Popular in Europe for years, Omaha poker is rapidly gaining fans worldwide over the last few years and now sits comfortably as the second-most played poker variation in the world.
The newfound lust for Omaha can be attributed to a couple of things: For one, there's a natural similarity in the rules to Texas Hold'em, making the switch over an easy one for most players.
Second, and likely the biggest draw, is the game's all-out action. Unlike Holdem, Omaha players are much more inclined to make and call more bets and to play more hands to completion.
This increased action can make the game incredibly exciting and infinitely more interesting to both beginners and professionals alike.
If you've just read the Texas Hold'em Rules and Game Play guide, or you already understand how to run and play a game of Texas Hold'em, most of the information in this article will be old news to you.
There are only two differences between Hold'em and Omaha:
- Every player is dealt four cards in Omaha (instead of two in Hold'em)
- There are more rules for evaluating the winning hand at showdown.
If you're coming into this article fresh, and would like to learn how to run and play a game of Omaha Poker, just keep reading. You'll find that the game is simple to learn, and a lot of fun to play.
This article will cover all the aspects of Omaha in broad strokes. If you need more detail on anything in this guide such as:
- How to decide the denominations of chips you should use.
- How to pick the stakes of your game (set betting limits).
- More details on how betting, raising and calling works.
- Glossary of poker terms used in this guide.
You can find all of that information in the Texas Hold'em Rules and Game Play article (There will be another link to that article at the bottom of this page).
Omaha is a community-card game played with two to ten players on one table. The goal of the game is to win as many chips as you can off your opponents. You win chips by winning a pot, and you win a pot in one of two ways:
- All the other players fold their hands, making you the only player left in the pot.
- You have the best hand at the showdown.
A game of Omaha only ends when the players decide they are finished playing, or one player wins all of the chips from the other players - those players being unwilling to re-buy and continue playing.
A game of Omaha can be broken up into a few simple sections:
- Betting Rounds
When you have two to ten players sitting around a table, each with a stack of chips, you're ready to get started. The first thing you need to do is draw the high card for a dealer.
Deal every player one card face up. The player with the highest ranked card (Aces are high) will start as the game's dealer. If two players both have the same high card, either deal both players a second card, or use the suits of their card to determine the winner.
(Poker suit ordering is alphabetic from worst to best: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades)
When you have a dealer, give that player the dealer button (typically a white disk, used to keep track of the current dealer in the hand). This player needs to shuffle up the cards and prepare to deal the first hand.
Before the cards are dealt in any hand, the two players to the left of the dealer need to put out the blinds. The player directly to the left of the dealer puts out the small blind and the player to the left of the small blind puts out the big blind.
- The big blind is equal to the size of the small betting limit.
- The small blind is half of the size of the small blind (Rounded for convenience. For example if the big blind is 25¢, the small blind would be 10¢)
Once the blinds are out, the dealer can deal the cards. Starting with the player to the dealer's left (the small blind) and moving clockwise around the table, each player is dealt one card at a time (face down) until all players have exactly four cards.
Once the last card is dealt, you are now in the first betting round, known as "preflop." A betting round ends when two conditions are met:
- All players have had a chance to act.
- All players who haven't folded have bet the same amount of money for the round.
In poker only one player can act at a time, starting at the player to the left of the big blind. This player has three options:
- Fold: They pay nothing to the pot and throw away their hand, waiting for the next deal to play again.
- Call: They match the amount of the big blind.
- Raise: They raise the bet by doubling the amount of the big blind. A player may raise more depending on the betting style you are playing. To learn about alternate betting formats, check out this article here (link will also be at the bottom of the page).
Once the player to the left of the big blind acts, the action moves clockwise around the table, one player at a time. Each player has the same options, fold, call or raise. The amount of a call or raise is always dependant on the size of the last bet made.
For example, for the first player to call, they would need to match the size of the big blind. If they raise, they would need to double the big blind. If they choose to raise, the next player would have to call the full amount of the big blind + the raise to call.
When the action gets back to the small blind, they have the option to fold, call or raise just like everyone else. The difference is that the money they have bet as the small blind is subtracted from the total amount they would have to call.
If the best is 50¢ and they have 10¢ in as a small blind, they will need to add another 40¢ to call - more if they wanted to raise.
The big blind is the same as the small blind. If there has been no raise, and their big blind is the same amount as the current bet, instead of calling (since to call you need to add money) they have the option to check. A check is the same as a call, only it requires no money.
Once everyone has had a chance to act, and everyone still with a hand has the same amount of money wagered, the betting round is over.
Once the preflop betting round is concluded, the flop is dealt. In a community-card came such as Omaha, there will be a total of five community cards for any hand reaching a showdown. The flop is the first three of the five cards dealt.
The dealer deals one card face down (this is called the burn card) and three cards face up. After the flop is dealt, the action starts on the first player to the left of the dealer still with a hand (players with a hand are known as "live players").
This player is in a similar situation to the big blind preflop. They can check or bet. Since there is no bet before them this round, they are not required to add any money to call, and they do not need to fold either. A bet in this round is the same amount as the big blind.
After they act the action moves to the next live player to his or her left.
Once the flop betting round is complete, the dealer deals the turn. This is done by one card being dealt face down (another burn card), and one card dealt face up. Once this is done the next betting round starts.
The turn's betting round is exactly the same as the flop's, with one exception. A single bet on the turn now uses the larger betting limit. Typically the larger betting limit is double the size of the big blind.
Sometimes, mostly for convenience, the large betting limit is slightly larger than double the big blind. This is most common in games such as a $2-$5 Limit game.
Using a $5 upper limit reduces the total number of chips a player needs to have in front of them by using $5 chips instead of all $1 and $2 chips.
Once the turn betting round is complete, the final community card is dealt. The dealer deals one final card face down, followed by one card face up.
Once the river is dealt the final betting round of the hand begins.The river's betting round is identical in all ways to that of the turn.
When the river betting round has been completed, all remaining live players enter into the showdown. The concept of the showdown is simple: the player with the best hand wins the pot.
Evaluating a winning hand in Omaha is slightly different than in Texas Hold'em. If you're familiar with Texas Hold'em, be sure to read the rules carefully for Omaha.
The first thing you need to know in evaluating Omaha hands is the poker hand ranking order. The chart of poker hand rankings can be found here. (There will be another link at the bottom of this page)
Here are some rules about evaluating an Omaha poker hand:
- There are no other hands used in Omaha than the hands listed in this chart. For example, having three pairs is actually only "two pair" with the highest valued two pairs making your hand.
- In Omaha a player must user exactly two cards from their hand, and three cards from the community cards to make their best hand possible. The player can use any two of their four cards, and any three of the five community cards, as long as they remember to use exactly two from their hand. For example:
- if the board is 2♥ J♣ Q♣ K♠ A♦
- Player 1 holds 10♠ 9♣ 9♥ 2♦
- Player 2 holds 10♣ 2♣ 3♥ 4♥
In this pot only Player 1 has a straight (9♣ 10♠ J♣ Q♣ K♠). Player two must use two cards from his hand giving him no more than a pair of twos (2♣ 2♥ A♦ K♠ 10♣).
- If all remaining players have nothing, no pair or anything stronger, the winning hand is the hand with the highest valued single card, meaning:
- A♣ 3♥ 4♦ 6♠ 7♠ is a better hand than K♠ Q♠ J♣ 9♣ 8♦
- A♣ J♥ 9♠ 8♦ 6♥ is a better hand than A♥ J♣ 9♦ 8♣ 2♠
- Because of having to use two cards out of your hand, if the board is a straight (A♦ 2♣ 3♥ 4♦ 5♣) you will need two of your own cards to fit into that straight to have a straight as your hand.
- Suits are never used to evaluate the strength of a hand.
For example: 6♠ A♣ K♥ K♠ does not have a straight - the best hand they can make would be a pair of aces. 2♥ 3♣ Q♠ Q♦ does have a straight, being able to substitute their 2 and 3 for the 2 and 3 on the board.
Once you have discerned the winning hand, that player wins the entire pot. When a pot is won, the hand is complete. After the hand completes the dealer passes the dealer button to the player to their left.
At this point you begin the next hand with the two players to the left of the new dealer putting out their blinds.
Random Omaha Notes
- Omaha is played in either Limit or Pot-Limit betting structures.
- Omaha should not be played as a no-limit game. The game is inherently action crazed, requiring some sort of strict betting structure to keep order in the game.
- Omaha can also be played as a Hi Lo split game, To learn the rules and game play for Omaha Hi Lo head to this article here.