, a player can put all their chips into the centre of the table on any of the betting rounds. Unlike hold’em, this format is not as popular.

How to Play Omaha

Just like in Texas Hold’em, the game consists of four betting rounds. The first round starts after four cards (pocket cards) are dealt face-down to each player. Then the next three cards (the flop) are dealt. This is followed by a round of betting. The fourth card (the turn) is placed on the table. Another round of betting ensues. Finally, the fifth card (the river) is placed on the table, after which the last round of betting begins. Then, when all the bets are made, the remaining players in the game reveal their cards (showdown), and the winner is determined.

Preflop

The dealing starts with the pre-flop betting round, which is before the flop. This is the first round where participants can see their cards and assess their chances of winning. The community cards on the table are not yet revealed. The pre-flop betting continues until each player either folds, goes all-in, or matches the bet made by other players.

Blinds

The first stage begins with mandatory bets called “blinds” (small blind and big blind), which are made by two players sitting to the left of the dealer. These bets are compulsory and are made blindly in order to create the starting pot.

In situations where there are only two players in the game, the rules change. In such cases, the player with the dealer button posts the small blind, and the second player posts the big blind. The player with the dealer button acts first before the flop and second after the flop on all subsequent streets until the end of the hand.

Blinds are posted by players sitting clockwise after the dealer.

The dealer can be identified by the Dealer Button. At the end of the current hand, the dealer button is moved clockwise to the next active player, who will then assume the role of the dealer in the next hand.

Before the start of a tournament, the placement of the button is randomly determined using a random number generator.

After the blinds, the dealing begins. Each player receives four hole cards. These are the pocket cards. All the other cards will be dealt face-up and are shared among all players.

Dealing

Each hand consists of several sequential stages with their own characteristics.

At the beginning of the hand, each player receives four hole cards. These are the pocket cards. All the other cards will be dealt face-up and are shared among all players. The online distribution of cards is handled by a random number generator (RNG). All poker rooms undergo mandatory checks to obtain a licence for online gambling activities. So, any licensed poker room operates with a guaranteed fair RNG.

Each player looks at their cards and decides whether to play them or fold them. The active players take turns to make bets: first, the player sitting to the left of the big blind, then the rest in a clockwise direction.

Each player has three options:

  1. Fold (discard the cards and opt out of the pot)
  2. Call (match the current bet and continue playing)
  3. Raise (increase the bet in hopes of making the pot larger or forcing opponents out)

The betting round ends when all players have matched the highest bet (if no one has matched the highest bet, the player who made the bet becomes the winner, and the hand ends). After the completion of the betting, the next stage of the hand begins, the flop.

Stage Two – The Flop

After the pre-flop betting round, if there are at least two players remaining in the hand, the flop is revealed. The first three community cards are placed on the table, giving each player a total of seven cards. These cards are dealt face-up and are already sufficient for forming combinations. After the flop is revealed, the second round of betting takes place. On this and subsequent streets, players have the option to “check” and see one more card for free, but only if no one has raised the bet. Otherwise, players in the hand will have to either call it, fold their cards, or raise again.

If, after the flop betting round, there is more than one player who has not folded, the next stage begins – the turn. On the flop, turn, and river, the betting starts with the player to the left of the dealer and continues clockwise.

Tips on Winning on the Flop

A significant portion of hold’em hands concludes after betting on the flop. The image you create throughout the game plays a crucial role in determining how many pots you will be able to claim once the first three community cards are revealed. Opponents will be inclined to believe in the strength of your hand on the flop if you are a tight player who plays a limited number of hands.

At the same time, if you try to play as many hands as possible and harass opponents with bluffs, your flop bets will rarely be trusted, and you may also encounter check-raises based on the belief that your hand is not strong enough to continue.

It’s important to remember that the flop follows the pre-flop action, and your actions on the flop should reflect a preconceived plan for the hand. If you were the aggressor pre-flop, for example, raising from an early position, the next logical step would be a continuation bet on the flop, regardless of whether your hand improved with the community cards or not.

This way, you are more likely to take down the pot on a dry flop with an ace after a continuation bet, as opponents will be inclined to fold if they miss the flop. However, in multi-way pots, it’s advisable to refrain from bluffing continuation bets.

If there was no raise pre-flop and you decide to play a limp pot, a probe bet with a medium-strength hand or a bluff can be appropriate. This way, you’ll gather some information about your opponent’s hand strength and can plan your further actions on the turn and river.

Many skilled players employ the check-raise tactic on the flop with straight draws and flush draws since these hands have the strongest equity on the flop compared to made hands (hence the desire to put more chips in the pot on the flop) and there’s a chance to win the pot outright without waiting for hand improvement.

The Turn

Next comes the Turn. The fourth community card is placed on the table. Players engage in another round of betting, following the same order of actions as the flop. Players can choose to check, call, raise, or fold.

The Turn is widely regarded as the most challenging stage to play. Even experienced players often struggle to play optimally on this street, let alone beginners.

The River

The final dealing. Players now know their combinations for sure. Your hand cannot improve any further. This is the last round, and intense negotiations unfold among the contenders for the lead.

Tips for Playing on the River Stage

Bluffing spots on the river should be chosen very carefully. We recommend that beginners avoid abusing them. The same applies to the reverse situation: if you called with the top pair on the flop and turn, and your opponent continues to bet on the river, it’s a reason to reassess the strength of your hand. Overall, the strategy for playing on the river depends on what happened on the previous streets, primarily on the turn.

If a blank falls on the river — a card that is unlikely to change the balance of power — it makes sense to continue betting. All hands, starting from the top pair with a good kicker, will be strong enough to attempt one more bet. However, if the river card is unfavourable, such as completing a flush draw, considering a check is reasonable.

But remember, if you check strong hands on any completed draw, you may miss out on numerous profitable bets. The secret to success is not to instantly switch to defence but rather to learn how to let go of your hand when facing resistance, that is when you receive a river raise. It will rarely be a bluff, and you can almost always understand that you’re beaten and fold your cards.

Remember that in poker, it is much more important to know how to win more than how to lose less. When you have a strong combination, you should strive to extract as many chips as possible with it. But at the same time, don’t become infatuated with it and be prepared to fold when encountering significant aggression.

Card Showdown

The showdown concludes with the hand: players reveal their cards, determining the winner (the one who has the best five-card combination). This player claims the pot.

Omaha rules allow for two options for card showdown after two or more players have called bets on the river.

Option 1: The player chooses two out of the four-hole cards they intend to play and places them on the table. In case of victory, they must reveal the remaining two cards. This procedure completely shifts the responsibility for choosing the best combination onto the player.

Option 2: The player immediately lays down all four cards on the table and either personally indicates the two cards they are using or asks the dealer for assistance. This is a more sensible option, which beginners should unquestionably choose.

The player with the higher-ranking combination wins. In the event of two or more equally strong combinations, the pot is split evenly.

As mentioned earlier, in Omaha Hi-Lo, there can be two leaders according to the rules: the holder of the strongest and weakest combination.

Omaha Poker Strategies

The strategy for playing Omaha poker differs from that used in Hold’em. The outcome largely depends on the ability to assess the strength of the hand and its potential. This cannot be learned through simple instruction. There are many starting hand options, and their prospects are not obvious, so training is necessary.

Starting Hands

A profitable strategy begins with evaluating the starting hands – the pocket cards received. Unlike Hold’em, there are no ready-made charts showing which cards to play and in which position it is advantageous to play them.

Upon seeing the starting hand, the player needs to assess its prospects. At this stage, the goal is to obtain a strong combination, a draw, or a ready-made hand on the flop. The more connected the pocket cards are to each other, the greater the chances of this happening.

Four types of possible starting hands can be identified based on the suit of the cards.

Double-suited. Owners of double-suited starting hands often collect winning combinations more frequently than others. Moreover, they do not occur as rarely as one might think – approximately once every tenth deal (13.5%).

Three-suited. This is the most common case. The chances of making a flush are still present but not as high as in the first case. When dealt a three-suited hand, attention should be paid to the rank of the cards.

Rainbow. Typically, these are weak “starters” – “trash.” At the initial stage, we advise against playing such hands altogether.

Monosuited. Weak hand. Remember that in Omaha poker, combinations consist of two starting cards, so you cannot reveal all four pocket cards at the showdown. Taking into account the hand, the player will still be “chasing” a flush but has already deprived themselves of two outs.

General Recommendations for Playing Omaha

The order of players’ actions in poker depends on their position at the table – their position relative to the dealer and blinds. For Omaha, playing in position is one of the fundamental strategies for profitability. By acting last, you gather more information about your opponents. When playing from early positions, you should use strong starting hands since you will have to bet first throughout the hand. It is easier to do this with the best possible combinations and draws.

Novices should play in a tight style. There will be enough profitable hands and potential nuts, even by using only the top 20% of the best-starting hands. At micro-limits, there are few opponents capable of using this to their advantage. Additionally, in low-stakes games, few pay attention to board structure and opponents’ actions, so bluffing is not recommended.

Therefore, the main strategy for beginners consists of three principles: choosing only strong starting hands, betting heavily on value, and avoiding weak draws.

Also, keep in mind that the strategy for playing Omaha depends on the table size. At short-handed tables of five or six seats, you should play more aggressively, while at longer tables (up to eight seats), a tight style should be employed.

Important recommendations for players:

  • Play according to your bankroll – for cash games, you need a minimum of 50 buy-ins for the limit, and for tournaments, 100 buy-ins.
  • Omaha is a high-variance game, so try to control yourself.
  • Carefully select your starting hand to have good prospects for the hand.
  • Pay close attention to the behaviour and actions of opponents at the table.
  • Avoid bluffing against weak opponents who often play until the end of the hand. Bet heavily against them with strong hands.

Play cautiously with sets. Unlike Hold’em, a set in Omaha is a medium-strength combination that often ends up behind on the river.

What is Nuts?

The term “nuts” refers to an unbeatable combination. Your opponent may also have a strong combination, but if you have the nuts, it won’t help them.

So what are the different types of nuts:

  1. The first one is the absolute nuts;
  2. Another one is the current nuts.

The absolute nuts are determined on the river, which means when the deck is revealed. It is the best possible variation of cards with 100% certainty.

Possible combinations include:

  • On the flop – four of a kind;
  • On the turn – flush;
  • Straight flush, without a lucky card for the opponent.

The current nuts are also the best combination of cards, but only at a particular moment. It can be on the turn or on the flop. However, there is a chance that in the next deal, the opponent will receive stronger cards.

To gain maximum advantage, it is always important to consider the opponent and the position during the game. How does the play of nuts hands unfold?

If you have a nuts hand, there are two ways to play:

Aggressively, with complete confidence in victory, to disorientate players or eliminate those who have a nuts-draw of a better variation.

Passively playing poker, when there is a desire to involve more players in the game and try to win more money from them.

It doesn’t make sense to fold nuts cards because the player will still play in a positive manner in the long run.

Blockers in Omaha

A blocker is a card extracted from the deck that reduces the probability of the opponent having a certain hand or a certain type of cards on subsequent streets.

Here’s a simple example: if we have AK in our hand preflop, the probability of the opponent having AA is lower compared to QQ. The essence is that there are only three aces left in the deck, while there are four queens. In other words, the chance of the opponent being randomly dealt AA is approximately half that of QQ. And this information can be used for our own purposes.

Blockers in poker are used in many situations, and it is crucial to study and understand this area if you want to succeed in the topic of ranges. We will now look at several examples of how working with blockers can help you understand ranges.

The blocker effect is used in many aspects of poker strategy, starting from pre-flop when calculating the profitability of 3-bets/4-bets and ending with post-flop, where we can discount a portion of the opponent’s possible combinations. In this section, you will find a wealth of articles on blockers in poker that will help you better understand this topic.

Omaha FAQ

When does the table card, not the hand, determine the kicker?

If the card on the hand is lower than the ones on the table, the kicker is chosen from the table (the highest card not participating in the combination). When the kicker on the table is higher than your cards and the opponent’s hands, the kicker becomes shared.

Does the rank of cards matter in a formed flush?

Yes. A flush with an Ace is always higher than a flush with a King. To determine the winner of a hand, both hands are laid out on the table. The combination with the highest card takes the pot.

What is the strongest hand in Omaha?

The one that will bring you victory when revealed. The beauty of the game lies in the fact that the strength of starting hands can be greatly exaggerated. More specifically, a player’s dream in Omaha preflop is to receive four connected “high” cards with two suits.

How to win in Omaha Hi-Lo with bad cards?

If, in any round, one player raises and the other participants choose not to respond and fold, then all betting stops. After all, the cards remain with only one person, and they take the pot. After that, a new deal begins. That’s the essence of poker – even with “trash” cards, you can win.

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