In a style similar to Texas Hold‘em, Omaha Poker has significant advantages over the classic game because four pocket cards are dealt instead of the traditional two cards. Additionally, the format of the game is different from Texas Hold‘em, in that the pot can be shared among two or more players. Because each player receives an additional two pocket cards when playing Omaha Poker, the winning hand tends to be stronger than those witnessed in Texas Hold‘em.
A Slower Game
For years, Texas Hold‘em has been the hottest game played at casinos. However, it is a much faster game than Omaha Poker, with nearly twice as many hands dealt each hour at casinos. For individuals hoping to gain experience, insight and knowledge on the best ways to play the game, Omaha Poker is slower, more methodical and has significant differences to help players learning the game. In all, Omaha Poker players tend to win more money each hour over those playing Texas Hold‘em. Additionally, with fewer opportunities to win in Omaha Poker, it is easier to control the play of each hand, and simpler to make quality betting and winning decisions.
Both Omaha Poker and Texas Hold‘em are considered to have roots that hearken back to the 16th century Persian game AS Nas. While that specific game used only 25 cards that had five varying suits (not today’s four suits), the play was quite similar to today’s standard 5 card stud. When the game finally arrived in Europe, it was referred to as “poque”, which most likely transformed into the word “poker” years later. Once it arrived in the United States, it became extremely popular, and is now played by many millions of individuals, all around the world.
Not until it arrived in New Orleans in the early 1800s, did the game make its way out to the west. The turmoil and freedom of the old West made it the ideal game for professional and amateur gamblers. Although never quite seen as a game that garnered social acceptance, over the last few decades, it has become entrenched in Americana. Traveling halfway around the world, it made its way to popularity along the Mississippi River boats, the California Gold Rush and now the tables on the strip in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Beginning players who are familiar with playing Texas Hold‘em find it extremely easy to play a hand of Omaha Poker. In both poker games, each player is dealt a number of pocket cards. After the first round of dealt cards, a betting round follows, which is then followed by the flop, and another betting round. The hand is completed only after the Turn (the fourth shared community card) and the River (the fifth shared community card) to the ultimate showdown, when all remaining hands are revealed.
The most significant difference between Texas Hold‘em and Omaha Poker is the number of dealt pocket cards. While traditional Texas Hold‘em players only receive two cards, the Omaha Poker player receives four. In addition, the player will use only two of their dealt pocket cards (out of the four) to build a hand using the shared community cards dealt face up on the table by the dealer.
While the rules of Omaha Poker are similar to traditional Texas Hold‘em play, there are significant differences. Learning how to play is simple by following the rules. They include:
The Dealer – A dealer will be chosen at random to deal the first hand of the game. In games that use a professional dealer (like those in casinos), a “dealer button” will be moved around the game table to indicate the designated dealer. The button or dealer will be moved one position to the left throughout the entire game.
The Start – The beginning of the game will be identical to Texas Hold‘em in that it uses a dealer button and two blinds (the small and big blind).
Placing the Blinds – Omaha Poker has players place two blinds instead of an ante, to pony up the first bets of the game. The two players seated directly to the left of the dealer will place a small and big blind (respectively) before the first round of cards is dealt.
The Deal – The current dealer will shuffle the 52-card deck. Unlike the two cards dealt in Texas Hold‘em at the beginning of every hand, each player will then be dealt exactly four hole cards, often referred to as the pocket cards. To build the best hand, the Omaha Poker player will choose his or her best pocket cards before placing their first bet.
The First Betting Round – For the most part, the remainder of the game is quite similar to Texas Hold‘em. With only two hole cards in each player’s hand, betting begins by the player seated to the left of the two players that have placed the blinds. Each player can check their bet, raise the bet above the blinds, or fold their cards by tossing them face down into the center of the table, to remove themselves from this hand.
The Flop – During the flop, the current dealer will turn three community cards face up and place them on the table. These community cards will be used by every player to build their best hand in combination with the two remaining pocket cards they hold.
The Second Betting Round – The second round of betting begins with the player seated directly to the left of the dealer. Now that each player has combined their two pocket cards with the community cards (the flop) resting face up on the table, they can check their bet, raise the bet, or fold their cards.
The Turn – Often referred to as the fourth community card, or Fourth Street, the Turn is an additional single card dealt face up and placed with the other three community cards (the Flop).
The Third Betting Round – The third round of betting is exactly like the second round of betting, beginning with the player seated directly to the left of the dealer.
The River – When the fifth community card (the River) is dealt face up, it is placed on the table alongside the Turn, and the Flop. The five community cards now placed on the table will build the completed hand of every player remaining in the game.
The Final Round of Betting – During this final round of betting, every player remaining in the game (still holding their pocket cards) will be able to place one final bet before the showdown.
The Showdown – When the showdown occurs, every remaining player displays their cards face up to reveal the strength of their hand, based on the combination of the two remaining pocket cards and the five community cards.
The Winner – After the showdown has revealed every remaining player’s pocket card, the winner will be determined by the best, or highest, five card hand in the round. The lucky player will win the contents of the pot, including the two blinds. In the event of multiple Omaha Poker winners holding a hand of identical worth, the pot will be split equally.
The Difference between Omaha Poker and Texas Hold‘em
While there are significant similarities between Omaha Poker and Texas Hold‘em, there are even stronger differences that affect the play and winners of the game. It is imperative to understand these differences before beginning a round of Omaha Poker. Those differences include:
The Pocket Cards – In any round of Texas Hold‘em, each player will be dealt two pocket, or hole, cards face down. In each round of Omaha Poker, every player is dealt an additional two cards for a total four pocket cards. While in every hand of Texas Hold‘em, the player must place a bet or fold their hand based on only two pocket cards, every player in Omaha Poker can select the two best pocket cards for building the best hand, and will discard the other two.
The Game’s Format – While the formats of both poker games are quite similar, in Omaha Poker the pot can be split between two or more players.
The Strength of a Hand – By the very nature that each player receives an additional two pocket cards to build the best poker hand in combination with the community cards, the winning poker hand is often much stronger than those experienced in Texas Hold‘em. Omaha Poker players often experience more flushes, straights and full houses. Because of this, it is important for players to consider whether they should place an opening bet during the first round of betting, knowing that their competitors might have stronger hands.
Bluffing Opportunities – Because of the ability to quickly create a stronger hand in Omaha Poker, over Texas Hold‘em, bluffing tends to occur more often. However, successful bluffing is harder to accomplish.
Pot Size – With the ability for each player to build a stronger opening hand (because they receive four pocket cards instead of two), the pots tend to grow much larger than in Texas Hold’em. With a larger percentage of potential combinations, players tend to stay in the game and bet pre-flop (before the first three community cards are dealt), making the pots grow much larger in each hand.
The Basic Strategies
The use of basic strategies of the game when playing Omaha Poker is essential to becoming a winner at the game. The five following strategies and tips allow every player to remain active in the game in an effort to win the last, or largest, pot. The strategies include:
Play within the Bankroll – Like playing any poker game, it is essential to never chase the larger games. Because Omaha Poker is a fluctuating game, it is imperative to never bet more than one-half of the entire bankroll just to chase the potential of a possible win.
Play the Odds – What makes a poker game its most profitable is the opportunity to play the odds. Unlike most table games, Omaha Poker allows players to beat the game because they have the opportunity to increase the size of the pot. By understanding the odds of the game and betting accordingly, players can significantly increase their odds of winning. This works in direct opposition to chasing a feeling instead of betting logically.
Play Tight – Developing the skill to play tight is a key component to becoming successful winner in Omaha Poker. Many professional poker players appear to play loose, and open their game up for all to see. However, by playing loose, most players can quickly get into difficult situations that usually result in making dire mistakes and losing money. Always play tight, with cards close to the vest.
Choose Each Hand Wisely – Unlike most poker games, Omaha Poker rarely has winners at showdown that hold only pairs. Because of that, it is imperative to choose each hand wisely. It is essential to develop quality hands on cards that are stronger than simple pairs, unless the player is holding other strong cards with them.
Remain in Emotional Control – Because Omaha Poker is such a fluctuating game, it is imperative to always remain cool and in control during each hand. This helps the player handle the extreme inconsistency of the game without losing to their emotions. Any player that is easily tilted, and can quickly become out of control, should seriously consider playing a different game. Once emotional control is lost, so too is the ability to make effective winning decisions.
Playing strong strategies during Omaha Poker is the easiest way to win the game. When it is impossible to closely follow the above strategies, it is essential to get up, take a break, and come back to the table when it is possible to follow a winning approach.
Avoiding the Myths
There are specific myths that have often been associated with playing and winning at Omaha Poker. However, like many myths, the following are simply not true. The myths include:
It Is a Complicated Poker Game – This myth is based on the complexity of all types of table games. However, in comparison to Texas Hold‘em, Omaha Poker is a much easier game to win. Unlike Texas Hold‘em, where many of the strategies and decisions are based on randomness and uncertainty, Omaha Poker games are more clearly defined. Usually, winning an Omaha Poker hand comes down to calculating the player’s chances of winning either a portion of the pot, or the entire amount.
Never Raise the Bet before the Flop– Usually, the only way to increase the size of the pot to a substantial amount is to do it before the flop. The simplest way to generate a profitable edge over opponents is to increase the value of the pot pre-flop.
Never Raise the Bet When Low – Never raising a bet with low cards is often the sign of a poor player. This myth became legend when successful players noticed that poor players tend to raise their bets when low and then often become extremely quiet before calling their bets once they have made their hand during the Turn or the River.
It Is Impossible to Bluff in Omaha Poker – Many players struggle with bluffing in Omaha Poker because they think it is not possible to win with a bluff. However, for strong bluffers, this myth helps win against non-savvy opponents. Beginning players choosing a bluffing strategy often perform their bluff at the last position, and hardly ever before the flop, where it is most effective.
Players Never Win with a Set – Many players believe that holding pocket pairs tends to create a weak hand. However, card sets played aggressively often produce great hands.
Players Never Win with Aces – While it is true that many players complain that they never win with pocket aces, these high cards often dominate the winning hands of many Omaha Poker players. Any player that approaches Omaha Poker with a winning strategy realizes the fundamentals of the game provide many opportunities to win with aces.
Sharing the Pot
Quite often, Omaha Poker is played between 2 to 10 players. When playing high-low Omaha Poker, every player should always consider their ability to share the pot. While scooping the entire pot is often the best way to win the game, sometimes splitting the pot is the only way to take advantage of a hand. It is important to remember that the money bet at the table belongs to the player. Because it is easy to build temporary alliances with other bettors, it is essential to learn wagering tactics that gain advantages by sharing the equity in the pot with other players at the table.
Playing Omaha Poker is a fun way to enjoy the excitement of a table game. However, based on the player’s opponents, it can be one that requires creative strategies and winning tactics. It is a process that is not easily learned overnight. Often, players need to exude significant patience when playing Omaha Poker. In the end, this virtue can reward the player greatly. The subtle differences in Omaha Poker over Texas Hold‘em allow players to become a consistent winner, without the need to master the game.