Omaha Poker Rules: A Comprehensive Guide
Whether in real life or in online casinos, Omaha poker has become one of the most popular poker variants—second only to No Limit Texas Hold’em. Like its Texan counterpart, Omaha poker is a community card poker game where the objective is for players to compose the best 5-card hand.
And, while learning the Omaha Rules variant might seem like a tall task, particularly for players who haven’t been exposed to it or played this form of poker, it will be a relief for most to learn that the basic rules and game mechanics are largely the same as Texas Hold’em.
Once you get the hang of Omaha poker rules, hand rankings, and betting strategies, you’ll be hitting the tables in no time. Read on to learn all about it in this article.
A Brief History of Omaha Poker
There is a misconception that Omaha poker was based on an 1800s game straight out of the Wild West because of its name. Omaha was, after all, a popular destination for cowboys on the western frontier of Nebraska.
However, the truth is less fantastic. In fact, by all accounts, the Omaha poker variant dates back only to 1982, when it first came out on the casino tables of Las Vegas, Nevada. Since then, Omaha poker has carved out a niche for itself as a popular poker variant enjoyed by millions around the world. Legendary poker player Robert Turner first introduced Omaha poker to the world when he brought the idea to gaming bigwig Bill Boyd. Boyd then offered the game at his Las Vegas Golden Nugget Casino. The rest, as they say, is history.
Omaha Poker Hands
A valid hand in Omaha poker is created out of a combination of two “hole” or face-down cards and three community cards. The player who creates the strongest five-card hand in this manner wins the pot. While in Texas Hold’em, players are dealt two private cards and five community cards to create the best five-card hand, in Omaha poker, each player is dealt four private cards and five community cards. However, the player must use exactly two of their hole cards and three of the community cards to form their hand.
This makes for more possibilities and strategic decision-making in Omaha poker compared to Texas Hold’em. Therefore, it’s important to first understand the valid hands in Omaha poker and how they are ranked in value. Also, it must be noted that in most cases, Omaha poker is played with a single 52-card French deck.
Omaha Poker Hand Rankings
Like most other kinds of poker variants, you’ll need to have a good understanding of poker hands and how they are ranked so you can manage your betting strategy and play style accordingly. The following is a list of hand rankings arranged from best to worst, as follows:
- Royal flush. A suited hand composed of a 10, jack, queen, king, and ace.
- Straight flush. Any suited straight combination. For instance, a straight consisting of 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of diamonds.
- Four of a kind (or “quads”). Four cards of the same rank (e.g. four kings, four queens, four 9s, etc.)
- Full house. A hand composed of 3 cards of the same rank and a pair of the same rank.
- Flush. A hand composed of any 5 cards of the same suit.
- Straight. A hand composed of 5 consecutive ranking cards, such as 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
- Three of a kind (or “trips”). Three cards of the same rank (e.g. three sixes, three sevens, three kings, etc.)
- Two pair. A hand of 2 cards of the same rank and 2 different cards of the same rank.
- One pair. A hand of 2 cards of the same rank.
- High card. A high card can be any card, but the higher-ranking card a player has, the better (e.g. ace high).
Omaha Poker Game Objectives
As with all poker variants, the goal of Omaha poker is to win as many chips as possible over the course of a session by outsmarting opponents and making the best decisions on how to play each hand.
While having the best hand based on value will decide the result of an individual pot when players reveal their cards when the betting ends, ultimately, winning doesn’t necessarily mean having to win a hand, nor does having the best hand guarantee a win.
Therefore, managing the impression that other players get about your hand is critical because extracting the most value out of a good hand means encouraging other players to keep betting.
Likewise, even if your hand isn’t strong, you can bluff opponents into folding what could be better hands if you exude confidence and give off the impression that you have a stronger hand than they do.
Omaha Poker Betting Options
Players have the following betting options when the betting round starts in Omaha rules poker:
- Call. When a player calls, they match another player’s bet or raise.
- Raise. A player raises by increasing the size of their current bet in the same betting round.
- Fold. Folding is withdrawing from the hand, forfeiting any money they have wagered and their eligibility to win the pot.
- Check. When a player opts to check, they declare they are staying in the hand without betting. They reserve the right to bet later in the round.
- All in. The player can wager all the chips they have left to stay in the pot, with the potential to win the entirety of the pot should they win this hand. All other bets from other participants are placed into a side pot.
How to Play Omaha Poker: A Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: Mandatory bets are placed (Small blind/big blind)
Before any cards are dealt, two mandatory bets are needed: the small blind and the big blind. The player immediately to the left of the dealer puts up the small blind, while the big blind is put up by the player immediately to the left of the small blind.
Step 2: The dealer deals each player four “hole” (face-down) cards
Once the blinds are set, the dealer deals four hole (or face-down) cards to each player, which aren’t revealed to opposing players until the showdown, if applicable. Players will use two of their four hole cards besides the three out of five community cards to formulate their best poker hand as the game progresses.
Step 3: Pre-flop betting round
The first person to the left of the big blind will be the first player to act. They can opt to call, raise, or fold based on how they approach the cards they are dealt. Since the big blind is essentially a “forced” bet in the first betting round, that player cannot check.
After this, the rest of the participants will subsequently get their turns calling, raising, or folding until the turn goes back to the player who wagered the big blind. The pre-flop betting process continues until every participant folds, goes all in, or calls the amount other players have put into the pot and is checked.
Step 4: The flop
The dealer will then burn (or remove a card from play) a card from the deck and deal three face-up cards. This is known as the flop.
Step 5: Post-flop betting round
The player to the immediate left of the dealer will act first in this round and every other subsequent betting round from this point forward. Likewise, all participants will have the option to check, call, raise, fold, or go all in from this point. The betting round goes on until every participant playing their respective hands calls, folds, or goes all in on the pot and checks.
Step 6: The turn (also known as “Fourth Street”)
The dealer will again burn a card and then deal the next card from the deck face-up to add to the first three community cards revealed during the flop. In Omaha terms, this step is also known as “Fourth Street.”
Step 7: Post-turn betting round
As in step 5 (post-flop betting round), the betting round continues until every participant folds, goes all in, or calls the amount other players have put into the pot and is checked.
Step 8: The river (also known as “Fifth Street”)
Next up, the dealer then burns the top card of the deck and deals the fifth and final community card, known as the river. The river will enable players to finalise their best possible five-card poker hand. In Omaha rules, the river is also known as “Fifth Street.”
Step 9: Post-river final betting round
For the final time, another betting round ensures until every participant folds, goes all in, or calls the amount other players have put into the pot and is checked.
Step 10: The showdown
Anytime when there are only two remaining players after a betting round could result in a showdown. However, if two or more players are still in the pot after the final round of betting, then the showdown will take place, regardless of the situation. This is where each player plays their best five-card poker hand they can create out of exactly two out of their four hole cards and three out of the five community cards in play.
Bonus: Ties and kickers
In situations where more than one player has the best possible hand, and that hand is a five-card poker hand, the pot will be equally split among the players. Any remaining leftover chips will be allocated to the player immediately to the dealer’s left.
The kicker only counts if and when multiple players share the best possible hand with fewer than five cards (e.g. a trio or a pair). In Omaha rules, the kicker is the highest value card among a player’s remaining hole cards that aren’t part of the best possible hand. The player with the highest-ranking kicker will then win the hand and the pot.
It’s still possible for the hand to remain tied when the showdown occurs after the turn (or the round before the river card is dealt), even when the kickers are evaluated. In such situations, the river card will be dealt. If the river card is of a higher value than the remaining players’ respective kickers, they can add it to their best hand. This leaves the hand as a draw.
Omaha Poker Betting Types
- Pot Limit. In this most common variant, the maximum bet amount is the total sum of chips in the pot. This allows more players to stay in the game long enough before the pots become costly.
- Fixed Limit. In this variant, the pot can only be raised a set amount of times (maximum of four times) and the best size or raise size must be equal to the blinds size. This makes it cheaper to stay in the game, causing fewer players to fold their hands.
- No Limit. As the name implies, this aggressive variant allows players to bet or raise as much as they desire anytime during the betting rounds.
Omaha Poker Game Variants
- Omaha Hi. In this version, the highest five-card hand takes the pot.
- Fixed Limit. As mentioned earlier, this variant sets the maximum number of times a pot can be raised (four times) and also that the bets or raises must be equal to the size of the blinds.
- Omaha Hi/Lo. Another common variation where the pot can be split between the highest and lowest hand. In Omaha Hi/Lo, the best possible hand is one where the same player holds both the highest and lowest possible hands at the same time, allowing them to win the entire pot.
Omaha Poker Strategies and Tips
Omaha poker uses different strategies from the Texas Hold’em variant. Here are some tips to maximise your chances of winning at Omaha poker, whether you play online or offline.
- Choose your starting hand well. It can be said that success in Omaha poker relies heavily on hand composition. Look for hands that work well together and have the ability to form strong combinations.
- Playing position. A later position can be advantageous in Omaha poker as it is in other variants since you get to see other players act first. You can, therefore, make more informed decisions when it’s your time to act.
- Pot odds. Pot odds represent the ratio of the current pot size to the cost of calling or raising. The ratio helps players determine whether calling is mathematically advantageous in relation to their chances of winning a pot. Know the pot odds before you act.
Omaha poker is an exciting poker variant that’s growing in popularity, especially for poker fans. By knowing the rules and employing the tips and strategies outlined in this guide, you can start playing—and hopefully winning—at the online casino of your choice. Best of luck!