Omaha poker, often played as Omaha/8, is one of the more intriguing versions of poker. Unlike other versions of poker, Omaha poker’s rules are not obvious from observation. The hand ranks are the same, but you may only use certain cards to make your poker hand.
In play, you are dealt four private cards. You can use exactly two of these cards to make a five-card poker hand. The remaining three cards must come from the community cards in the center of the table. This makes for interesting play. Two pair, three-of-a-kind, or four-of-a-kind among your private cards is no better than a pair. Having four hole cards also gives you additional private information (cards unseen by your opponents) versus other poker games such as Texas Hold ‘Em or 7 Card Stud.
Wagering in Omaha generally takes the form of two blinds and then rounds of betting as the cards are dealt. The two players to the left of the dealer place the blind bets before the hand begins. The dealer’s position is determined by the dealer button, which rotates clockwise around the table, moving one position after each hand. Before each hand the player just to the dealer’s left will post the big blind (equal the first round minimum bet) and the player to his/her left will post the small blind (about half the amount of the big blind). The private cards are dealt then there is a round of betting.
Community cards in Omaha are dealt the same as in Texas Hold ‘Em poker. After the first round of betting, three community cards are dealt in the center of the table. This is called the flop. Another round of betting commences then a single community card, the turn, is dealt. At this point, the minimum bet doubles and a round of betting commences. Then the last community card, the river, is turned up. After the river, there is a final round of betting. The winner is the player with the best hand using any three of the community cards plus any two of his private cards. In the Omaha/8 version, a winning low hand splits the pot with the winning high hand.
The amounts bet depend upon the game, and are described in pairs of values: $2 – $4, $3 – $6, or $5 – $10, or $6 – $12. These dollar amounts tell you both the big blind value and the minimum bets required at the table. The big blind is the first amount, as is the initial bet. After the flop, betting increases to the second dollar amount. In a $6 – $12 Omaha game, for example, the big blind is $6 and the small blind is most likely half of the initial bet, or $3. The betting opens at $6. After the flop, the betting continues at $12.
Often, Omaha will be played “hi/lo”. This means that there will be two winning hands – one with cards consisting of the highest poker hand and the other with cards consisting of the lowest poker hand. When looking for a low hand, you want cards that are low in value and do not make any pairs. Straights and flushes are not considered in low hands. The rules depend upon the specific game, but in many Omaha hi/lo games the low hand must be “8-or-better”, meaning the low hand must consist of cards lower than nine. If no one can make a low hand using all eights or better, the pot is given to the player with the high hand. “Omaha/8” is shorthand for a game played under these rules.
The high hand in Omaha/8 is determined just as in any other poker game. In order,
beginning with the highest hand, the poker rankings are:
· Royal Flush – A,K,Q,J,10 of the same suit
· Straight Flush – Five cards both in sequence and of the same suit. An example is 7,8,9,10,J diamonds.
· Four of a Kind – Four cards of the same rank. An example is Jd,Jc,Jh,Js.
· Full House – Three cards of one rank and two cards of a different rank. An example is Ks,Kd,Kh,7s,7c.
· Flush – Five cards of the same suit, such as 8d,9d,Jd,Qd,Kd. In the case of two or more flushes, the highest card (or cards) determines the winner. In this example, a diamond flush that included the Ad would win over the example flush.
· Straight – Five cards in sequence, not all the same suit. An example would be Ah,2h,3d,4c,5s. In the case of two or more straights, the highest card (or cards) determines the winner. In this example, a straight that included a 6 or higher would win over the example straight.
· Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same rank, such as 10d,10s,10h. In the case of two or more three of a kind hands, the player with the higher ranking set is the winner. Three jacks, queens, kings, or aces would win over the example hand.
· Two Pair – Two cards of one rank and two additional cards of another rank. 2d,2h,5c,5h is an example. In the case of two or more hands with two pairs, the one with the highest-ranking pair wins the hand. Any two-pair hand with a pair of sixes or higher would win over the example hand. If the highest-ranking pairs tie, then the lower pairs break the tie. In this example, a hand with a pair of fives and either a pair of threes or a pair of fours would win.
· One Pair – Two cards of the same rank. In the case of two or more hands with a pair, the highest-ranking pair wins. If the pairs tie, the player with the highest card remaining in his/her hand wins.
· High Card – If no one has a pair or better, the player with the highest single card wins the hand.
When playing Omaha/8 (or any other high/low game) it is possible to have both the high hand and the low hand using a different set of five cards. In the following example, d=diamonds, h=hearts, s=spades, and c=clubs. Say you hold Ad, 2c, Ah, 3s. The community cards are Ac, 3c, 3d, 4d, 6h.
Choosing two cards from your hand and three from the community cards, your low hand would be Ad(or h), 2c, 3c(or d), 4d, 6h. Alternately, choosing the 2c and 3s from your hand and the Ac, 4d, and 6h from the community cards could make your low hand. Your high hand would be a full house – Ad, Ah, Ac, 3c, 3d. Notice that not only can you use different cards for your low and high hands, you can also use an Ace as either a low or high-value card.
There are many places to play Omaha both in casinos and on the Internet. Call any casino with a poker room to find out what games they offer. Online, you will find a variety of Web sites to consider by conducting a search using the keywords “Omaha” and “Poker”. Most online casinos offer the option of using “play” money rather than real dollars.