Before the poker boom period of the earlier part of the 200s’s, Omaha was always one of the most popular choices of game for many players, especially in America. However since that boom the games on the Texas Holdem tables have become much more popular. This is basically because Hold’em is a much simpler game to initially pick up than Omaha. But that being said, Omaha is can actually be much more profitable due the amount of players who play the game with little understanding or background information.
Omaha is seen much more a draw based game which results in variance being much higher than most forms of poker. As a result, people see it as more ‘gambling’ than anything but this isn’t and shouldn’t be the case. A solid Omaha player will likely be able to move through the stakes than someone playing Texas Holdem as filed sizes are generally weaker on the whole.
Whilst there is little doubt that the popularity of the game has dwindled, in recent years its started making a big comeback, mainly from Holdem players looking for something fresh to sink their teeth into. The games vary massively in terms of ability as a result of many Holdem players making the switch across and having a very limited understanding of the game.
How to Play Omaha
The main difference between Omaha and Texas Holdem is that instead of two hole cards, you get four to start with. This means you can use any combination of your four hole cards and the community cards, but you must use two of your hole cards to make your hand. Which two it doesn’t matter, but you must use no more and no less.
The game starts with a dealer, a small blind and a big blind. The dealer will be the person that acts last at any point throughout the hand and the blinds are obligatory for each player. The small blind will be half the amount of the big blind. Cash games will mean the games consume the same blinds throughout, whereas tournament play will means the blinds increase accordingly.
The game starts with each player receiving their four hole cards. Once this has occurred a round of betting happens. Bear in mind that most formats of Omaha will be pot limit as opposed to no limit meaning that the maximum bet at any time will be the amount of money that’s in the pot.
After the first round of betting has completed, the flop is then dealt consisting of three cards face up on the table. These can be used in conjunction with your hand for all players. Another round of betting occurs before the turn falls, and so on before the final river card is dealt which is the last community card.
The best hand is a combination of two of your initial four hole cards and three of the community cards on offer. Remember that you can only use two of your hole cards to make the best 5 card hand possible.
Hand rankings work the same as Holdem hand rankings, which are:
- High card
- One pair
- Two pair
- Three of a kind
- Full house
- Four of a kind
- Straight flush
- Royal flush
Tips & Strategy
It’s probably safe to say that Texas Holdem players who are making the switch over to Omaha will initially make a barrel of mistakes first up. A lot of players will think that the game is the same just you get two more hole cards to choose from. Theoretically this is correct, but the maths and the gameplay actually change massively meaning that whilst you take one line with a certain hand in Holdem, in Omaha this line might actually be a mistake and long term won’t be a positive play.
The first thing to do is not to overplay your hand. The amount of players that see a flop in Omaha is significantly higher than that of Holdem. Because of it being more of drawing game than Holdem, this means that you need to tighten up on your hand ranges. Look to play suited and connecting cards much stronger than normal and don’t get too overzealous with hands such as high or even premium pocket pairs through the streets.
As an addition to the above paragraph, you will need to realise that your completed hands needs to be much stronger in this game. One and even two pair type hands aren’t actually all that valuable, especially in multi way pots. You should be looking at straights and flushes more as this will be what your opponent has been drawing towards. This will also result in bluffs becoming less effective and a lot of merit being put into that of playing a tighter and more passive role at the table.
Look to try and play stronger hands and nut hands that will draw well. Low straights and flushes are good, but these will never be the nuts and you can almost guarantee that your 6 high straight, when coming up against a barrage of aggression, will be no good. Making those types of folds in Omaha is crucial, but for Holdem players will feel a million miles from what they’ve had embedded into them.
With Omaha being very much a draw game, it’s imperative to really get a grasp of the maths behind it all. The dynamics and numbers totally change from having two to now four hole cards and therefore so do the numbers. There are literally hundreds of articles and forums online that will able you to do this, and for free so there this very little excuse. In fact, some of the best players in the world simply play a numbers game in Omaha with some very impressive results to back this up. Additionally you can buy tracking software which will record your results, but more importantly will show you the exact odds of hands you have played for you to then analyse if you were getting the correct odds to hit your open-ended-straight-draw. Generally, a player who understands the mathematics will be a profitable player.