Playing Omaha Poker
Almost unheard of before 1980, playing Omaha poker is now one of the most popular forms of online poker and, thanks to the card rooms of Las Vegas, it is also becoming a format capable of rivaling Texas Hold ‘em in the big poker tournaments like the WSOP. However, the popularity of the Omaha poker game lies with what are commonly referred to as social poker players as it is particularly suited to loose betting and yielding high value winning hands.
Anyone that has ever played Texas Hold ‘em will feel entirely comfortable and familiar playing Omaha instead. The game is suitable for between two and ten poker players, so playing with a few friends at home or online is quite possible, whereas in a casino you can expect to sit down at a poker table of 10 players so that the casino can maximize its rake. One big difference with a game of Hold ‘em is that if 10 players sit down to play Omaha – pretty well the whole deck of cards will be dealt. The reason for this is that each player in a hand of Omaha is dealt 4 cards pre-flop; three cards follow for the flop with one for the turn and another for the river. From a player’s four hole cards and five community cards they have to produce their best hand using two of their hole cards and any three community ones. The fact that fewer cards are available as community ones and that you can choose which hole cards to play requires players to adopt new strategies to their poker play as high value winning hands are virtually guaranteed with so many cards on the table. Also, the number of cards already dealt often leads to their being few occasions on which a raise will be called pre-flop, with most players preferring to call instead.
The hand you want
In the majority of Omaha games a straight or better will win and, as a player, you always need to assume that if the board makes you think some else has a bigger hand than your own – then one of your opponents almost certainly does hold it. This leaves you looking for the nuts – that one hand that cannot be beaten. The only alternative to this is if the pot odds are in your favor – when you can consider betting to draw to it. Receiving four hole cards you might think that getting three or even four of a kind must be a good thing. Unfortunately you have to remember that you can still only use two of them, so failing to keep that information at the front of your mind could lead you into making some injudicious bets. Also, were you to even get four of the same suit pre-flop, it might not be any advantage to you as, with everyone else receiving four cards, just how many more of that suit do you think might appear on the table?
So just what exactly should you look for in terms of the nuts in an Omaha hand, rather than calling on a weaker one? A pair on the flop probably means that at least one other player will be able to produce a full house, so trying to find a flush becomes pretty pointless. Even drawing for further cards to try and get the nut full house, the best possible full house, will be pretty futile as you’ll only have a 50% chance of finding one. However, if no pair comes out at the flop, but two or three cards of the same suit do show themselves, then a flush will probably win at the expense of a straight.
Omaha playing sequence
After the small blind and big blind are made on the dealers immediate left, the dealer starts dealing one card at a time around the table to the poker players. With the hole cards dealt the first betting round occurs, followed by dealing the three flop cards and the second round of betting. When the turn card is next dealt the betting limit is usually doubled, after that betting round the river card is dealt and the final betting round takes place. The winner is the player who makes an unmatched bet or, at the showdown, has the best poker hand from two of their four hole cards and any three community cards.