How to play Omaha Hold’em

How to play Omaha Hold’em

Omaha Hold’em, or simply Omaha, is a poker game played with a standard 52-card deck (sans Jokers). Each player receives four hole cards dealt face-down, in addition to five community cards (aka, the board). Players must use exactly two of their hole cards and exactly three of the community cards to create their best possible hand – or hands, plural, in some versions.

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Dealing & Betting

Like Texas Hold’em, Omaha typically starts with the two players left of the dealer posting blinds. These are forced bets designed to maintain a steady contribution to the pot – the prize pool – from every player, as the dealer button moves clockwise around the table after each hand. The small blind, which is played by the person immediately on the dealer’s left, is usually half the amount of the big blind. The big blind is often equal to the minimum bet.

Once the four hole cards are dealt, the first round of betting ensues. This is where players can choose to call (match the big blind bet), raise (increase the already made bets), check (stay, having already matched other bets), or fold (forfeit the hand and any bets made). First-round betting starts with the player left of the big blind, while in all later rounds it begins with the player left of the dealer. Note that players can not make starting bets in the first round, as blinds have already been posted. In all following rounds, starting bets can be placed.

The second round of betting follows the flop – the first three community cards dealt face-up. The third betting round follows the turn (fourth community card dealt), and the last round of betting can take place after the river (the fifth and final community card) is revealed. If there are two or more players remaining after betting is completed, then there is a showdown, where players reveal their hands to determine the winner. If any players share a winning hand, then the pot is split evenly. If there is just one player standing, they claim the spoils without having to show their hole cards.

Pot-Limit Omaha & High Hands

In Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) players can only bet as much as is currently in the pot. For example, if there is $300 in the pot, that is the maximum amount anyone can bet at that time. PLO only uses high-hand rankings. This is the traditional poker arrangement, where the Ace is the highest card and the Deuce is the lowest. Cards are ranked by numerical value only, with the suits all weighted the same (Trey of clubs is equal to Trey of spades).

Below are the different types of high hands, from weakest to strongest:

  • High card – The single card of greatest value in a player’s hand.
  • One pair (two of a kind) – Two cards of the same value.
  • Two pair – Two sets of separate pairs (ex: Q, Q and 3, 3.)
  • Three of a kind – Three cards of the same value.
  • Straight – A consecutive run of five cards by value (ex: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).
  • Flush – Five cards of the same suit, regardless of order and value (ex: 3, 5, 7, 10, J, all in the suit of Hearts).
  • Full house – A three of a kind combined with a separate pair (ex: 8, 8, 8, J, J is called ‘Eights full of Jacks’).
  • Four of a kind – Four cards of the same value
  • Straight flush – A consecutive run of five cards by value, all in the same suit. This includes the ultimate poker hand, and the one which cannot be beaten: a Royal Flush (10, J, Q, K, A, all of the same suit).

Limit Omaha High-Low Hands

Another common variation of Omaha Hold’em is High-Low Split-Eight or Better, also referred to as Omaha Hi-Lo or Omaha/8. This variety is often played as Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, where all bets and raises must be equal to the big blind in the first two rounds, and twice that amount in the final two rounds.

In addition to the high hands, this format also utilises the ‘Ace-to-Five’ system, a common low hand or ‘low-ball’ style. Players aim to create both a high and a low hand, with each hand still requiring exactly two hole cards and exactly three community cards (the same cards can be used for high and low hands). The pot is split for the high and low hands – but if nobody can construct a valid low hand, both pots go to the player with the winning high hand. The Eight is the highest card allowed in a low hand (hence Split-Eight), with the Ace ranked the lowest. You cannot form a low hand which includes a pair, three of a kind, full house or four of a kind, as each card in a low hand must be different. Additionally, straights and flushes are irrelevant in low hands.

In Hi-Lo, it is impossible to form a low hand unless there are at least three cards on the board ranked eight or lower, all of different value. This is because a player can only use two of their four hole cards to form each hand. However, the Omaha hand structure does allow players to win both the high and low pots at once.

Below are the types of low hands, from weakest to strongest (all cards must be unpaired):

  • Eight low – Any five cards valued eight or less (ex: 8, 7, 5, 4, 2).
  • Seven low – Any five cards valued seven or less (ex: 7, 5, 4, 3, A).
  • Six low – Any five cards valued six or less (ex: 6, 4, 3, 2, A).
  • Five low or the Wheel – The strongest low-ball hand (5, 4, 3, 2, A).

If multiple players hold the Wheel, they split the low pot. If any other kind of hand ties, the player with the lowest second-high card wins (for example: 6, 4, 3, 2, A beats 6, 5, 3, 2, A). If the second-high cards are of equal value, the player with the lowest third-high card wins, and so on.

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