Omaha Poker had quite a late introduction into the focus of the card-playing public. It was not until 1982 that the game was introduced into the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas where it was called “Nugget Poker”, and nobody is quite sure where the name “Omaha” originated from. There are tales that in Omaha, Nebraska, there was a version of Hold’em where players had to form their hands from the two hole cards they were dealt and three of the community cards, but this has never been proven.
Omaha Poker has a larger variety of possible hand combinations than Hold’em and frequently you will hit great hands on the flop, only to find them turned over on the Turn or River. The game is played most frequently as a Pot Limit game, although No Limit and Flop Limit tables can be found on European based online poker rooms, where the game has become an exciting alternative to Texas Hold’em. Many of the highest stakes games currently played online are “PLO” (Pot Limit Omaha) or combine PLO and Pot Limit Hold’em.
The Rules of Omaha Poker
The Start of the Game.
Omaha Poker is played with a single deck of cards, with the deal rotating around the table as in Hold´em. The first dealer is determined by the dealing of a single card to each player, with the highest ranked card winning, and thereafter the dealers´ duties are passed in a clockwise direction around the table. The two players to the left of the dealer are called the “Small Blind” and the “Big Blind” and these players place “forced bets” (known as “blinds”) prior to any cards being dealt. The bets represent 50% and 100% respectively of the lower amount quoted as the stake level for a table* and the reason for the blinds is to ensure that there is money in the pot at the very start of the betting.
*On a table advertised as $1/$2, the amount of the Small blind is $0.50 and the Big Blind is $1.00. In tournament play, the blinds increase as the game progresses, and will be relative to the smaller amount for that level – ie when blinds are “10/20”, the Small Blind pays 5 chips, whereas the Big Blind pays 10 chips.
Thereafter, the dealer deals four “hidden” (face down) cards to each player, which only they can see.
The First Round of Betting
Starting with the player to the left of the Big Blind, each player takes a turn to “call” the amount placed by the Big Blind, “raise” the amount of the bet or “fold” their cards. Those folding their cards play no further part in the hand.
The action can revolve around the table a maximum of four times before the betting is “capped”.
Once the first round of betting has been completed, the dealer then draws three cards from the remainder of the pack and places them face up in the centre of the table. These are the first of five community cards that will be drawn in total. The first three are known as the “Flop”, and once they have been drawn, a further round of betting takes place amongst the players remaining from the pre-flop action.
Players have the option of “Checking” (placing no bet), “Raising” (betting, or increasing the size of an existing bet), “Calling” (matching the size of the bet with no further increase) or “Folding” (discarding their cards and playing no further part in the hand). In the event of one player betting, and all the others folding, the player who made the bet collects the pot even though there would be further cards to be dealt.
Once this round of betting is completed, the next card is drawn.
The “Turn” is the fourth community card to be dealt in Omaha Poker, and is placed face up alongside the Flop cards. The betting action commences with the first active player immediately clockwise of the dealer, who again has the option of Checking, Raising, Calling or Folding their cards. The minimum amount of the bet allowed doubles in this round of betting – for example when playing $1/$2 Omaha, the first rounds of betting allowed a minimum bet of $1.00, whereas for betting after the Turn (and the River) the minimum bet permitted is $2.00.
Once this round of betting is completed, the final card is drawn.
The River card is the final card to be drawn, and is placed face up alongside the Turn card. Betting takes place in a similar fashion to after the Turn until the round is complete. The last bettor or raiser shows his or her cards. If there was no bet on the final round, the player immediately clockwise of the button shows his or her cards. The player with the best five-card hand wins the pot. In Omaha poker, players must use two and only two of their four hole cards in combination with three of the cards from the board. In the event of identical hands, the pot will be equally divided between the players with the best hands.
After the pot is awarded, a new Omaha poker game is ready to be played. The button now moves clockwise to the next online player.
Omaha Hi/Lo Poker
Omaha Hi/Lo Poker is played in the same way as the regular game (above), however there is also the provision for a winning “low” hand to equally share the pot. To qualify as a low hand, the player must have five cards (two from their hole cards and three from the community) which are uniquely ranked Eight or lower –ie A2457 is acceptable, A2557 does not qualify.
The winning low hand can also form a Straight (A2345) or Flush (2h 3h 5h 7h 8h) which may make it eligible for the high pot also. In the event that there is no qualifying low hand, the whole pot is awarded to the player with the best “High” hand.