Omaha Poker: How to Play
Omaha poker is fast becoming a popular poker game among fans across the world. It can be categorically stated that it is the second most-played variation of poker games in the world. The reason for this is quite obvious. It is simply an amazing game that requires high level strategy. It is also a game of action. Now, it is important to mention that there is another variation that is also very popular among players across the world. This is Texas Hold’em. No doubt, there is a level of similarities between the two variations of poker games.
For many players that started out in the world of poker with Texas Hold’em, the next variation of poker they usually learn is Omaha poker. One major reason for this is the similarity between them. If you know how to play Texas hold’em, it will be easy for you to learn Omaha faster. Basically, there are different types of the game. However, the two most popular variations are Omaha hi-lo and Pot Limit Omaha. Let’s quickly look at the differences between Omaha and Texas hold’em.
Differences between Omaha and Texas Hold’em
Just like Texas hold’em, Omaha poker is also a ‘flop’ game. It uses community cards and players are also dealt their hands face down. These cards are known as ‘hole cards’. While playing, they also combine the cards with other five community cards, that is, the flop, river, and turn. All these cards make up the five-card poker hands.
In spite of the similarities, there is a major difference between the two variants. While Texas hold’em players are dealt two hole cards each, Omaha players receive four hole cards. From these four cards, they have to select two of the hold cards that will be used with three out of the five community cards. These selections will make up their five cards poker hands.
It is important to highlight how this also scores a big difference between the rules of the two games. In the game of Omaha, the players are obliged to use precisely two of their dealt hole cards and three community cards to build their poker hands. For Texas hold’em, players have the opportunity to use different combinations. For instance, they can use both their hole cards and three community cards, or use just one hole card and four community cards. They may also choose not to use hole cards at all and only use five community cards. This latter option is referred to as ‘playing the board’.
In the game of pot limit Omaha, the hand rankings are basically the same as it is in Texas hold’em. Both hold’em and pot limit Omaha are played as ‘high hand’ game. This means the hands move from best to worst. In other words, it has royal flush, three of a kind, four of a kind, straight flush, full house, straight, flush, two pair, high card, and one pair. Having established the differences, let us go right into the process of playing Omaha poker.
How to Play Omaha Poker
It is important to reiterate the simple differences between Omaha poker and Texas hold’em again. First, each player at the table is dealt with four cards in Omaha as opposed to the two cards in Hold’em. Second, player must use two of them when making their best poker hand. You should remember these two major differences between the two games when learning how to play the game. Now, let’s check how to play and win at the game.
How to win Omaha Poker Hand
First, understand that Omaha poker is a community card game that is played between two to ten players at a single table. To win chips, you have to win a pot. There are generally two ways to win a pot. First, all other players at the table must have folded their hands, which make you the only player that is left in the pot. Two, you possess the best hand at the table during show down.
Drawing for a Dealer
To start the game of Omaha poker, there should be a minimum of two players and a maximum of ten players at the table. Each player must have a stack of chips with them. When everything is set, then you are ready to big the game. The first step at the table is to draw the high card for the game dealer. Each player should receive one card facing up. The player that has the highest ranked card will begin the game as the dealer. It is essential to point out that aces are high in the game. Now, when there are two players that have the same high card, two things can happen.
First, you can decide to deal both the players a second hand. Second, you can chose to use the suits of the card they are holding to decide the winner. Usually, ordering of poker suit is done alphabetically from worst to best, that is, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades, and Hearts.
Give the Dealer Button
After you have appointed a dealer through the aforementioned process, the next thing is to give the player acting as the dealer, the dealer button. The button is often in the form of a white disk. And it is used for keeping track of the dealer that is in the hand currently. The dealer will have to shuffle the cards and get ready to deal the other players with the first hand.
Put out the Game Blinds
Prior to dealing the cards to the players at any hand, the two players that are seated to the left of the game dealer, are required to put out the game blinds. How does this work? The player that is sitting directly to the left side of the dealer will put out a ‘small’ blind while the player sitting to the left side of the small blinds will put out the ‘big’ blind. For instance, you can have something like 5c for the small blind and 10c for big blind.
Time to Deal the Cards
As soon as the blinds have been taken out, the dealer goes ahead to deal the cards. How do you deal the cards? The dealer starts with the player that is sitting to his left side, that is, the small blind. He should continue to move clockwise at the table until he deals for everyone. It is essential to mention that each of the players will be dealt with one card facing down at a time. This will continue until all the players have received a total of four cards each.
Now to the first Round of Bet
When the last card has been dealt to the players and each has four cards facing down, then it is time to begin the first round of betting. This round is referred to as the ‘preflop’. It is a betting round that will end when two specific conditions are met. First, all the players have had the chance to act. Two, all the players that have not folded have had the opportunity to bet the same amount of money during the round.
It is crucial to point out that only one player can act per time in the game of poker. It starts with the player that is at the left side of the big blinds. The player has three different options. First, they can fold. When they fold, they won’t pay any money into the pot. They can therefore decide to throw away their cards and wait until the next cards are dealt so they can play again. Secondly, they can call. To call means they have to match the amount of money that is in the big blind. Thirdly, they can raise. This means they can raise the bet by a minimum of double of amounts that is present in the big blind. It is important to mention that a player can decide to raise more depending on the style of betting that they are engaged in.
Continue Action Clockwise
After the player at the left side of the big blind has acted, the gaming action should move clockwise across the table. Just like the first player described above, each of the players at the table has the same options to fold, call, or raise. Generally, the amount of money involved in a raise or call is often dependent on the actual size of the bet that was made last.
For instance, before the first player can call, they must match the size of the amount in the big blind. If they raise, it must be the double of the big blind amount. Now, if there is a raise, the next player also has to add the complete amount of the big blind in addition to the raise to call.
Big Blind acts last before the flop
As the action rotates, it comes back to the small blind. When it returns to the small blind, the player can fold, raise, or call like everyone else at the table. In case a raise has been made to the tune of 50c and the player with the small blind already paid 5c, they only have to add 45c in order to call. However, if there has been no raise at the table and the current bet remains the same as the initial big blind of 10c, the big blind player can check and then continue in the hand. But if a raise has taken place, they will have to add the amount of money less the initial 1010c. As soon as everyone already has the chance to act and each player still has the same amount that they wagered, then the preflop round of betting is over.
Time to Deal the Flop
When the preflop round of betting is over, then the flop will be dealt. In Omaha poker, like other community card game, there will be a total of five community cards given to any hand that attained a showdown. Generally, the flop is the first set of three cards out of the five that are dealt. The dealer disposes of the top card on the deck that is facing down, known as the burn card. After this, he goes ahead to deal three cards facing down at the middle of the poker table. At this stage, the next betting round is about to start
Begin next round of betting with player at the left side of Dealer
When the flop has been dealt, the next round of betting begins. It starts with the first player that is on the left side of the dealer that still has a hand. It is important to note that players that have a hand are referred to as ‘live players’. The live player in this case is in the same situation as the big blind at the round of preflop betting. This player can decide to bet or check. They don’t have to add more money to call and neither do they need to fold. A bet at this stage is generally equal to the exact amount as the big blind amount.
The Omaha poker game continues with the Next Player at the Left
The action progresses to the next live player that is at the left side of the first live player. This player also has the same options of action. They can check if they have not placed a bet before and they can call to match a prior bet. They can also choose to raise by adding another bet on top of the current bet.
Next is to Deal the Turn
As soon as the flop round of betting is completed, the next thing is for the dealer to deal the turn. He discards the card at the top of the deck facing down. This is another burn card. Then, he deals another single card facing up next to the flop.
The next round of betting starts
When the card has been dealt, the next round of betting begins. The turn round of betting is precisely like the flop round. However, there is only one exception. One bet at the turn round uses a larger betting limit. By standard, the larger betting limit is usually double the size of the amount of the big blind. In some cases, the large betting limit will be a little larger than the double of the big blind. This is often done for convenience sake. This form of betting is usually common at games like the $2-$5 Limit games.
It’s time to Deal the River
After the completion of the round of betting for the turn, it is time to deal the final community card. At this stage the dealer throws away one final card that is facing down and follows it up with one card facing up. Once this is done, the final round of betting will begin. As soon as the river has been dealt, the players will start the final round of betting. This action in this round is similar to the actions taken at the betting round of the turn.
At the completion of the river betting, the next round is the showdown. At this point, all the remaining live players will enter into the showdown. Now, the idea of the showdown round is quite simple. The player that has the best hand will win the pot.
How do you know the Winning Hand?
Essential the evaluation of a winning hand in Omaha poker is quite different from that of Texas Hold’em. To determine the winning hand, understand that the first thing is the same as what happens in Texas hold’em, which is the poker hand ranking order. There are specific guidelines that are used to evaluate the hand of Omaha poker. Let’s examine that quickly.
Know that you have to lay them out in order to see the winner at showdown. Here, we will look at basically all hands that you can have for a win. It is important to know that there is no hand that is used in Omaha poker than what we are going to discuss in this section. In other words, everything you need to know about the winning hands will be focused on here.
You should know that when you have three pairs, you have only two pairs in the actual sense of the word. This is because only the pair that has the biggest valued two pairs will make your hand. Secondly, understand that players in Omaha poker use precisely two cards taken from their hand, and three cards picked from community cards to attain the best possible hand at any game.
Also, the player can decide to use any two of their four cards and any other three out of the five community cards. For instance, if the gaming board is something like 2♥ J♣ Q♣ K♠ A♦ and player one has 10♠ 9♣ 9♥ 2♦ and player two has 10♣ 2♣ 3♥ 4♥, there are two things that can happen in this pot. One, player one possesses a straight 9♣ 10♠ J♣ Q♣ K♠. Meanwhile, player two has to utilize two cards from his gaming hand, which will give him not more than one pair of two, namely, 2♣ 2♥ A♦ K♠ 10♣.
Now, if all the remaining players do not have any card, or don’t have any pair or something stronger, then the winning hand will be the hand that has the highest valued of single card. This means that A♣ 3♥ 4♦ 6♠ 7♠ will be more impactful than a K♠ Q♠ J♣ 9♣ 8♦. Also, A♣ J♥ 9♠ 8♦ 6♥ will be more beneficial than A♥ J♣ 9♦ 8♣ 2♠.
Now, if the board has a straight A♦ 2♣ 3♥ 4♦ 5♣ after you might have used two cards out of your hands, then you would need another two of your personal card in order to fit into the straight in order to have the straight as your hand. For instance, a card combination of 6♠ A♣ K♥ K♠ doesn’t have a straight. In this case the best hand the player can make will be a pair of aces. However, a mix of 2♥ 3♣ Q♠ Q♦ has a straight. This means the player has the opportunity to alternate their 2 and 3 for 2 and 3 at the board. It is essential to mention that suits should never be used to measure the strength of any hand.
Hand over the Pot to the Omaha Poker Winner
When you have decided on the winning hand based on the factors highlighted above, it is time to hand over the pot to the winner. The player with the best hand wins the whole of the pot. And as soon as the pot has been won, you have completed the hand at the Omaha poker game.
Move the Dealer Button to Left and Start another Hand
At the completion of the hand, the dealer moves the dealer button to the player that is at their left side. This move begins the next stage of hand. Just like the preflop stage of the first pot, the two players at the left side of the new dealer will be given the opportunity to put out their blinds. This round of game follows the same rule as the first hand of the game highlighted above.
Rules of Omaha Poker
Before you start playing at Omaha poker table, it is very important that you understand the rules and betting format of the game. Here, we will look at the pot limit Omaha variant rules and betting format. The reason for this choice is because it is the most popular and most played variants.
In Omaha poker, just like in Texas hold’em, the least bet that is allowed is usually the same as the big blind. For instance, if you are playing at $1/$2 Pot Limit Omaha, the least a player can place as a bet is $2. Meanwhile, a player can bet all their chips at any point in No Limit Hold’em poker. For Omaha, the largest bet that is permitted at any given time is the actual size of the pot.
Now, the process of determining the actual size of a pot bet can be more difficult than it seems. For example, if the pot size is $10, the first player to act can only make a maximum bet amount of $10 and nothing more. This seems quite simple. But if there is already a bet and another player wants to raise the pot, it becomes a little dicey.
Let’s say there is already $20 in the pot and a player places a bet of $10, if the next player decides to raise the pot, the most they can bet will be $50. This is calculated by adding up $10 to the call and the $40 that should be in the pot when the call has been made.
This is why pre-flop bets in the blinds are often referred to as forced bets. Even at this stage, a little calculation must be done to arrive at the figure that a player can raise when they want to act first. In the game of $1/$2 Pot Limit Omaha game, the highest a player can raise at the opening of the game is $7. The total comes from adding the $2 or its equivalent in the big blind to $5. If you are playing at a casino, you don’t have to worry about the calculation. This is because the dealer will be in charge of doing the mathematics for you when you announce your intention to bet on the pot. Also, if you are playing online, the calculation will be done automatically and you can see it straightaway on the screen.
Summary of Omaha Poker Game
Generally, Omaha poker is played in pot limit or limit betting structure. It is important to point out that you should not play the game as a No Limit game. Omaha poker is innately action focused game. Therefore, a stringent betting structure helps to keep great order in the game. Meanwhile, you can play Omaha poker as hi-lo split game. However, before you attempt to play hi-lo split variation of Omaha, it is recommended that you study the rules in order to avoid messing up your bankroll.
Omaha poker is not like any other poker game. It is a game of action, which means you should not bother going for it if you are not ready for the exhilarating action. Now, we have to chip in that the game can also be a game of large swings. For many players, it is easier to learn Omaha poker after they have learnt Texas hold’em. In actual fact, it is the recommended the process because when you understand the rules of hold’em, you are already halfway to understanding the rules and gaming process of Omaha. With a good foundation in Texas hold’em, you can easily transition to Omaha poker without any hitch.
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