Omaha Poker, also known as Pot Limit Omaha (PLO), is a game in the Poker family of games. It is, as the name suggests, a variation on the more popular Texas Hold’em.
Omaha is a variation of Texas Hold’em which somewhat mitigates the rise of a “big-stack bully”. A bully at the Poker table is a Player who has won enough of the table’s total chips in order to bet aggressively to discourage Players from attempting to play hands without a very good hand. This allows the Bully to slowly win via attrition, due to the Ante.
Omaha reduces the ability of a bully to win solely from their chip advantage due to the built-in betting limits integral to the game mechanics of this game.
How to Play Omaha Poker?
Pot-Limit Omaha Poker is played using a single deck of 52 Anglo-American standard cards. The rules for Omaha are very similar to the rules of Texas Hold’em, in so far as the betting and action phases of the game, as well as the possible melds and their rankings.
Omaha vs Texas Hold’em
The key distinction between Pot-Limit Omaha and regular Texas Hold’em is the betting portion. Players in Texas Hold’em are generally allowed to bet however they please, so long as they are within the boundaries of the maximum table stakes.
The wagering system of Omaha is, however, quite different. Wagers made after the initial blind-matching must be proportional to the pot at the time of the wager. A wager cannot be any higher than the total value of the pot. For example; If the pot is $20, then the next Player to bet may bet up to a maximum of $20.
However, if there are already bets totaling $10 on the table, then the maximum a player can bet would be $30 ($20 for the pot and $10 for the bets already on the table).
There is another distinction between Texas Hold’em and Omaha PLO. Rather than the two personal cards, also known as the “well” or “hole” cards, Players in PLO are instead dealt four personal cards.
Other than these two distinctions, the actual play of the two games is very similar.
The game begins with the Dealer being assigned. The Dealer will be given a marker distinguishing them as the Dealer. The Player to the immediate left of the Dealer will be designated the Small Blind, and the Player immediately to the left of the Small Blind will be the Big Blind. The Dealer will then give four cards to each Player.
Blinds and Pre-Flop
In order to Play, Players must pay the value of the blind, also known as a “stack” in Omaha. A Blind is a predetermined amount Players must pay to play the hand.
- The Big Blind must automatically pay the full value of the Blind, even if they do not wish to play.
- The Small Blind must do the same, but only for half the value of the Blind. The Small Blind must pay the other half as well if they wish to continue into the flop.
Players that are not the Big or Small blind must still pay in order to participate, but may also fold, in which case they pay nothing at all.
Players that do not find their cards to be satisfactory may instead Fold. Players may Fold, or surrender their cards to the Dealer, at any time. However, once a Player folds, they relinquish any and all money in the pot for the rest of the hand.
Players will pay their blinds in order, clockwise from the Dealer. The Dealer to the clockwise of the Dealer is the Small Blind, and to the left of the Small Blind sits the Big Blind. Turns then continue left around the table, until it is the Dealer’s turn.
The Dealer always makes their bet last. If Players wish, they are able to bet more than the required Blind. If they do, all other Players must then match this raised bet.
In subsequent rounds, the position of Blinds and Dealer will move to the left. Such that the Big Blind becomes the Small Blind, the Small Blind becomes the Dealer, and the Dealer becomes a regular Player at the penultimate of the turn order.
This phase is known as the Pre-Flop. The next stages of the game are the Flop, Turn, and River, just as in Texas Hold’em.
Once all Players who wish to Play have paid their Blinds, then the Flop may begin. The Dealer will deal out three cards into the center of the table. These three cards are known as the Flop.
Once the Flop has been dealt, Players may once again bet and wager. Players may check, if they do not wish to bet. When checking, a Player simply passes the onus onto the next Player. If all Players check, then there will be no additional betting into the pot.
As in the Pre-Flop, Players may raise, or wager more than the required minimum. All other Players must match, or “call” this bet. Players may also “re-raise” in return, raising the raise. Players may do this until all Players have paid the same amount into the pot.
Remember, in PLO, Players may not raise more than the total value of the pot at the time of their bet.
Turn and River
This process of the Flop, the betting, is repeated in the next two phases of the game, the Turn and River. The only difference between the Flop and the Turn and River is the number of community cards. Three for the Flop, but only one each for the Turn and River, for a total of 5 community cards.
If there are at least two Players by the time the River phase has ended, Players will be given one more chance to make wagers. After this, Players will then reveal their cards for the “Showdown.”
The highest value hand wins. The hierarchy of Omaha Poker hands is explained below, in the “Hands” section.
Pot-Limit Omaha Rules
The official rules can be summarized as follows:
- Players must use at least two of the cards from their well in order to form their five-card meld.
- Players must pay the Ante at the start of the game if they wish to partake in the betting and action of the game.
- Once a Player folds, they surrender any money they have already placed into the pot, and are unable to win any money from the pot even if their cards would have won the hand.
- In Omaha, a Player may not make any single bet that is higher than the total pot at the time of their bet. If Player 1 is betting when the pot has $30, then Player 1 may only bet a maximum of $30.
|1||Royal Flush||10♠ J♠ Q♠ K♠ A♠|
|2||Straight Flush||9♦ 10♦ J♦ Q♦ K♦|
|3||Four-of-a-Kind||4♥ 4♠ 4♦ 4♣|
|4||Full House||K♠ K♦ K♥ 7♣ 7♥|
|5||Flush||A♠ 6♠ 5♠ 2♠ 9♠|
|6||Straight||6♥ 7♠ 8♦ 9♣ 10♠|
|7||Three-of-a-Kind||Q♥ Q♠ Q♦ 6♣ 4♠|
|8||Two Pair||A♦ A♣ J♠ J♦ 9♥|
|9||Pair||10♥ 10♣ 7♠ 6♦ 2♥|
Just as in Texas Hold’em, the different melds or “hands” of Omaha are ranked on a hierarchy from best to worst. A higher value meld will beat a lower value meld.
If two Players have the same meld-type (two straights or two three-of-a-kinds), then the Player with the highest value individual card in their meld will win. A Queen-Queen-Queen is a better meld than a Jack-Jack-Jack.
Listed below is the hierarchy of the hands in Omaha, rated from highest value to lowest value.
The best hand in Omaha. This is a straight flush composed of the face cards. 9, 10, J, Q, K, or 10, J, Q, K, Ace are the acceptable straights for a possible Royal Flush.
A Royal Flush without the Royalty. Simply put, a Straight Flush is a Straight and Flush put together. A set of 5 cards in immediately ascending or descending order by rank, all of the same suit.
All 4 cards of the same rank, one from each possible suit in the deck.
A Pair and a Three-of-a-Kind combined in the same hand.
A collection of cards of varying ranks, but all of the same suit.
A collection of cards that are ascending or descending in order, disregarding the suits of those cards.
Three cards that are all the same rank.
As the name suggests, two different pairs of cards. While a 4-of-a-kind could technically be viewed as two-pair, Players must play their best possible hand.
A pair of cards, two cards of the same rank.
Keep in mind that as hands are more likely to be formed in a game of Omaha, opponents are more likely to have high-value hands. For example:
Suppose that you have 3♦ K♦ Q♠ 5♣
Now suppose that the community cards are the following, 10♣ 9♠ K♣ Q♥ 8♣
While it is possible to form a Two-Pair meld using the Kings and Queens, this may be inadvisable in a game of Omaha. Two-Pair is a mediocre meld even in Texas Hold’em, but as Omaha is generally a higher-value game, Two-Pair is practically a junk hand. Players are much more likely to have melds such as flushes and straights, due to the 9 overall cards that they are allowed to utilize for forming melds.
A Player should not wager highly on a hand unless they have at least a straight or a flush. With these Two-Pair hands, it is possible to test the waters and check or bet small if they must, but it would be inadvisable to call and wager against an opponent betting highly in the Turn or River phases.
High bets in the Turn or River indicate that bluffs are unlikely, and as such Two-Pair will not cut it in the showdown.
The dealer is chosen. The dealer deals 4 cards to each Player, and themself.
Player 4 is Big Blind, Player 3 is Small Blind. Ante is $10.
- Player 1 pays the Ante.
- Player 2 folds without paying the Ante.
- Player 3 pays 5 dollars, as they already paid 5 automatically.
- Player 4 pays no additional money, as they automatically paid the full Ante.
- The Dealer pays the Ante.
Flop: 10♣ K♦ 10♥
- Player 1 Well: 3♠ 4♥ 4♣ 8♠
- Player 3 Well: A♠ A♣ 9♥ Q♠
- Player 4 Well: 7♠ 5♣ 9♠ J♥
- Dealer Well: 10♠ K♥ 6♣ 8♣
- Player 1 checks.
- Player 3 checks.
- Player 4 checks.
- Dealer checks.
- Player 1 bets $15.
- Player 3 Calls.
- Player 4 Calls.
- Dealer raises 10.
- Player 1 Calls.
- Player 3 Calls.
- Player 4 folds.
- Player 1 checks.
- Player 3 checks.
- Dealer raises $40
- Player 1 calls.
- Player 3 folds.
- Player 1: Two Pair.
- Dealer: Full House.
Dealer Wins Full Pot.
Notice that although the Dealer was already advantaged by having a three-of-a-kind at the start of the game, the Dealer still checked. This is because it was only the Flop, and betting so highly in the Flop may scare off Players with lesser hands, who wish to limit the losses taken on a bad hand.
As such, by checking, the Dealer was able to play it off as though they had a worse hand, convincing the other Players to continue playing and potentially adding more money to the pot. This came to fruition as the Dealer was able to string along Player 3, and then Player 1, for longer than their cards were worth.
Furthermore, take note of the fact that Player 1 bet so highly on a hand as weak as two-pair. Indeed, in Texas Hold’em two-pair might be a decent hand, in Pot-Limit Omaha two-pair is a relatively weak hand due to the high probability of a superior hand from an opponent.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Omaha harder than Texas Hold’em?
Omaha Hold’em is in some ways harder, but in some ways easier. In Texas Hold’em, one good hand can win such a plurality of the table’s money that a Player can achieve Bully Status and beat out the whole table. Such a thing is still possible in Omaha, but would be very difficult to achieve in a single hand.
However, with Omaha’s 4 well cards, Players are able to create a wider array of hands, usually presenting stronger hands to the table than in Texas Hold’em. There are, therefore, harder and easier aspects in both games.
Do you have to use two cards in your hand in Omaha?
Yes, in Omaha at least two cards from the hand must be used to form the 5-card “best hand” presented and headed-off against the other Players at the table. Of the five community cards, 3 may be used to form the best hand.
Can you have a 4 of a kind in Omaha Poker?
Yes, any hand that is possible in Texas Hold’em is possible in Omaha Poker. In fact, Players are actually more likely to achieve a hand in Omaha than they are in Texas Hold’em, because of the two additional cards dealt to each Player separately from the community.
What wins in Omaha Poker?
Omaha, as in Hold’em, is a high-hand game. As a comparing game, the Player with the highest meld (or if no melds are possible or two players have the same meld-type, the highest individual card) will win the hand.
To win in Omaha Poker, a Player should aim to have an even better hand than they might have in a game of Texas Hold’em. A Straight or Flush in Texas is quite a strong hand, only beaten by a few other rare melds. In Omaha, however, a Straight or Flush should be the minimum hand a Player is willing to play on, due to the ease of forming melds.
What is a Flush in Omaha Poker?
A Flush in Omaha Poker is any grouping of 5 cards that are all the same suit. However, a Player must use at least two of the four well cards they were dealt at the start of the hand. So, a Flush must therefore use at least two of the Player’s personal cards, and 3 of the community cards, all of the same suit.