Omaha Poker is an exciting strategy-based community-card poker game. It is a little bit complicated, but nevertheless easy to learn if you just relax and take it easy and follow this step-by-step guide through the various stages of the game.
Omaha Is Not in Texas
Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska, the Cornhusker State. Omaha is not in Texas, and Omaha Poker is not Texas Hold’em. True, the games are similar: they both have Pre-Flop, Flop, Turn, and River betting rounds. But Omaha has these two important differences from Texas Hold’em:
- In Omaha, you get four hole cards. (In Texas, only two)
- In Omaha, you must make your final 5-card hand from 2 hole cards and 3 community cards. (In Texas, any combination is permissible.)
The differences may seem minor, but in fact, they can have enormous consequences on your gameplay and your poker strategy, as you shall see.
Now, let’s get started on the road to Omaha.
A game of Omaha is played by two to ten players sitting around a poker table with one standard deck of 52 playing cards.
One player is called the Button because he holds the Dealer Button. The actual dealing will be done by a casino employee in a land-based casino or by a Random Number Generator in an online poker room, but the Button is nevertheless considered “as if” he were the dealer.
Moving clockwise around the table, the player to the left of the Button is the Small Blind, and the next player is the Big Blind. They get the action started by placing forced bets on the table. The amount of the bets is pre-determined by the rules of the game, with the Small Blind usually half of the Big Blind. The bets are made “blind” in the sense that the players must make the bets without seeing any cards.
After the blind bets have been placed, four hole cards, also known as pocket cards, are dealt to each player. The hole cards are top-secret; no one may see them but the player himself.
The Pre-Flop betting round starts with the player sitting on the dealer’s left, who is Under the Gun. He may do any of the following actions:
- Fold – drop out of the game and wait for the next hand.
- Call – place a bet that matches the amount of the Big Blind.
- Raise – place a bet that is larger than the amount of the Big Blind.
The action continues in a clockwise direction around the poker table. Note that “Call” always means matching the biggest bet on the table which, depending on the circumstances, can be the Big Blind or a raise or even a re-raise. Note also that when the play comes full circle around to the Big Blind, if there has been no raise, he does not have to match anything. He can simply Check and remain in the game with no additional wager. The action can revolve around the table several times until every player has either folded or matched the highest bet of this round.
The first three community cards—known collectively as the Flop—are now dealt face-up to the middle of the table and a new betting round begins. The action on this round—and on all subsequent rounds—begins with the Small Blind (or, if the Small Blind has folded pre-flop, with the first active player to his left). He may:
- Fold – drop out of the game and forfeit anything he has bet up to this point.
- Check – remain in the game but without betting anything.
- Bet – make a wager by placing chips on the table. The other players must now match (or raise) this bet to remain in the game.
Play continues in a clockwise direction. If no bet has yet been placed, a player may check or bet. If a bet has been placed, a player may call, raise, or re-raise. Play continues until every player has either folded his hand or called the highest bet of the round.
The fourth community card is called the Turn. It is dealt to the center of the poker table, and a new betting round commences.
The fifth and final community card is called the River. All of the community card—flop, turn, and river—are known collectively as the Board. The deal of the river is followed by a final betting round.
If the final betting round concludes with only one active player who has not folded, then that player wins the pot. If more than one active player remains, then they show their cards and the player with the best 5-card poker hand wins the pot.
Remember that each Omaha Poker player has four pocket cards and five community cards available to him. From these nine available cards, he must make a five-card hand comprising exactly two pocket cards and exactly three community cards. For example:
- 4-5 in your pocket and 6-7-8 on the board makes a straight.
- 4 in your pocket and 5-6-7-8 on the board does not make a straight.
- 4-5-6 in your pocket and 7-8 on the board does not make a straight.
Remember: You’re not in Texas anymore! Grasping the Two Pocket-Card Rule is the key to learning how to play and win Omaha Poker.
Improving Your Omaha Poker Game
It is not difficult to learn how to play Omaha Poker. Just follow this guide, nice and easy, through the stages of the game: Pre-Flop, Flop, Turn, River, Showdown. Remember that your final hand must contain two pocket cards and three community cards. And that’s just about it. The hard part is learning to play Omaha Poker well.
Learning to play Omaha well means learning the fundamentals of Omaha poker strategy. It means learning to instantly evaluate the strength of your hand and learning to read the clues that enable you to evaluate the strength of your opponents’ hands. It means learning when to fold, when to check, when to call, and when to raise. Regardless of whether you play poker online or offline, it means lots and lots of practice in free or low-stakes tournaments to improve your game.
It takes some work to learn to play Omaha Poker well, but it is worth the effort. Omaha is a poker game that is fun, exciting, suspenseful, and strategy-driven. The more you play, the more you’ll enjoy. Have fun at the tables!